7 News Belize

Women in Politics Take The Foreground
posted (August 31, 2017)
Over the years, the National Women's Commission has hosted a number of women in politics workshops, trainings, gender equality seminars among other events.

But today the Commission held its first National Women in Politics Conference at the Biltmore. It might sound like one of those fancy official meetings but behind it all is the same objective that women have been fighting and pushing to attain for years: to get more women in leadership positions - after all, something has to be wrong if women make up more than half the population, but only hold 6% of the seats in the House of Representatives. Courtney Weatherburne has more on the conference that's trying to do something about that inequality.

Courtney Weatherburne reporting
Gloria Gaynor's "I will survive" is one of the most well-known and performed songs.

But this was no karaoke session, women from all over the country embraced this song as their anthem for the first National Women in Politics Conference. Now it wasn't all about having fun and singing along.

These women gathered today to continue that ongoing conversation about their roles across the political landscape.

Ann-Marie Williams, Executive Director, National Women's Commission
"This conference is being held ahead of the 2018 municipal elections and it is primarily to inspire women to run for the upcoming elections, even if they don't run they are reminded that I could do that someday, the conference is also being held to help women leaders to develop better organizational skills within the workforce, let them be aware that they have the confidence and they have the ability and they can lead and it is also to create a role modeling effect for women who want to run for politics."

And a few of those role models are women like Minister of State for Trade, Tracey Teagar Panton, former 2 term Belize City Mayor Zenaida Moya, Punta Gorda Mayor Fern Guiterrez and former parliamentarian, Dolores Balderamos Garcia among several others.

Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Former Parliamentarian
"I do feel that the focus must continue for us to include more Belizean women not only in the political conversations but also around the tables of decision making."

Those words were echoed in the presentation by the guest speaker, American Assistant Professor of Political Science Kelly Dittmar. The struggles women face in Belize are quite similar to those faced in the United States.

Kelly Dittmar, Professor of Political Science
"The United States is not ranking so well we are midway, middle of the pack we rank 100th in the world. Only one in five women in our house of representatives or one of five members in our house or representatives are women and here in Belize obviously lower than that 176 out of 193 countries and that is because of the low numbers specifically in the house of representatives."

And in order to change that dismal reality, it is conferences like these that help women to move forward towards a common goal.

Ann-Marie Williams, Executive Director, National Women's Commission
"Our national plan or work plan speaks to that fact that at least we want to raise 20% of women in politics by 2020. The international standard is having 30% women in politics and move towards parity and move to 50%."

The National Women's Commission started the women in politics movement in 2009 with 98 women - and a few of those women who participated are in politics today. The Women in Politics training known as "WIP" ended in 2012 but the commission is looking into reviving the training program.

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