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Nov 25, 2011

16 Days of Activism officially launched in parade

Commemorating the annual Sixteen Days of Activism, the Women’s Department along with their partners, held their official opening ceremonies.  It is anticipated that the activities which are geared at sensitizing the public on this common issue will stimulate much needed action. News Five attended the opening and Andrea Polanco reports from the very lively parade that followed.

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The Women’s Department officially kicked off the Sixteen Days of Activism today. Some two hundred and fifty people gathered to learn more about their role to help in the fight against gender-based violence.

Icilda Humes, Director of Women’s Department

Icilda Humes

“We spoke to people about the gender-based violence response initiatives that the Department and its partner agencies have done since the last observance in November and December of 2010. And we also invited all the persons who are here to affirm their commitment to ending gender-based violence in Belize by signing a pledge that came out of the ‘unite to end violence’ campaign.”

Joining the effort are schools and organizations across the city, who took to the streets chanting messages and waving banners expressing the need for immediate action:

Arianne Jones

Arianne Jones, SCA

“We are here to stop the violence against women because as you can see we are an all girls school and we are here representing women and we will become women if we are not now.”

Andrea Polanco

“Growing up as a young woman in the city, I believe you’ve seen cases of domestic violence, you know aobut people involved. What message would you like to send to those people?”

Shamika Higinio, YWCA

Shamika Higinio

“Well the message I would like to send across especially to young people is if you know you are in an abusive relationship, unu take unu self out of it and noh stay in it. and also I would like to send across if you know unu have the disease, don’t spread it out; just look out fi next people.”

Alicia Banner, ACC

“We are here to support violence against beating women and child molestation and to have a peaceful environment.”

Alicia Banner & Whitney Joseph

Andrea Polanco

“You have any message that you’d like to send out to the people of Belize?”

Whitney Joseph, ACC

“Stop the violence.”

Andrea Polanco

“How important it is for you as a young student to be out here today?”

Kimberly Gutierrez, E.P. Yorke

“It is important because we have to end it before my time comes because I do not want to be violated.”

Andrea Polanco

Kimberly Gutierrez

“As a young women growing up in the city, you’ve probably seen people in abusive relationship. What message you want to send to them?”

Kimberly Gutierrez, E.P. YORKE

“It’s not too late, you can still get out. Don’t wait until you lose your life or someone else loses it.”

Humes says the event is geared at inciting a response from the wider community:

Icilda Humes

“What we wanted to do this year was to sort of change the neighbourhood that we focus on to mobilize and to engage persons in our response. And so we decided to move the event to the Lake Independence area—that was the suggestion that came out of the 16 Days of Activism Planning Committee. So this year we have several high schools who have been participating, of course we have the police who is one of our strongest partners in the gender based violence response, we have the ministry of health, we have the women’s issues network and other women’s NGOs, and other NGOs working in the gender based violence and the HIV/AIDS sector and we also have members of different support groups including the support group for women and the champion for change men’s network.”

Andrea Polanco

“What is it that you hope to achieve through this parade in the city?”

Icilda Humes

“Well we are hoping to get more people involved in the gender based violence response, to bring more awareness to the work of the women’s department and the work of the other partner agencies in this sector. So it is not just walking through the streets. The schools have also within their life skills class and social studies class and with their counselors, develop different signs, different placards and different chants about gender based violence in Belize and the various forms of gender based violence: including domestic violence, sexual harassment, child sexual abuse, trafficking of persons, commercial sexual exploitation of children and so forth. So it si not just marching through the streets, it’s also affirming our commitment because the theme for the 16 Days of Activism is actually a call to action. It says; “Act Now; End Gender Based Violence.” So in addition to the schools doing their chants and walking with their placards, we are also distributing information about the programs of the women’s department, safety tips on what to do if you are in a domestic violence situation, how to try to reduce your risk of being sexually assaulted and so forth.”

Clayton Guzman

Gender-based violence affects all. With a strong focus on women, men also recognize their role in the fight against abuse:

Clayton Guzman, Participant

“I’m just out here to support the women who are calling upon the violence against women to stop. I am in support of all the women that are calling about the violence to stop against women and children.”

Andrea Polanco

“So you think more men should join an initiative such as this one?”

Clayton Guzman

“Oh yes, sure. I think so. I strongly believe so and I call upon all men to come and support these women and stop the violence against these women.”

Lennox ‘DJ Tambran’ Young, Participant

Lennox ‘DJ Tambran’ Young

“Well I am here because we are DJs, but we are supporting the BFLA because a lot of things are affecting our young people of today and we have crime, we have violence and now we have trafficking of young women and I think that these things have to stop. Without our youths of today, we won’t have a continuation of having a safe place to live and when our kids are in this type of danger and stuff, we need to tell ourselves that they are the future of our country. And we are out here today to show that we are not only DJs. We can be effective and provide information to our kids and support them.”

Icilda Humes

“It’s very, very important and we are very glad that the Champion for Change men’s network is up and going. It had a rough start. It is an advocacy arm of the women’s department because we recognize that we cannot win this fight without the cooperation of men  and without men being champions for change, being agents for change in any violence in Belize and ending violence on a whole. And so we feel that it is very important for men; including young men or even especially young men to get involved.”

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

The Sixteen Days of Activism will run through to December tenth.

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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