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Belize begins consultations on the draft CARICOM Regional Gender Equality Strategy

Eliminating social and gender inequality among countries in the Caribbean: that’s the goal of the CARICOM Gender Equality Strategy. The draft strategic plan is geared at accelerating the effective implementation of CARICOM’s regional priority actions to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. A part of implementing the policy includes holding consultations among member states. Today, Belize’s national consultation on the draft was held at the Belize Biltmore Plaza. Program Manager, of Gender and Development at the CARICOM Secretariat, Dr. Hilary Brown, spoke about the importance of holding consultations on the draft policy.

Dr. Hilary Brown, Program Manager, Gender and Development CARICOM Secretariat: As part of CARICOM’s mandate to promote regional integration, we recognize that we have to incorporate the ideas and experiences and voices of all of our citizens when we’re designing policies and strategies and programmatic interventions related to gender and in fact all of the areas in which we work. So we recognize that there is a lot more that we can do to coordinate and report on our policy interventions and programs, and this is what the CARICOM regional Gender Equality strategy seeks to enable. So we know that Belize, like many of our other member states, has signed on to several international commitments, such as the Beijing declaration and platform for action and has chosen several of the twelve critical areas of concern to anchor its national gender policy. Belize has also ratified CEDO and Belem Do Para, as have many of our other member states. But where we have the gaps, in spite of these gains, is that we’re not aware of what each other does to follow up on these commitments. We don’t know when each other reports to CEDO, the CEDO comity for example. We don’t know what are the achievements, the milestones. What have you achieved in relation to Gender Equality nationally and regionally, and what are the gender indicators that we are using to track or progress.  Under the sustainable development goals we have goal 5, a dedicated goal to Gender Equality. So what are we going to be doing to implement, to track, to move this forward. So the Gender Equality strategy provides a roadmap for member states to report on these issues. To mainstream gender and to ensure that we have a regional coordinated approach to gender equality and to empower women and girls.

CEO of the Ministry of Human Development and Families, Tanya Neal Santos, says the draft strategy falls in line with Belize’s recently updated National Gender Policy which aims to achieve gender equality throughout the country’s various sectors.

Tanya Santos Neal, CEO Ministry of Human Development and Families: The National Gender Policy included the goals of Belize’s long term development framework Horizon 2030 as well as sector plans mainly in health and education. The priority areas of our revised national gender policy emanated from a list of priorities established during the fourth world conference in BeiJing China 1995. In 2002, we identified five main areas for achieving gender equality and equity. These main areas which were reevaluated in 2013 are 1. Health, 2. Education and skills training, 3. Wealth and Employment generation 4. Violence producing conditions and 5. Power and decision making. And I’d like to share that during the development of the Women’s Agenda prior to the general elections unbeknownst to me of all this gender policy and targeting that was being done, the exact same issues emanated from community to community throughout this country in the same priorities; health being number one. So it’s all aligned. Overarching goal of the new revised gender policy is to achieve gender equality and equity and to end discrimination of women and girls in Belize. This goal was lifted from the 2013 policy as well as Plan Belize Women’s Agenda and Family Plan 2020. It also aligns with our sustainable development goals in gender equality and women’s empowerment of the UN 2030 STGs.