The Women’s Department of Belize recognized 22 women on Thursday, March 27th, at its 9th Annual Outstanding Women’s Awards Ceremony. In each of the last nine years the Department has honoured women from all districts who have made significant contribution to their communities and stand as role models to younger girls. The 22 women honoured this year is another impressive group.

The Women’s Department honoured two women from each district, an older and a younger woman. In the Belize District the Department recognized Tanya Thompson and 20-year-old Hydea Golanche. Thompson is the President of the Rotaract Club of Belize. She has volunteered in numerous community agencies; including YWCA, National AIDS Commission, Help Age and the KHMH Pediatric Ward among others. Golanche is pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in English Education at the University of Belize. She also serves as a youth ambassador for Belize and member of the Youth Advocacy Movement of the Belize Family Life Association (BFLA). She volunteers at the Belize Theatre Company and as a facilitator at the Caribbean Shores Resource Center.

From the Cayo District the Department recognized Beverly Swasey and Jeanelle Mencias. Swasey is a career educator who was a teacher at both the primary and secondary school level in Belmopan. She is the President of the Belmopan Women’s Council which she started as a city councilor in 2003. She is a cancer survivor who founded the Belmopan Chapter of the Belize Cancer Society in 1998. Miss Bev is currently active in numerous women’s group and is a well known contributor to the arts as a play director, producer and actor. Mencias is an Information Officer in the Government Press Office. She is a very active youth in the Belmopan community. Mencias is a member of the Belmopan Choral Society, Belmopan Active Youths and Advisory Committee of the CARILED Project for Belmopan.

From Corozal the Department recognized Elda Sutherland and Neidi Rosado. Sutherland was a primary school teacher for 12 years before she served as a Community Development Officer in the ministry of Human Development for 23 years. After retirement she decided to dedicate her time as a community health advocate coordinating education sessions for community health awareness. She is the Vice-President of the Corozal Branch of the National Council for Ageing. 23-year-old Rosado was a peer helper at the Corozal Community College where she formed a study group to help schoolmates who were having difficulties with academics. She served as part of the National Youth Council of Belize and was the facilitator of the Belize Child Protection Conference conducted by the National Committee for Families and Children.

Elisa Bol and Karla Stamp were recognized from the Orange Walk District. Bol is the Vice-Chairlady of the Hearth Desired Women’s Group and Secretary of the Guinea Grass Village Council. She is a businesswoman who has attended numerous local and regional training conferences and shares her knowledge with Banquitas House of Culture, the Women’s Department, La Immaculada Credit Union and various community groups. 26-year-old Stamp is a two time student of the year from Muffles Junior College. She is an outstanding athlete who has excelled in multiple disciplines. She has received training from the Youth for the Future, NOPCAN, BFLA and Police Cadet and has used her experiences to steer others to such organizations and train those younger than her.

Martha Hill and Tamika Nunez are the distinguished women from Stann Creek. Hill and her family migrated to the United States in the early 70s but returned home after retirement in 1996. Since returning she has volunteered her time wherever there is a need. Her contributions have been vital at the Stann Creek District Education Center, Belize Amnesty Program, Southern Regional Hospital and Dangriga Town Council. She helps international medical teams to bridge language barriers they may experience in Southern Belize. Nunez is an outstanding athlete and peer helper at Dellile Academy. She spends her free time tutoring schoolmates and helping younger children with their homework. Nunez plans to be a teacher serving in her community of New Site, Dangriga.

Genoneva Ramirez and Alliana Barrias of the Toledo Districts were also recognized by the Women’s Department. Even at the age of 93, Ramirez or “Ma Henny” is still very much active in her community of Punta Gorda Town. When called upon, Ma Henny is always willing to assist in preparing neighbours for cultural burial rituals. She is a member of HOPE Toledo and the Catholic Rosary Prayer Group. Barrias is pursuing her Associates Degree in Natural Resource Management at the University of Belize. She is a Junior Instructor of the Police youth Cadet Corp and was named the Cadet of the Year and recipient of the Coordinator and Commissioner Awards. She also volunteers her time as a researcher for TIDE which is dedicated to protecting marine life and the ecosystem.

The Young Women’s Christian Association recognized Beverly Brown for her contributions to hospitality management education. The Belize Family Life Association honoured Judith Constanza- Chell and Stacey Flores. Chell was recognized for her contribution to health education. Flores was recognized for her advocacy addressing adolescent sexual and reproductive health. The University of the West Indies honoured Sharmayne Saunders for her dedication to community service. Saunders is the President of Haven House and serves on various prestigious school boards. The Department of Youth Services honoured Allison McKenzie for her life service in the public sector. She is currently changing lives as the Administrative Officer in the Department of Youth Services. Haven House honoured Elaine Clarke for her service in the public sector and to volunteerism. She is the Chairperson of Help Age Belize City and Vice-President of the Wesley Women Group. She served on the boards of BFLA, Sister Cecilia Home for the Elderly and Haven House. The Belize Police Department honoured Police Sergeant Carla Lewis for service of over 20 years. Eglah’s Center for Women honoured its Director, Myrna Willoughby, for her commitment to women and family development. The National Institute of Culture and History honoured Rosita May for her commitment to preserve and promote her Maya heritage. WINNERS of the Women Issues Network honoured Anazette Olivera. Olivera has been an active member of the volunteer arm of WIN-Belize since 2002 and served as Vice-President in 2011. She is also the Director of the United Democratic Party’s youth group. Olivera is dedicated to women and youth development and plans to pursue a degree in political science and law.

This year’s women’s month was celebrated under the theme “Investing in Change: Honouring, Respecting and Celebrating Women and Girls”.

The Guardian