Preliminary Findings of National Gender Equality Index Project Revealed
Back in May, the Love Foundation along with the US Embassy and the National Women’s Commission (NWC), launched the National Gender Equality Index project. It is a project that seeks to gather data in certain sectors to measure the level of equality in Belize. There is still a lot of work left to do on the project, but this week, the group presented some preliminary findings in its data collection. Eleanor Murillo of the NWC spoke with us on what has been ascertained so far.
Eleanor Murillo, Program Officer, National Women’s Commission: “Historically and traditionally it was men who applied for land. So even the law, the language that it’s written in, there is nothing there to say about women, married women, common law women, single women, how do they have access to land and so on. So in practice it’s there but in the law it’s not. And then we looked at the Ministry of Natural Resources, we wanted data. Okay you don’t have the law in place tell us how many women, how many men own land in this country. And they couldn’t give us that.”
Debora Erskin, Executive Director, The Love Foundation: “Because the data is not disaggregated. It’s not disaggregated. So that’s something else that we’re looking at.”
Eleanor Murillo, Program Officer, National Women’s Commission: “We want to work on as well so that they can begin to collect sex disaggregated data. So at the end of the year, we can say 40% of land in Belize is owned by women, 60% by men whatever it may be. We looked at wealth and employment creation. We looked at where our women and men are as it relates to CEOs, heads of departments, owning their own businesses and we’re doing pretty good at that we’re at 47%. So that’s good. We have, you know, we are there in terms of both males and females running businesses, owning their own businesses, or even in organization they’re the heads of the organization. So we’re doing pretty good at that. And then we looked at women and men as it relates to the national parliament and also local government. So we put those two together. So local government is the city/town council, village council, and then House of Representatives the 31 seats, and we look at that. And well, we know we’re not doing well in that. We only have like eight women out of all these men. So that’s an area, again, that we need to improve on. We want to do, before 16 Days we want to do a survey on gender-based violence, especially sexual harassment, since we’re now looking at the sexual harassment phase.”
Ernesto Vasquez, Host, The Morning Show: “Unfortunately, we’re going to look bad in that area. What about labor?”
Eleanor Murillo, Program Officer, National Women’s Commission: “And that’s a part of the wealth and employment creation.”
Managing Director of the Love Foundation, Deborah Erskine, explained that gender equality is not just a focus on women, but it also entails the contribution from men.
Debora Erskin, Executive Director, The Love Foundation: “When we talk about equality of women, we’re not just talking about women, we’re talking about men and women. It’s not an exclusion of men and a lot of people think when you talk about gender equality you’re excluding men it’s all about women. A big part of this is to have men participate as well because men have a lot to do with promoting equality, right? So we have to do that together. And then it also, we talked about where it also starts from, like you said, at a very young age. So with this now, with the information that’s being gathered from this gender equality index, right, we hope that teachers would understand when you have a classroom of girls and boys that it’s not separate instruction. You have a classroom of 20 children. You don’t have 10 boys and 10 girls or 15 boys and 5 girls. You know what I mean? It’s 20 children. So you have to speak to 20 children. When you’re raising your children, you know, it’s not these chores are for boys and these chores are for girls, right? That you educate your children and you help them to understand that if a boy cries he’s not soft, right? Because then you’re promoting gender violence, right? Because a man should be hard and he should react a certain way and things like that. So this whole gender equality index is about gathering information. It’s about using that information to drive policies.”
Adam Benz of the US Embassy explained that this Gender Index is a crucial project that the embassy was more than happy to support.
Adam Benz, Director of Public Relations, US Embassy: “And I think one thing that’s really exciting about this index is it was really a lot about transparency. We want to be feeding direct democracy. The idea is that you may have opinions, I may have opinions, any of us can have opinions about what are the causes of these issues but if we actually have a place where we can find the facts and the data and see not just for one area, but how it connects to other data and anyone who is interested, that can help voters decide too what are the issues that matter? How is this impacting me? What are my thoughts on this? And I think the idea is we wanted to take the policymakers, not just be these people who are just working behind closed doors, make all of us part of the conversation.”
As we noted, the findings reported this week are only preliminary.