Photo: Activists parading through downtown Belize City streets
by Kristen Ku
BELIZE CITY, Fri. Nov. 24, 2023
Citizens from across Belize convened in various districts on Friday, November 24, to inaugurate the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence as part of an effort to disrupt the cycle of violence that affects women and girls.
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, an international campaign commencing on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, extends to December 10, Human Rights Day.
This year’s theme, “Unite, Invest to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls,” reflects a global call to action. Initiated in 2008 by the UN Secretary-General, the campaign encourages diverse sectors, including governments, NGOs, and the private sector, to collaborate in eradicating this pervasive issue.
In Belmopan, the ceremony at Independence Plaza featured various speakers, including the Minister of State in the Ministry of Human Development, Hon. Elvia Vega Samos, and Mayor Sharon Palacio.
Palacio’s impassioned speech highlighted the urgent need for societal change. “We have gotten used to being comfortable in the status quo. We are afraid of change. We are afraid to challenge. We are afraid to speak. We worry about what others may think. The time has come for us to embrace a better world, a fairer world, a peaceful world with equal access to the wealth on earth,” she stated in her remarks.
Belize’s efforts, supported by the UN and the European Union’s Spotlight Initiative, include a wide range of actions, including revising laws and policies, endorsing the National Gender Policy and the National Gender-Based Violence Action Plan, and strengthening institutional support through the National Women’s Commission and gender focal points.
At Belize City’s House of Culture, speakers such as U.S. Ambassador Michelle Kwan and Minister of Human Development, Hon. Dolores Balderamos Garcia, reinforced the commitment to eradicating gender-based violence.
Hon. Balderamos Garcia, in an interview following the ceremony, emphasized, “There really is no excuse for any form of gender-based violence. This week, I have had occasion to talk about social media, send[ing] out the message, especially to our young men and boys, that social media is not a platform to harass anybody, or perpetrate any form of gender-based violence. The 16 days of activism, as was said to us, is not so much a celebration as a time for action. Let’s do whatever it is we need to do.”
As the ceremonies concluded, participants, dressed in orange to symbolize their solidarity, paraded through their communities. Other municipalities in which launch events took place included Punta Gorda, Dangriga, Benque Viejo, Orange Walk, Corozal, and San Pedro (on November 23).