Human rights is a popular topic these days and a common subject of media all over the world. San Pedro is no exception and for the past few months our island has been the target of a study being done by a Canadian volunteer. Shauna Jimenez, a Project Officer working for the Human Rights Commission of Belize (HRCB) has been conducting an analysis of the social services needed in our community. Focusing specifically on women and children's rights, she has discovered several issues that require attention and is investigating possible ways to address them.
In her assessment of San Pedro, Ms. Jimenez found many cases of domestic violence, several incidents of youth crime and mischief, examples of child neglect and abuse, and a number of children who are not attending school. During an interview with The San Pedro Sun, she also expressed concern over the amount of immigrant women and children who live here without any family support. Much of her knowledge of these concerns, up to this point in time, has come from speaking with community leaders and the few people who are currently involved in assisting with these social issues affecting our town. In an attempt to gain more information, Ms. Jimenez, through this newspaper, is requesting help from the general public. She speaks both Spanish and English and stated that any information shared with her will be kept strictly confidential (except in extreme circumstances where some-one's life is endangered). Anyone with knowledge of these types of circumstances or wishing to express their concerns on women and children's human rights may contact her during normal working hours at 206-2044 to talk or arrange an appointment. Also anyone skilled in social service work or individuals who would like to receive training in this area, or those who wish to pledge verbal or financial support are welcome to call.
For the past six months, Ms. Jimenez has been doing this same type of study in Punta Gorda. Several women's groups have been organized there and provide assistance with social service issues. She stated the high cost of living in a resort community is somewhat of a deterrent to many social workers or counselors who could be of help to this community, although there is great need for these types of personnel.
Upon finishing her assessment of our community, Ms. Jimenez will communicate to the HRCB and Canadian associates her findings and ideas on how the needs of women and children in this community can be met. Suggestions for assistance may include anything from human rights education, youth alternative programs and support groups, to a women and youth emergency shelter. She stated public awareness, training and education workshops and the availability of social services are the key solutions to the problems of any area.
Shauna Jimenez received a Masters Degree in Social Work and International Community Development at the University of Calgary in Canada. Ms. Jimenez has been visiting Belize for the past twenty-five years and previously prepared a research paper on San Pedro for one of her university courses.