|Hundreds of residents, including schoolchildren, joined in the march against AIDS and Domestic Violence.
“No more violence, no more HIV” were the valiant chants of proud students and concerned citizens that were involved in the torch run 2005, in San Pedro. The torch arrived on “La Isla Bonita” on Thursday morning and students from The San Pedro High, New Horizon SDA and San Pedro Roman Catholic Schools all gathered at the starting line as part of 16 days of activism spearheaded by The Women Issues Network of Belize (WIN Belize).
On Thursday, November 24th, the WIN Belize team along with the torch made their way to “La Isla Bonita” to parade the streets and unite for one sole purpose to unite and fight the stigma of HIV/AIDS and domestic violence. The torch run started at the entrance of Victoria House through the main streets of town and back to the finish line at the San Pedro Town Hall. Coordinator of the torch run, fellow Sun Staffer Maria Novelo commented on the event, stating, “The turnout was great, between the three districts that had participated in the run, San Pedro’s turnout currently leads the pack with great energy. The participants were hyped up and pumped to parade the streets and it went very well, thanks to the help of all those involved.” Shelmadine Cacho, Programme Officer for WIN-Belize commented a bit on the 16 days of activism and stated, “We think that our society is facing issues, people are affected with HIV/AIDS as far as the stigma and discrimination are concerned. We are trying to sensitize people to these issues. We want to bring the community together to put an end to not only gender based violence but also HIV/AIDS prevention. Well it’s all about unity. We’re trying to show the community that we can come together and that we can battle these issues. These are not issues that are foreign to us anymore, they’re here and we have to try to deal with them. We came up with the torch run because we were looking for creative ways to get the message across and we thank the San Pedro community for embracing us and supporting us along the way. The pamphlets and flyers were received openly and we hope this will impact a change.” The torch then made its way to Belize City on the 25th, followed by Cayo on the 26th.
This is the first year that the torch run took place and plans are already under way for next year. A similar torch run and Health Conference will take place in Dangriga and Belmopan on December 1st. The sixteen days of activism will finalize with a two day Health Conference and torch run which will be held in Punta Gorda Town on the 7th and 8th of December.
WIN Belize, which was formed in 1993, is a service oriented network organization that coordinates and facilitates workshops and activities that deal with women issues. The fourteen member agency comprised mainly of members of B.F.L.A (Belize Family Life Association) and Y.E.S (Youth Enhancement Services) not only deal with women issues, but youth and children as well. The organization, in its ongoing efforts to reduce the incidences of domestic violence and HIV/AIDS in Belize organized a sixteen day activism campaign which started on November 18th and will run through December 8th, 2005. Through this campaign, under the theme “Man, Woman, One People United to Reduce Gender Based Violence and HIV/AIDS,” WIN Belize has been holding torch runs as well as facilitating health conferences to increase awareness against HIV/AIDS and gender based violence as well as empowerment for families throughout the country. The first torch run and Health Conference was held in Corozal Town on November 18th, and on November 22nd, the organization visited Orange Walk, where a number of Orange Walk residents and members of various organizations joined them through the streets of town for a run against HIV/AIDS and Violence against women.
On behalf of The San Pedro Sun, hats off and many thanks to the energetic group of students that participated in the run and everybody that showed support for the cause.