History has shown many women shying away from joining Belize’s security forces. This is primarily due to how women have been regarded and treated within the ranks. It is a new age and things are slowly shifting. Despite having to report on allegations of sexual assault against women in the Belize Defence Force earlier this year, works are being done to fix what is broken. Both the Belize Coast Guard and the BDF along with the Belize Police Department will be launching the Women, Peace and Security agenda which seeks to rectify the inequalities within these three arms of the National Security Ministry. This agenda has been in the works for three years, and has the collaboration of Acting Vice Commandant of the Belize Coast Guard, Almita Pinelo, and Staff Officer at the Ministry, Rhea Rogers. Lieutenant Commander Pinelo and Rogers spoke on the importance of the agenda, and what it hopes to accomplish.
Almita Pinelo, Acting Commandant, Belize Coast Guard: “We talk about gender equality but it’s not legislated. The United Nations has a resolution 1325 which talks about women in combat and getting them on front lines and getting them in non conventional roles that we’re not used to seeing and that’s one of the biggest things about this is to get women that opportunity to actually be a part of it when it’s already stipulated in laws and policies to give them that opportunity without them even having to try hard it’s already there so the system is there for them to work so all they have to do is work hard and if that’s what they want it’s available to them.”
Rhea Rogers, Staff Officer, Ministry of National Security: “We’re looking at issues concerning career development, issues concerning discrimination, gender based violence and all those related matters so we’re excited to see this progress in the direction we think it should be going where we encourage women to participate in these organizations and we encourage them to get the equity that they deserve. This agenda is meant to be able to change policies that may otherwise have protected those that were perpetrators in the force and to make sure that we have a zero tolerance policy towards gender based violence and any kind of sexual violence and assault in the force. So this kind of agenda really changes the playing field and we are excited to put it into practice, to look at the policies and change them based on the WPS Agenda.”
Rogers also spoke about the importance of creating safe space for women within the security forces, so that they will be encouraged to join the ranks.
Rhea Rogers, Staff Officer, Ministry of National Security: “It becomes a more attractive location for women to work. It becomes the kind of place where you feel comfortable, you feel safe, you feel respected, you feel heard and listened to so we’re excited to launch it. We’re excited to use it as a way of leveling the playing field and ensuring that all our forces, all our women and men get the respect they deserve. It is definitely necessary for diversity, for diversity of opinion, for a diversity of decision making, for diversity of inclusion and making sure that we don’t leave behind half the population because we’re losing out. That economic benefit, that benefit of bringing women into the organization we’re losing out if we don’t include them, if we don’t give them a space where they can grow and feel empowered.”
The Belize Coast Guard currently has 52 women within its ranks, making up 10.2% of the population. During the course of this week, the BCG and the BDF have been featuring some of its female officers to celebrate the launch of the agenda.