Gender Training for Belize, a Great Success!

24 August, 2005 - Belmopan
Last week, from August 16th to the 18th, the capacity building and
institutional strengthening three day workshop for the National Women's
Commission and its Gender Partners took place in Belize City at the
Chateau Caribbean Hotel.

Conducting the sessions was Dr. Glenda Simms, an expert in Gender and
Development with broad experience in Canada, where she lived for over 25
years, and in her native Jamaica, where she has served as Director of
the Women's Bureau.

Participants were from a broad cross section of government as well as
non-government sectors and attendance was very good for the duration of
the training.

Women's Commissioners, Women's Development officers from the Ministry of
Human Development, and representatives of the National Teacher's Union,
the Y.W.C.A., the Y.M.C.A., the Belize Family Life Association, the
National Council on Ageing, the Ministry of Education, Youth Enhancement
Services, the National Committee for Families and Children, the
Community Rehabilitation Department, Human Services Department, WIN
Belize, the Ombudsman's office, the Kriol Council and several others
attended the various presentations and sessions.

After the welcome by Women's Commission President Narda García and the
overview by Ambassador Dolores Balderamos, Dr. Simms gave an inspiring
introduction to the workshop stating the goals and making clear the
ideological plank of her work in this field over many years.

She stated that mainstreaming gender into all development work is
essential, and that it is also necessary for elders to share wisdom and
respect young people. All our work should utilize a life cycle approach
and encourage meaningful partnership between men and women.

She also stated forcefully that women's rights are human rights and that
inclusivity is the main ideological underpinning for true development.
We must allow and embrace participation and include everyone in the
struggle for a better life. As well, all people need to be developed to
their full capacity. We must stand up for all minorities and all
marginalized persons in our society.

Without gender equality, she shared with the participants, we will never
be able to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Of key importance also is building our ability to deconstruct accepted
roles, ideas and power structures. She advised our national machinery
for gender issues, which includes all government and non-government
agencies, to work together at educating people especially in rural
communities about their rights and sharing our knowledge on analyzing
how programs affect men and women.

Participants also viewed and discussed several videos and presentations
on gender based violence, sexual abuse and incest, and sexual
harassment respectively and agreed to use these as tools for education
and sensitization on changing gender relations.

We must all become vigorous advocates in removing negative aspects of
culture which serve to hamper progress on gender and development.
Culture is dynamic, and our various national and international
commitments should guide us in steering cultural changes for the better.
Gender attitudes and behaviors are learned and can be changed, she also
reminded participants.

Exciting and useful presentations were also made on the Millennium
Development Goals, the Feminization of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the
Mandate of the National Women's Commission and the National Gender
Machinery. It was noted too that sexual and reproductive health and
access to correct information are also essential to achieving the
Millennium Development Goals.

Dr. Simms also facilitated the important discussion on the networking of
Gender Partners and the Plan of Action for Women for the next three
years. She said that the Women's Commission and NGOs must work closely
with the Women's Department in carrying out our mandate as the National
Machinery.

Participants identified five major areas for the three year Plan. These
are:

1. Women and Sexual Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDS
2. Gender Based Violence and Abuse
3. Women in Leadership and Decision Making
4. Women and Economic Development and
5. Women's Educational Concerns and Empowerment

Our policies have to be linked to action she encouraged finally, and
once more, from the standpoint of inclusion, she insisted that all
stakeholders must involve churches and faith based organizations, the
media and other opinion shapers in various communities.

The workshop has been a great shot in the arm of inspiration and
strength for Gender Partners to continue the work with renewed energy,
greater focus and the will to succeed in the struggle for equality.

At the end of the sessions Dr. Simms was presented with a plaque and
gift on behalf of all participants by Narda García and Eva Middleton.

The work of carrying out the Institutional Strengthening Project will
continue in earnest with pledges of support from all persons and the
various organizations which were represented.