Politics — 07 March 2014 — by Rowland A. Parks

The Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) launched its 2014 Women’s Agenda, “Charting Greater Pathways for Belizean Women as Nation Builders,” to coincide with Women’s Month on Wednesday, at its Independence Hall headquarters.

Senator Lisa Shoman said that this is the fifth Women’s Agenda that the PUP has launched. It is written by women and based on consultation with the women of the PUP, which also plans to incorporate it as part of the party’s manifesto.

The six-point Women’s Agenda is focused on Education and Skills Training; Health and Wellness; Socio-cultural/Political; Economic Empowerment; Land, Housing and Property Rights; and a Legal section.

In its Education and Skills Training section, the agenda sets out a seven-point objective which includes bringing about parity for girls and women from pre-school through tertiary education, including in technical and vocational programs.

The PUP also wants girls and women to have equal access to education and employment and to expand and sustain relevant skills training for girls and women in the rural communities.

Another objective encompassed within the agenda is the inclusion of the issue of sexual harassment of girls in primary and secondary schools in the National Education Policy.

In its agenda for Health and Wellness, the PUP wants to develop and implement holistic health and wellness programs in both urban and rural areas that would address the physical, mental, social and spiritual wellness of women.

The party also plans to push for adequate budgetary allocation for administrative and human resources to ensure women’s health.

In addition, the agenda includes in its list of aims, the improvement of quality health services countrywide which are to include ante-natal, maternity and post-natal services, and the coordination and cooperation with existing cancer care and prevention programs.

The agenda also aims at the strengthening of prevention and response programs for gender-based violence and programs to address mental health and HIV/AIDS for women, girls and children, as well as the strengthening of rehabilitation programs for perpetrators of domestic violence, along with the upgrade of service to improve the existing conditions at psychiatric hospitals.

In the Socio-cultural/political sphere, the PUP’s agenda will focus on the development of policies that address the quality and accessibility of child care; and review and overhaul the criteria for non-contributory pension schemes for women 70 and older.

The agenda will also highlight and promote women in arts and culture at the local, regional and international level. It will also celebrate the achievements of Belizean women on International Women’s Day; and promote measures to ensure the equitable political participation of women in Belize at all levels of political office.

For Economic Empowerment, the PUP’s agenda is to strengthen the employment and enterprise development of the unit of the Ministry of Labour to ensure equitable access to empower women. It will also encourage and support incentives for businesses that provide equal opportunity employment for women, and will recognize the monetary value of unpaid work such as the work of caregivers and homemakers.

In the issue of land, housing and property rights, the agenda is directed at enhancing and enforcing a policy and legislative framework so that women have access to and own real property, which includes land and housing. Land and housing policies will be reviewed so that there is equitable access to affordable housing finance for single women.

The agenda also includes the undertaking of a comprehensive review of legislation to ensure that all forms of discrimination against women and girls are eliminated.

It will also establish specific preventive and punitive measures to overcome trafficking and sexual exploitation of women such as sex tourism.

Also included in the to-do list of the agenda is the development of appropriate measures for the enforcement of the protection afforded to women under the Sexual Harassment Act, and the establishment of a registry for sex offenders, as well as the denial of bail to repeat sex offenders at the Magistrate Court level. They would have to apply to the Supreme Court.

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