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Nov 23, 2016

Candlelight Vigil Recalls Victims of Gender Based Violence Ahead of 16 Days of Activism

On Tuesday night, the U.S. Embassy held a candlelight ceremony as part of their activities to observe the Sixteen Days of Activism: unmasking the many faces of gender-based violence. The sixteen days kick off on Friday, November twenty-fifth and ends on December tenth. During that period, the Embassy and local partners, including the Women’s Department, will be hosting a number of activities and awareness initiatives to highlight the need and steps to end gender-based violence in Belize.  In September of this year we told you, how for the first time, the U.S. Embassy, through its CARSI programme, gave a hundred thousand dollars to the B.F.L.A. to address gender-based violence in Belize. News Five attended the candlelight ceremony on Tuesday night in Belmopan and Andrea Polanco has the details.


Melissa Burrowes

Melissa Burrowes

“She was only thirty four years old when she was killed. Bella was my best friend, my everything. Gina used to give me strength to go on. She was a positive, loving person. Losing her and knowing she wasn’t around was the hardest thing I ever experienced. She was a good mother of three and she was only a prankster. She loved always to swim also. What hurts me the most is that we will never achieve the dreams that we had for the future.”


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The family of Regina Williams fondly remembers her, but the way she died has left them in pain. Williams was killed in July of this year by a man known to her. Williams, like many other women in Belize and across the world, leaves families behind and unaccomplished dreams when their lives are cut short by violence at the hands of men. To commemorate the lives of victims like Williams, survivors and families of gender-based violence, the US Embassy held a candle light ceremony. It fits into the USA’s wider policy to tackle gender-based violence around the world.


Carlos Moreno

Carlos Moreno, U.S. Ambassador to Belize

“Gender-based violence knows no boundaries, no borders. It devastates communities often in silence. It leaves behind families. It leaves behind sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, cousins, and fathers. It leaves behind one’s friends, neighbours, church members, co-workers. It creates a totality of community of loss. These many, many faces of violence must simply be unmasked and confronted. And tonight is just a small part of what we can begin to do in that regard. President Obama and Secretary Kerry had made gender equality, girls empowerment and ending gender-based violence cornerstones of US foreign policy and this why we are hosting this event tonight here at the US Embassy. Gender equality and empowerment are critical to building resilient democratic societies, supporting an open and accountable governance and ending extreme poverty, poverty and fostering vibrant economies and communities. Gender equality cannot happen without an end to gender-based violence.”


Another family that’s hoping to see that end to gender-based violence is the family of Maria Candelaria Chacon. In March of this year, the mother of eight was hacked to death by her common-law husband in Salvapan. Before her death, she lived a life of abuse at the hands of her partner for five years.


Aura Azucena Cal

Aura Azucena Cal

“It is something that I can’t accept it. It is so hard for me and our family. I always used to be with her. It is something I still can’t accept it. When I wake up in the morning I always think of her to go and visit her. From the day she left, my life has been so different.”


In Belize, most victims of gender-based violence are women and majority suffer in silence. Ambassador Moreno says that for us to address violence and end it, we must be honest about the causes and face it directly because it has far reaching impacts beyond a relationship or a household.


Carlos Moreno

“Victims, women, boys, girls and LGBT, friends, colleagues, church members, neighbours and family neighbours endure physical, psychological, mental, verbal and other abuse perpetrated by economic dependency and, unfortunately, far too often by cultural acceptance. I think we would not be fully candid if we didn’t acknowledge in particular the cultural acceptance of the phenomenon known as sugar daddies or where family members manipulate and encourage young girls with economic incentives and are sexually exploited is also a particular issue that must be addressed and it must be addressed directly. This kind of violence simply must end.”


…a call that a survivor of gender-based violence – local activist and educator – Ifasina Efunyemi also made.


Ifasina Efunyemi

Ifasina Efunyemi, Survivor

“There are so many things that women and girls go through and it needs to stop. And there are things that we can do to make sure it doesn’t continue to happen. We have to be the strength for those who are being affected. A lot of girls are in situations that are horrific. A lot of children are growing up in situations that are horrific and if we stand in silence and we do not do anything for them, we just make the situation worse because then we are participating in the violence against them. A lot of people just stand aside and they say nothing and do nothing. We have to change that.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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