PUP Area Rep Says Women Are Welcome to Run

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Updated: July 31, 2017

Women in politics is a topic that has been spoken on time and time again, particularly when an election season comes around.  With the municipal elections just a few months away, there seems to be a lacking in women participation in the nine municipalities.  The People’s United Party recently held its convention in Dangriga which saw not one woman competing on that town council slate.  At the time when Julius Espat was one of the PUP’s Deputy Leaders, there was a resolution passed surrounding more women participation.  He spoke of this and the challenges he sees women experiencing in politics.

JULIUS ESPAT

“The party has always been pro women in politics. The past leadership we established in the National Executive, and I think it went all the way to the party council, in that we had a minimum of 30% women participation in government; that is on record. It’s a difficult situation. I am in politics and I understand the aggressivity that involves in this arena. Some people call it a contact sport just that it doesn’t have that official name of boxing but it is a contact sport. I have experienced personally where it gets personal, it gets nasty and they want to know what color drawers you have on today. And so why am I saying this ? That makes it difficult for women. My wife is a partner in my business and I experience how difficult it is for her to be able to operate. She has to put in double the amount of work than maybe I have to put in to get the same level of respect and that is something that we need to change. But our environment and culture has to be educated, has to feel it and I don’t believe we are there yet. I think even the women that participate in politics, unfairly so, get more criticism on personal and petty stuff and it takes away their interest of wanting to participate. So the party can say as much as they want that they want women in politics but the women also have to want to participate and the society and the culture has to change. But I always tell everybody when they say it can’t be done Belize is only 34 years old and therefore compared to other countries we have a lot to learn. As I mentioned we only have 350,000 people. If we want to change we can come together but if we lose our Christian values then how are we going to protect our women? How are we going to protect our families and so yes I believe we should have more women participation, by far more?”

According to Espat Two women who stand out in the political arena for the opposition are Dolores Balderamos Garcia and Lisa Shoman.

JULIUS ESPAT

“I can give you a clear example of somebody that served alongside me not in government but in opposition the Honorable Dolores Balderamos when she was a minister of government she achieved a lot of positive things for empowerment of women and we have other women that have been vocal. To mind Senator Lisa Shoman is one that has strong and forceful ideas, not all of them I agree with but I can sit with her any day and we can have serious discussion and argument and at the end of the day we love each other and we want good for Belize so that is all positive. In the Cayo district I think we have one female participate for mayor I think its Ms.Tanya Santos in Belmopan; I’m not aware if there is another female Mayoral aspirant at this point in time.”

Recently, Attorney Lisa Shoman penned an article that spoke of the support or lack thereof by the parties who perform lip service on wanting women on the slates.  In the article, Shoman wrote, quote, “Looking at the slates for the PUP already endorsed, two are headed by men, and in San Ignacio and Santa Elena, the prospective mayoral candidates are all men. Belize has the distinction of being a dismal performer on participation of women in politics in the world. In the Americas, we perennially rank dead last. We barely do better than nations where Islam is the state religion and we do worse than those where the majority of citizens are Muslim. In 2011 I was convinced to run for the PUP in a constituency which in hindsight, I really had no business to contest – Belmopan. I faced a field of three other candidates for a primary. I learned much, and I regret nothing. Would I do it again? Probably not. But not because it scarred or scared me. I won’t because the playing field is not even.”  End of quote.

JULIUS ESPAT

“I was there assisting Lisa both as a friend and a young aspirant myself. I had already been the Standard Bearer for Cayo South and when Lisa came into Belmopan, and she can atest to this, we were one of the first to support her in Belmopan. But it is difficult for a party to sanction political rhetoric on the ground, not even a government can do that. You can call in all the opponents and all the candidates and tell them ‘listen to me we will not tolerate this or that on a website or Facebook. It cannot be written.’ but how can you control that on the ground when it’s a cultural thing ? And so that is part of the problem I am telling you that when you get into politics and you’re dealing with politics you have to understand that there are certain things that you cannot avoid and so I think there is a misconception in female participation and even in female equality. We want equality we have to work this thing together too, you can’t be given special privileges, you should be given protection I agree but if we are going to do this thing let’s do it together. I want to respect you or who you are, I want to respect you for your mind, you thoughts and ideas, for the amount of work that you put in. I don’t want to respect you just because you are a woman or just because you are a man. I believe that is what everybody wants, that we respect each other and it will take some time. I believe that we could come together as a people. In Cayo South I must say about 90% of our campaigners are female, they are the ones that make Julius Espat win in Cayo South and they are from 15 years old to 80 years old.”

Currently, of the thirty one elected area representatives in Belize, only two are women.