Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Pedestal: Supporting Belizean Women, Diversity for it matters

14th March, 2016

 










On March 11th, I had the chance to walk with the 20,000 strong women march from B.T.L Park onward. It seems I will be late for my own funeral, but never the less, it was a taxi that allowed me to get to the back of the line. Why did I walk you might ask,its simple, for sister and mom. My sister, who helped to subsidize my life, when I was not working, she found a job for me at Lionel Welch Law Firm( who died) as an office assistant. As a result, I saved enough money on my credit union book that allowed me to borrow and pay back for my University Education. This was back in 2000 when I learned that the state will help with tuition, but gave me the responsibility to cover books and administration fees. It was my sister legal knowledge that built the foundations for my interest in law, provided support to do errands and have reports completed over the years. It was my sister I turn to when I need my KIA fixed for she was kind enough to marry a mechanic.

     For the record, I know nothing about cars, I learned to drive at age 39 and only learned that there are three holes that require fluid. I am still confused as to what goes into what. She found the car that I currently drive and she is the one who text or calls me, to check if  put in enough fluids in the car or at all. I am the one who call her when my batteries die, over and over again, in the first years of learning to drive. I am the one that called her for engine and basic maintenance problems, she then turns to her husband for guidance on the technical aspects of the car. Yes, when it comes to cars, I am dense. I was so dense, I was driving with two legs, until I realize that I was suppose to use one leg for gas and brakes. I have no shame in saying so. When I needed my Red KIA dragged from a village in the Orange Walk district, she got her husband to drive from Belmopan to Orange Walk to drag it back to Belmopan the same day. I asked them to sell the car in parts and they have done so slowly. My sister along with her husband has driven my car several times, as much as 50 miles to ensure its servicing was correct. I can never pay for the goodwill of my sister.

This is the influence of a woman with knowledge and a strong work ethic who's contributions to her family, remains undervalued, who's contribution to the economy remain invisible in formal economic data gathering, who is not represented sufficiently in cabinet, our police force, as an entrepreneur, as a doctor,fire woman and as a mother.


Of note, unemployment rate in Belize averaged 11.92% from 1993 until 2014, reaching an all time high of 23.30 % in 2010 and a record low of 8.2 % in 2008. It decreased to 11.1% in 2014 from 11.7 % in 2013. The unemployment rate as of September, 2015 stood at 10.2%, but literacy rates was 79.7% (2010), life expectancy 73.7% (2014), poverty rates is 41.3%(2009).

When we look at literacy rates, I must point out that it is mostly women who start their children to count fingers, repeat letters aloud, give their children crayons to scratch so their children could have the motors skills to form complete letter before or during their children attendance to kindergarden. In Belize, we spend in excess of 25% of our national budget on education, having almost 100,000 students at all levels double that of 1990 with almost 5000 teachers with 541 schools nationally. The Education Sector Strategy for 2011-2016 points out,"The early promise of achieving the Millennium Development Goal of Universal Primary Education, though close, is no nearer now than it was in 2000, the Primary NER in 2010 is 94% compared to 95% in 2001. The much needed increase in enrollment in secondary education has not taken place, the NER in 2010 is 49% compared to 44% in 2004."

Furthermore, when we consider that 7541 robberies, 1553 murders and 672 rapes occurred  from 2000-2015, it forces us to reflect on the value of "The 20,00 Women, Strong March" and opens the questions on who are on the frontlines that are affected by poverty, education access, health challenges, violence, unemployment. It forces us to reflect on the contribution of women and it's multiplier effect on Belize's Development and on families.


 


In the March, I saw a few males from St. John's College. It is unfortunate, how politicians, business leaders and general male population forget, it was women who clean the dirt from their bottoms, provided, taught them to recognize letters of the alphabet, ensured they had a meal, it was women who took them to hospitals for their vaccines and it is women who gave birth to them. As such, it is our obligation to give back the years of care and support that we have been given. It is our obligation to give women the support they need to break out in the world under any capacity should there be an interest or opportunity.

 


Unfortunately, there are ill-informed men out there who will say," you no belong deh da di rally! You dah no woman!"  which had happened to me while I was waiting in the middle of the road to go to my office. To that I say, supporting women's rights and concerns, is everybody's concern. As men have benefited from the sacrifices women have made in our development as children and  in becoming business and political leaders, as officers of the court, as vendors on the street, as students  and in every conceivable role we may fall into in the development of this country. It is women who has laid the foundation of learning and sense of security, so, we are obligated to acknowledge those sacrifices  and believe in the endless productive possibility of women in our social, financial and political institutions. The sky is the limit in advancing gender equity that matters.


Source:
http://planipolis.iiep.unesco.org/upload/Belize/Belize_Ed-Sector_Strategy_2011-2016.pdf
http://www.tradingeconomics.com/belize/unemployment-rate

http://www.sib.org.bz/

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