In August of this year, the Women's National Commission sent out a call for women interested in a political career. To qualify, all you needed was to be 21 years of age, and have the guts to stomach entering one of the most distrusted professions in the country.
The commission said it was targeting a total of 20 Belizean women to sign up for a 13 week training programme that would prepare them for the mean world of politics.
Today, the WNC launched its COHORT III, a third intake of 18 women, to take up the mantle in Belizean politics. At the Withfield Tower on Coney Drive this morning,
Executive Director of the Commission, Ann Marie Williams told Seven News, that the Women in Politics courses are designed to look at issues that are germane to politics and national development.
Ann Marie Williams, Executive Director of the Commission
"This is not only to socialized and help to train the women for politics, this is also a public campaign to its public awareness. The voters in the community who are mostly women, they need to know also too that it is important to have women in the national discourse and when we don't see women, we don't think of them they become automatically invisible, so having a woman at the top who does well, is also a big plus because it has a role model in effect, if she can do it we can all do it, and so the community has to get behind this effort too - women in the community and see that we are a specialized group and we need to be courted we have the power in our hands."
Anna Guy, WIP Candidate
"Politics has been known to be a negative term in our country and that is sad because I believe politics should be something that we aspire to move into instead of shy away from and I think the only way we can aspire to get into it is by actually become a part of it in a positive mode other than in a negative mode."
"Michelle why do you believe that this is now 2011 and there are still few women with interest with entering politics?"
Michelle Murray, WIP Candidate
"One of my firm conviction is as a society I have observed that we are very patriarch, men are by nature have been leading in various political and other roles in our society and women have been for the most part in the back ground, so that might be one of the biggest reasons alone with, of course women have been very much criticized and even scandalized, as far as their political endeavors go. If we continue to say Oh it's a man's' world - politics is a man's' arena it will never change and if it doesn't change with Mrs. Guy or myself and the candidates in this Cohort and the cohorts before us, it hopefully will change with a generation that comes behind us."
"Anna what makes you believe that you can make a difference than those who have come before you?"
Anna Guy, WIP Candidate
"Well I think that those who have come before me had the equal opportunity, but I think that sometimes when you are embrace with these challenges we tend to, instead of move in a positive mode and really standing up strong and face them conquer them and move on. I believe that this project that we are about to undertake will assist in equip in us to be better servants to our community."
And in line with those sentiments, the Minister responsible for Human Development and Social Transformation, Honorable Peter Eden Martinez told the gathering, his government was taking a leadership role in ensuring that Women were included in the national political discourse and decision making process.
Hon. Peter Eden Martinez, Human Development and Social Transformation
"It is a fact, that if our women are present alongside our men at the highest levels of government, our country will benefit. If our women are healthy and educated their families will flourish. If women are free from violence their families and the nation will flourish and if women are given the chance to work and earn as equal partners in society all of society will benefit."
The 13-week training programme starts in October and ends with a graduation ceremony in March. To date, 69 of 78 women have graduated from Cohorts I & II of the Award-winning programme.