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Women share Stories of Sexual Harassment

“Life in Leggings” exhibition, where women will share their stories of sexual harassment, opens tonight at the Mexican Institute in Belize City. The movement was started in Barbados by Ronelle King, who had experienced sexual harassment and started the movement in an attempt to stop the harassment.  Ann-Marie Williams, Executive Director of the National Women’s Commission spoke with us about the initiative.

Ann-Marie Williams – Executive Director

“We are opening a very special exhibition known as Life in Leggings. Life in Leggings is Caribbean wide movement which was started by a young woman named Ronell King in Barbados. She started Life in Leggings because she was sexually harassed on the street and she went to Police to report it and they did nothing and she went home and started the movement on Facebook and she realized how many women are affected by exactly what affected her and so there has been nine Caribbean countries signed on to the movement and really caught fire. Tonight Belize is sharing in the Life in Leggings movement. This is a space for women to share their stories of gender-based violence. Stories of street harassment which is very common. This is a chance during Sixteen Days of Activism for us to realize that gender-based violence is wrong. It is not wrong because it is a woman or a girl it is wrong once it is committed because of a person gender hence gender-based violence. During the sixteen days of activism there is a particular link to gender-based violence and Human Rights because sixteen days observed three important milestones; the 25th of November which starts as the International Day to End Violence Against Women, World Aids Day, December 1st and the and it ends on December 10th which is International Human Rights Day and it shows the link between violence and human rights. When women are abused or girls are abused they are not able to enjoy the full complement of their rights.”

Hugo Carrillo Minister Counsellor of the Embassy of Mexico said that the Embassy was happy to be collaborating with the National Women’s Commission in this endeavour.

Hugo Carrillo – Minister Counsellor

“We are a part of an initiative of the United Nations that started on the 25th of November related to end the violence against women. Then the commission has these very interesting exhibitions about leggings and the stories of girls and women related unfortunately to gender violence. We have to end it and we believe that culture and education are two very important elements in order to end this terrible situation that is not only related to Mexico or Belize but worldwide. Unfortunately, 35% of women suffer at some point in their lives from some kind of gender violence and this is not good especially for us me we should be very ashamed because we are talking not only about women in general but we are talking about our mothers, wives, children.”

Williams said that there are laws in place to address the issue, but it will take more than laws to change the situation.

Ann Marie Williams

“There are laws because the Caribbean countries, Belize included are very progressive in terms of laws, the problem happens to be that we find that political will and laws and policies are not enough to put an end to gender-based violence. Women and men and people who are affected must speak out because there is also a culture of impunity where law enforcement is concerned. People feel that they can do anything; if you’re an officer then that is okay and if people don’t speak about it then we feel that it’s not happening and this is why this space tonight is filled with stories of courage, stories of heroism, stories of shame because we have students from high school saying how empty and low they feel and how cheap when the men catcall them and even touch them and tell them things on the street. We have to provide an environment where our women and girls can be safe”

Williams added that gender-based violence is rooted in power and control whereby the person who feels more powerful tries to control the weaker person. Williams also said that eighty-eight percent of the perpetrators are male while twelve percent are females.