A formal induction ceremony was held Wednesday afternoon at the Chateau Caribbean Hotel in Belize City for the new members of the National Women’s Commission (NWC), headed by former United Democratic Party (UDP) Senator, Esther Ayuso Ramirez.
The NWC is made up of 15 members—among them two men, who Minister of Human Development and Social Transformation, Peter Eden Martinez, said he was pleased to see on-board, “to raise their voices with and on behalf of our sisters.”
Established in 1982, the purpose of the Commission is to serve as an advisory body to Government on priority issues relating to women. Martinez said that there is indeed much work to be done, as he celebrated the induction of what he described as “a robust and empowered” National Women’s Commission.
Even as women have a department where they can go to for help on issues such as domestic violence and gender discrimination, some have been complaining that the needs of men aren’t being met, Minister Martinez pointed out, citing suggestions to turn the Women’s Department instead into a Gender Department. While he agreed that such a proposal may have to be considered, he said that addressing the needs that men face, cannot come at the risk of retarding the development of women.
Ann-Marie Williams, who is the first person to fill the newly created post of executive director of the Commission, said at today’s induction that it was only in January 2008 that the UDP decided that one of their manifesto promises would be to give teeth to the NWC.
Williams was appointed on July 1st, and worked along with officials in the Ministry to put together a list of persons to come on-board as Commissioners, to serve a two-year term – 2008 to 2010.
National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) president, Diane Haylock, is the vice chair of the commission, while Deadra Isaacs Haylock, is the treasurer, and Senator Pulcheria Teul, executive director of the Toledo Maya Women’s Council, is secretary.
Other members are: Valerie Woods (independent consultant in marketing and management services); Dr. Jean Perriott (counseling psychologist); Erlene Baptist, J.P.; Osmany Salas (freelance consultant in natural resources management and planning); Eugenie Adderly Gabourel (Maya, Placencia, Station Manager); Dylan Vernon (development policy and governance consultant); Brenda Armstrong (career educator); Sylvia Cattouse (UB dean of enterprise development and administration); and Tania Moody.
Ex-officio members are Women’s Department Director – Icilda Humes Bood, and WIN-Belize executive director – Carolyn Reynolds.
Each member present today received certificates of induction, handed over by keynote speaker, Prime Minister Dean Barrow.
According to Woods, even though the Commission is only a few weeks old, they have already begun their work by formulating a plan of action setting benchmarks for the next two years with the help of a consultant. She said that they would be working with the Government to ensure that women’s issues are addressed in a professional manner.
In his keynote remarks, Prime Minister Dean Barrow said that the fact that the Government had increased the subvention to the NWC by 60% signals the seriousness with which Government takes the work of the Commission. He said that his government is committed to taking concrete action in advancing the cause of women, and cited four specific areas of concern: violence against women, the lack of access to justice, women’s participation in politics, and poverty.
In outlining the NWC’s 2008-2010 plan, NWC chair Ayuso Ramirez said the major goals of the Commission are gender equity, equality, and women’s empowerment—abbreviated GEEWE!