Eight students from four high schools in Belize City took centre stage this afternoon at the Bliss Centre for the Performing Arts to have a discussion on gender based violence. It is an event organized primarily by the Office of the Special Envoy for Women and Children with assistance from other agencies. Mackeva Westby is the Program Coordinator in the Special Envoy’s office; she spoke of today’s initiative and its objective.
“We are very excited for today’s forum student discussion let’s have the talk. We do know that gender based violence is a very sensitive issue and what we hope to unearth today is to find out what young people know of gender based violence and how do we as the stakeholders address those issues how do we ensure that the proper information is out there that they know and they could identify what GBV is. They will be presenting on different subtopics based on this year’s theme which is 16 days of activism unmasking the many faces of gender based violence. We will have a panel of experts that will be able to clarify any misinformation, expound on the salient points and as well as to add to the discussions that we may have been missing in the different discussions from the students.”
When it comes to gender based violence there is a wide scope of actions that fall under this category ranging from cat calling on the streets to cyber bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace and other areas. Belize’s Special Envoy for Women and Children, Kim Simplis-Barrow spoke of the importance of having young men and women understand what constitutes gender based violence.
“I think it’s important for our young people to understand what gender based violence is and it’s not just the physical violence there is emotional violence, there is the harassment when you’re walking in the street there is the trafficking of persons, there are so many differnt things that encompass gender based violence so it is crucial and it is important that we engage our young people in what it is and how it is that they can help combat gender based violence because they can and let’s keep in mind they are the same ones that will grow up to be adults who grow up to be responsible adults. Why is it so crucial? It’s crucial because we know that violence, gender based violence stunts national growth and for any society to be successful we need everyone in our society to be functioning at their very best. A perfect example is if you have a person who has been abused and this person goes to work do you think that the person will be working at capacity? No because that person will have so many issues going on emotionally, physically everything else and so it’s very important that the education really starts at a very young age. Today we have this wonderful opportunity where we have high school students who will be presenting on different aspects of their view on domestic violence.”
The first presentation was by a student of Edward Percival High School. In that presentation she spoke of double standards when it comes to the labelling men and women.
EP YORKE STUDENT
” Gender is a social construct of what is expected of being masculine or feminine. It refers to the attitudes, feeling and behaviours that a given culture associates with a person’s biological sex. So to wrap it up in a nutshell it is society’s view. For example why is it that we have females who are more attractive to those young men who have a lot of girls? They are seen as cool, popular and smooth with the ladies while if a female goes out with a lot of males she is seen as a sketel, a slut, a whore and the list of derogatory terms go on. This is because our society accepts that men will be men, they are expected to have a lot of girls while women are expected to be virgins until marriage. So then gender based violence is the general term used to capture violence that occurs as a result of a normative role expectations associated with each gender.”
Presenting for Saint John’s College were two young men who spoke of statistics when it comes to domestic violence and the popular belief that the issue of gender based violence is limited to only women.
Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Human Development and Women, Judith Alpuche was a member of the audience at today’s event. She gave her feedback on what she saw in today’s discussion, dubbed, ‘Let us have the talk’.
The expert panelists at today’s event included the Executive Director for the National Commission for Families and Children, Margaret Nicholas; Inspector Martha Rhys of the Domestic Violence Unit for the Belize Police Department; Anita Zetina, an activist for women affairs; Cynthia Williams, the Human Development Coordinator in the Women’s Department and Michelle Irving of the Women’s Department arm in Dangriga.