MENGage Program Empowers Male Students in Belize City High Schools
Today, students from Belize City high schools participated in empowerment workshops catered specifically towards males. The sessions were under the MENGage program, an initiative done through a collaboration with the National Parenting Taskforce, the Belize City Council, and UNICEF Belize. The program caters to a hundred male students between the ages of 13 and 18 years old and focuses on issues such as emotional intelligence and mental health. Michael Fritz, youth and Community Development Officer for the Belize City Council, explained how the program is linked to the upcoming celebration of International Men’s Day, being observed on November 19.
Michael Fritz, Belize City Council: “And in acknowledgement of that they need to support our young men and boys the Belize City Council in partnership with UNICEF and the National Parenting Taskforce of the NCFC partnered to present what we now know as Mengage. Our objective is to educate, engage and empower young men. This is a series of training and introductory sessions for young men from four highschools in Belize City. We’re starting with Gwen Lizzarraga, Sadie Vernon, Excelsior Highschool and also Maud Williams and our objective is to look at what healthy identity is in terms of knowing how to identify yourself, knowing what your emotions are, how to express your emotions, talking about stress and mental health as it does affect young men. One of the pillars or one of the key focuses for International Men’s Day is looking at proper mental health for men and boys so we’re discussing that and most importantly hearing from these young men. What we’ve done for these sessions is we’re actually integrating them in activities for them to share about what are some of their concerns, how they feel growing up as young men within the city, what are some of their fears, how can we as an implementing and coordinating agencies support them.”
Fritz said that the participants welcomed the opportunity to have their voices heard and expressed their concerns over a myriad of issues. Tyler Garcia, a second-form student at Maud Williams High School, shared with Love News what he learned from the program and an issue from his community that he hopes authorities can address.
Michael Fritz, Belize City Council: “The communication thus far has been one of resounding volume. A lot of them fear for their lives number one. They feel as though they don’t have enough opportunities to express themselves. A lot of them are very angry simply because society has not given them a chance to view themselves. From the minute they’re stepping out of their homes simply because of where they live, who they may be affiliated to, the schools that they’re going to they are overwhelmingly judged. For a lot of these young men just being in a room as we are today and having someone listening to them is the start of something. They can tell you how I need something or I feel like and giving them that opportunity to voice their opinions I believe is the start of something in terms of opening them to make them be more vocal.”
Tyler Garcia, Mengage Program Participant: “I learned that making the right choice in life will get you your goals and who you want to be in life don’t make any wrong decisions because either you will be on the street or in jail so when you make the right choice then you will get to your goals that you want to be in life. I would say people who we need their houses like when hurricanes and those things like natural disasters, people’s roofs go, they need everything in their house got wet.”
The program is structured for the students to form groups within their respective schools and continue the work of the program once the sessions are completed. Once the first cohort have passed through the program, the collaborating agencies will then seek to replicate the program in other schools.