The 20 thousand strong women's rally took place today in Belize City. It's a huge effort, bringing in buses flying orange flags from all over the country. And it's all to advance the women's agenda, in a way that is both powerful and symbolic. Emanuel Pech has the story.
Crowds of people, mostly women donned in Orange T's, began to assemble at the Memorial park in Belize City from as earlier as 8:00 this morning
People came in busses from all corners of the country. Difficult to quantify, but orange blanketed the park. The atmosphere at memorial park was amicable, it almost seemed like a reunion of old friends.
At around 9:30 the march kicked off for the second national Women's Rally dubbed "20 Thousand Strong." Teachers, students, public officers, and even members of the armed forces joined the trail as the convoy of orange t's made its way towards the Marion Jones Parade.
As the crowd approached the Princess Margret Drive on the Marine Parade the size and shape of the gathering began to form. And what a gathering it was.
There were definitely a couple thousand on the ground. An impressive feat, just as impressive as the previous rally.
The crowd arrived at the Marion Jones Stadium shortly before 10:00, where the official ceremonies began.
Kim Simplis Barrow - Special Envoy "I am happy to say that this is a way much bigger crowd than the last 20,000 strong. Obviously the message got out that the 20,000 strong is a movement, it's a movement to create change. Change in our society of how we view women, how we treat our women and that is very important."
Janelle Chanona "I think any scene like this that brings together women to talk about re-energizing empowerment is such a beautiful thing and I personally am over the moon. I think this is a wonderful turn out and that we have women here from all over the country talking about collaboration and empowerment. I think any day that happens is a beautiful day."
Lliani Arthurs- Director, Human Services "I think it's important for us to be united as women towards one cause. And so it comes out to encourage each of us in whatever fight that we are going through in life that we are not in it alone and that we are here for each other and that kind of directs us towards a certain purpose and so my whole department is out here in support."
Emanuel Pech "What do you think is the voice that is trying to be develop here as one?"
Lliani Arthurs- Director, Human Services "That we are strong as women. That we have great potential. That the opportunities are right within our gifting and our talents and that together when we work together we can mobilize and get some change happening."
Emanuel Pech "In the past growing up in Belize, how do you see the transition from then and now and do you think this movement is important?"
Beverly Swasey - Participant "It's important because when we were growing up, if you didn't have money and you weren't from a special family, you were not recognized - you were not seen. With this movement, more women, they don't have to be rich, you just have to have that determination and with the strength of the other women behind you, you get that feeling that you are stronger and you can stand up for your rights and women need to know too about their rights."
Meesha Magdaleno - Student, Pallotti High School "I feel good. I see lots of young people out here from different schools. People come from north, south, east, west - it's just a good sight to see all the women out here."
Emanuel Pech "How do you feel being around so many women?"
Emily Palacio - Participant "It is very inspirational. It's a moving feeling, especially when we were walking and interacting with women and being in the space with all these women. I am encouraging women to lift up each other and that is the cry that I have been hearing from my colleagues to lift us each other, not to tear each other down - that we can do so much as a group if we support each other."
The fight for equality was one of the main topics on the agenda. A fight which Kaya Cattouse is all too familiar with.
Emanuel Pech "As one women that has push the boundaries for women in sports specifically, tell me what is the importance of being here as this national event today?"
Kaya Cattouse - Woman Athlete "Women for women. We have to support one another. It's imperative that we make a start. It's a good initiative by the First Lady and I mean I have to support."
Emanuel Pech "And you yourself, you have been one of the ones that championing that cause inside of the sports realm, a male dominated sport. Tell us how hard it is for a woman to push forward in that regard?"
Kaya Cattouse - Woman Athlete "It's hard for women athletes, not only in Belize, but across the world. I mean there was a fight in tennis, until the Williams' sisters brought it up to the same level. There is a fight in every sport. Presently, in the USA, there is this young lady Catherine, she is trying to get cycling women in equal level as the guys - it's called half the road, saying that the women do the same things that the males do and in Belize, we have the same issues. This is something that we want to do, we have to come together and we have to find the right people to help us."
Another constant theme at today's rally was the all too sensitive topic of domestic abuse against women.
Just this month, Maria Candelaria Chacon was killed by her husband, another femicide borne out of domestic abuse. So what is the point of all this rallying, if the same issues are still recurring?
Emanuel Pech "Since the movement started, since you started tackling this issue, have you seen any fundamental change in the society regarding these issues?"
Kim Simplis Barrow - Special Envoy "I think there has been changes. I think the mere fact that there are more people out here this time around. That there is more participation, that there is more awareness. I think it sends a message, absolutely."
Judith Alpuche "To me the fact that we've had quite a number of femicides in the past couple of months is an indicator that we must double our efforts. When will we achieve it? When we as a society stand up and say it must be so - that a girl child is worth as much as a boy child."
Before the end of the day four women were honored with plaques of appreciation three of two of them were successful entrepreneurs by their right.
Crystal Samos - Owner of Capio, Keynote speaker "Well I am hoping to really and truly inspire our people, because that's one of my things, I am an advocate for female entrepreneurs. I am a feminist and I strongly believe in women and what we are capable of doing and this is the era and time where definitely it's our time to shine as women and stand together."
Kim Simplis Barrow - Special Envoy "We have women who have so many talents and they are producing products, but they don't know how to get the products to another level and so there came the whole entrepreneurship focus. So that's why today we will be making an announcement of what our plan will be in terms entrepreneurship."
And those plans are to launch the 20.4.20, Women's Economic Development Program an initiative geared towards empowering women by making them more financially independent.
Janelle Chanona "That will look at creating and establishing fund that will be setup by the office by the special envoy, but manage by a microfinancing agency, somebody like BEST and it will be creating a mentorship program. It will be providing financing. It will help to navigate women on their journey towards financial help and independence. So that's going to be a really big initiative. We are talking about 20,000 women giving $2. Two hundred women giving I think its $2,000. So looking at women helping and throwing their weights financial and otherwise experience and expertise to make more Belizean women stronger in this regard."
Kim Simplis Barrow - Special Envoy "I want to salute my mom. I want to salute all my aunts. I want to salute my neighbors. I want to salute all the women who walk with me today. I want to salute every woman in the homes. I want to salute all of you, because you all had influence and can change and you have."
Reporting for 7News Emanuel Pech
The rally finished at around noon.
There will be an open forum on gender based violence on Monday at the Bliss at 6:00 in the evening.