Press for Progress for Women’s Month Print E-mail
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Thursday, 15 March 2018 00:00

The month of March represents a significant time as it is a time that most of the international community sets aside to recognize women and their stellar accomplishments. March 8th is an even more important day as it is dubbed as International Women’s Day which represents a celebration of the decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace, and development. Belize first observed this day in the 1970s and since then, it has continued to be a very important day for the people of Belize to recognize the struggles and accomplishment of our Belizean women.

Since 2010 in Belize, collaboration between state-led institutions, non-governmental organizations, and other civil society groups, has led to the observation of International Women’s Day by organizing a month of activities in March focusing on issues affecting women as well as celebrating their social, economic, cultural, and political achievements.

#PressforProgress is the 2018 theme and indicates, more than ever, the need for a strong call-to-action to press for gender equality and on Wednesday, March 14, 2018, Cynthia Ellis Topsey held a press conference highlighting many of those challenges faced by women. Ellis Topsey says “Women’s Month is being celebrated in the wake of escalating violence and crime in Belize. There is bewilderment and anger among citizens who are also hurt and frustrated.”

In an effort, Ellis Topsey and other organizations have banded for a movement called “Belize Movement for Peace and Reconciliation”. It is a call to action in which a zero tolerance to violence is declared. “No longer do we quietly accept abuse as a way of life in our Jewel. We call on all peace-loving citizens to join us in dialogue to strategize and promote solutions that promote healing and reconciliation.”

Ellis Topsey enforces that her intention is not to have an organization but a movement which will, after 100 days, make an effort toward breaking the cycle of silence as it pertains to violence. She recalls the time before independence when women were fearless and pleads that the cries of women and their families be heard. “The call to action is a dialogue of every individual, every organization, and every group that is interested in going through a process of Peace and Reconciliation.”

Such organizations include but are not limited to Bridging Belize, the Alternative to Violence Program, and the Virtuous Family and will work in collaboration with governmental as well as non-governmental organizations and other entities to reinforce a mentality where everyone holds themselves accountable. Their movement will seek to highlight the accomplishments of women, men, and families in Belize as well as other countries. Ellis Topsey makes it a point to stress that during these 100 days, the Belizean family as a whole will be highlighted versus individualizing men, women, and children.

Ellis Topsey concedes that while 100 days is not sufficient time to undo the violence and structural wrongs of centuries, it serves as a report card- a period in which they will be held accountable. “My responsibility as a mother and a grandmother is to speak, to teach value and respect, and to have courage. The outcome of 100 days is to create a space for dialogue where silence has existed for too long… I have a responsibility to give back to my country.”

Twenty thousand Strong is the next item on the agenda for the month-long celebration of women. Since its first appearance in 2014, the march has grown year after year in reputation as well as in number; year after year, men, women, and children alike march through the streets of Belize City to show support for the women of Belize. This year’s march will be held on Friday March 16, 2018 and is expected to draw just as much commitment and support.