National Women’s Commission Aims to Combat Child Marriage with Revised Policy

National Women’s Commission Aims to Combat Child Marriage with Revised Policy

The National Women’s Commission (NWC) through the revised National Gender Policy 2024-2023 hopes to end child marriage and early unions in Belize. According to the United Nation’s International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Belize has one of the highest levels of child marriages and early unions in the Caribbean with one in 5 girls and one in 10 boys aged 15- 19 being married or in a union. President of the NWC, Thea Garcia Ramirez says that child marriage is a major issue in Belize.

Thea Garcia Ramirez, President, National Women’s Commission: “We have a problem not only with gender-based violence but with child marriages, young girls being in commitments with older men especially. That is never okay. A lot of problems happen, you know, girls then are not able to go to school because now they have adult responsibilities. So once their education is cut short then the likelihood of living in poverty increases and not only her but all her children. They have more children as a matter of fact. They have less education and so the earning potential across their lifetime is severely impacted. malnutrition in their children, poverty, access to health care is also a problem because when they get pregnant under the age of 16, a lot of them don’t seek prenatal care. And so that impacts their health and the health of their unborn child. So that’s a huge, huge problem and we are among one of the highest rates in the region, in the Caribbean and Central America for teenage pregnancy and that is as a direct result of these inappropriate and illegal, I might add, relationships. The policy looks at that and so we will address it to be in line with the policy.”

Garcia-Ramirez added that NWC plans to work alongside different stakeholders, including churches to end child marriage and early union in the country.

Thea Garcia Ramirez, President, National Women’s Commission: “We have a lot of situations going on here and we have a huge, and it’s on the uptick you know we’re having more and more child marriages, we are having more and more sexually transmitted diseases, we are having more and more teenage pregnancies and none of that is good. And we have to ensure that we do our very, very best as a community. And that’s why we try to work even with church groups to spread awareness that this is not ideal. Having children before you are emotionally, physically, and mentally capable does have an impact on the life of especially the woman but also the unborn child and all the children that she may have. So we try to ensure that these things are through all the civil society, the religious organizations, we sensitize them to the importance of working together against those things.”

The overarching goal for the Revised National Gender Policy 2024-2023 aligns with the sustainable development goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment (SDG 5) of the United Nation’s agenda 2030.

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