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Aug 5, 2022

Equal Opportunities for Belizean Women in the Labor Force and Governance

Belize is working along with other CARICOM member states to develop a strategy that seeks to achieve gender equality, and to empower all women and girls within the Caribbean Community. The policy document is being referred to as the CARICOM Regional Gender Equality Strategy. Representatives from the CARICOM Secretariat are in Belize conducting consultations, as they have done across eight CARICOM countries to date. Of the seven areas for action that the gender equality strategy speaks to, News Five’s Paul Lopez takes a closer look at the gender disparities within the labor force and governance in Belize.  Here is that report.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index ranked Belize at forty-seven out of one hundred and thirty-five countries for Economic Participation. This is a vast improvement from five years ago, as more and more women are breaking gender stereotypes in the labor force by entering jobs that are usually held by men. Take, for example, Luanne Manzanero who manages thousands of acres of developed farm land in Valley of Peace Village. We interviewed her back in April.


Luanne Manzanero

Luanne Manzanero, Manager, Valley of Peace Farms Ltd, [File: April 12th, 2022]

“It I seen like a man, it is like a man’s position right. So, in agriculture you always expect to see a man in the position, a man in the seat, a man running the show. And, that is the biggest gap that you have to fill. Cause, trust me, you coming and you coming to see the farm, some people are like, oh you are the manager, oh, ok, ok alright.”


Then, there is Vonetta Dawson, a fisher folk from Dangriga Town. She was awarded the 2022 Fisher of the Year Award back in June.


Vonetta Dawson

Vonetta Dawson, Fisher folk [File: June 29th, 2022]

“Being a woman in fishing. If you are not fishing with your spouse or your dad or your uncle, it is hard to get on another boat and fish, because they look at us as woman and don’t really believe that we dive. We man the engines, we haul the nets, and we do exactly the same stuff as the guys do.”


Manzanero and Dawson are inspirations to younger women who are pursuing careers in order to bridge the divide. Earlier this week, we spoke with Driana Hyde, a Social Security Board scholarship recipient, who will be furthering her studies in electrical engineering.


Driana Hyde

Driana Hyde, Aspiring Electrician [File: August 3rd, 2022]

“People are like what, a female? Yes I want to become an electrician. I watch people and get motivated and always wanted to become one. It is not something I always wanted from a child growing up, but growing up now there are some things I want under my belt. One motto I always keep in my keep in my head, I wish other females could take is that you don’t need a man to do a man job. Once you put your head to doing it you can do it.”


While the country’s rank for Economic Participation in the Global Gender Gap Index is an encouraging sign, Belize is ranked at one hundred and thirty for Political Participation, only ahead of countries like Jordan, Nigeria, and Iran. Currently, only four, or twelve percent, of the thirty one seats in the House of Representatives are filled by women. Notwithstanding the disparity, women in Belizean politics are set on breaking the glass ceiling. Back in March, then aspirant for party leader, Tracy Panton, announced her ambition to become the first female Prime Minister of Belize.


Tracy Panton

Tracy Panton, Aspiring Party Leader, Albert Division [File: March 14th, 2022]

“I think it is unprecedented. Quite frankly and I think it would speak volumes about us as a society and us as a party in terms of really championing women in leadership, really looking at women in greater leadership roles, having a very clear seat at the decision-making table.”


In 2018, former P.U.P. Port Loyola aspirant, Candice Pitts chided her party for lack of support for her candidacy by the P.U.P.’s United Women’s Group. Present Speaker of the House of Representatives, Valerie Woods, shared candidly at the time.


Valerie Woods

Valerie Woods, Aspirant, Albert Division [File: May 16th, 2018]
“Certainly would like to be involved more with a party that has women candidates and women in the House; I firmly believe that. I want to see more of that. I’m not going to speak for the party on whatever processes they’ve used – I wasn’t involved with that – but I think I have a contribution to make.”


To achieve greater gender equality and women’s empowerment in the Caribbean Community, the CARICOM Secretariat contends that there must be a framework for strategic action. To this end, they are conducting stakeholder workshops across the region on the Draft CARICOM Regional Gender Equality Strategy.


Anne Marie Williams

Anne Marie Williams, Deputy Program Manager, Gender and Development

“Belize, and six other Caribbean countries, but particularly Belize, must raise women’s labor force participation rates. I remember when we did our first report when I was at the Women’s Commission, it is the same thing. We hear the same thing. It has gotten a little better, but nowhere where it should be. Translation, enough women in Belize are not working. We have a lot of educated women and they are working. I don’t know what is happening, because women are coming out like three to one from the universities still, and the labor force participation rate is not increasing.  Gains in political participation have slipped region wide. In 2015 we had two women Prime Minister’s we had Portia Simpson-Miller and we had Kamla Persad-Bissessar and now 2019, Mia Motley won and she won again January this year, and there is one woman Prime Minister among nineteen men, figure what that means.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.

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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