The news of domestic violence continues in many communities around the country with some intervention from several agencies including the Ministry of Human Development. Another such agency who intervenes in such situations is the Office of the Special Envoy for Women and Children. Belize’s Special Envoy, Kim Simplis-Barrow explained to Love News, their role as an advocacy agency.
“We do advocate and personally I do my own advocacy with the different ministers and ministries that can be involved and thankfully the Ministry of Human Development has seen an increase to their budget for some of these activities. I don’t think there is an overnight solution; I think that as a people we need to condemn it strongly and not encourage it. It starts from the home, it starts from the time you are a child and you are allowing your son to hit your daughter; it’s not fine and you should tell them it’s not fine. I know maybe you are playing but that is not a nice thing to do. We need to find outlets of how to manage our anger, there are so many different aspects to violence. We really do need to look at the underlying problem as I’ve said before. There are so many things that are attached to violence against women. Yes we have to end it but my message to parents and to everyone out there is that it starts from the home, educating your boys and your girls and setting the example. If your children are seeing you bickering and fighting what do you expect will happen when that child becomes and adult, when that child sees the husband disrespecting the wife and the wife disrespecting the husband. Children innately learn from actions more than words so you have to set the example an it starts from the home. It really does.”
Love News asked Simplis-Barrow to tell us how aggressive their intervention and how financially equipped her office is to address issues of domestic violence.
“We don’t have a budget; the Special Envoy does not operate on a budget, whatever it is that we do, we beg for the money to get it done. These are projects that I decided, that I wanted to focus on; whatever projects it is that I am focusing on, I basically beg for the money for it to happen. So there’s no real budget assigned to the Special Envoy’s office, we do our best. The Special Envoy is supposed to be an advocate for women and children but in all honesty I think people expect a lot more action and unfortunately we don’t have the finances to be doing intervention. I think the intervention comes from the Ministry of Human Development.”
While the office is strapped for cash and does face some challenges, Simplis-Barrow told the media of some areas where they are working on with the objective of empowering women.
“We are working with other organizations, the Women’s Department and other women’s organizations to try to come up with something that will really be of impact so we are taking our time to assess. Right now it’s summer and it’s really hard to get everyone together but we are coordinating another intervention and hopefully it can make a difference. I applaud all those who are advocating, I applaud all those who are looking out for women and children and our men too, we can’t leave them out; we have to work hand in hand with our men. This is not women just going on their own, this is about women working together, leveling the playing field. My office has been working on several projects and one major one is entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship of women. I think empowering women and women being able to say that they can do things on their own and that they don’t need to stay in the household where they are being abused. A lot of time it’s the financial stronghold; a lot of times it’s not being able to leave because you have children. So we have to really know what all the underlying issues are with our victims for us to really be able to address the situation properly. We at our office have been focusing on entrepreneurship and developing our women to become entrepreneurs, to go into new careers to kind of show them the way how they can become successful on their own. There are a number of things that we are doing but it’s not as easy as just saying “there you go”. We have to know what the issues are in the household a lot of times to be honest these ladies don’t want to press charges so we continue our work as much as we possibly can and try to help everyone as much as possible.”
As Simplis-Barrow mentioned, the Government of Belize recently increased the budget within the Ministry of Human Development with the goal of tackling these social ills on a more aggressive scale.