6 Promote gender equality and empower women

Where we are

Photo: Gender symposium with civil society, media and academia for inception of a gender curriculum, UNDP, March 2012
Photo: Gender symposium with civil society and academia for inception of a gender curriculum, UNDP, March 2012

2012 Update


Belize has made some progress towards promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women. However, this remains a challenge, particularly in relation to women participation at the political level. 

Specific challenges being faced in achieving this MDG include: a) Boys’ participation in the education system, particularly at the secondary level and above is a national concern. Boys tend to drop out for several reasons including socialisation which perpetuates the stereotype that no matter the age, it is the responsibility of boys and men to be breadwinners. b) The percentage of women in the Lower House of the Belize Parliament fell from 3.45 per cent of the seats in 1993 to zero in 2009. c) The lack of adequate Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) legislation undermines progress in the provision of physical well-being of persons in the workforce. The approval of such Act is a priority. d) Gender stereotypes, traditional gender roles, and socialization of both women and men severely hinder the advancement of gender equality and of women empowerment. Greater advocacy on the meaning, scope and importance of Gender Mainstreaming is needed.



The literacy rate of persons 15-24 years old increased from 70.3 per cent in 1992 to 94.7 per cent in 2006, surpassing the literacy target of 90.6 per cent for 2009. Belize is on track to meet the target of 100 per cent literacy among persons 15-24 years by 2015.  Belize has made significant progress in increasing girls’ school enrolment at all levels. For instance, in the Toledo District, where girls traditionally were underrepresented at the secondary school level, there has been marked improvements and enrolment figures have increased from 558 in 2006-07 to 801 in the 2010-11 period.  The proportion of women employed in the non-agricultural sector has increased from 38.7 per cent in 1995 to 41.7 per cent in 2007, signalling the opening up of labour markets to women. The Labour Amendment Act No. 3, approved in 2011, grants for the equitable treatment of women in the labour force.


The Government has introduced a Conditional Cash Transfer Programme (called BOOST) targeting the poorest families. The families receive a cash transfer if they meet certain conditions, including school attendance (85% attendance on a monthly basis). One of the objectives of the programme is to increase boys’ attendance, particularly at the secondary level.

Government’s efforts to improve women’s political participation include the Women in Politics Project which began in October 2009 and has offered several leadership training initiatives targeting women of all ages of both rural and urban locations. There have been two completed cohorts of the programme involving 53 women at the intake level and where 47 finished for the first cohort, and the second had 25 starting and 22 completing the programme. The third cohort currently has 20 participants and graduation is expected in March 2012.

Born out of disparate sub projects under the social assistance programme (a part of the portfolio of the Ministry of Human Development and Social Transformation), since 2008 the Government has offered various types of social support to the poor. These support programs have been reconciled and launched as the Building Opportunities for Our Social Transformation initiative (BOOST) in 2010. Households entering the programme need to comply with several conditions ranging from a valid social security number as a form of identification, ensuring the immunisation of children and their school attendance. Moreover, pregnant women are required to attend pre natal care, while elderly participants’ responsibilities include yearly health check-ups. Furthermore, payments are made via credit unions to encourage those who would not normally do so, including women to open a bank account and increase savings.

Supporting single mothers’ project - started in October 2008 with the aim of providing professional skills training to single mothers in the following areas: housekeeping, childcare, sewing, and cosmetology. The project also entails personal and professional coaching and free access to childcare facilities, to enable the mothers to attend the training. 2012 will be the fifth cycle of the programme. So far 232 single mothers and their families have been through the programme and the Women’s Department does continue to offer family support to these graduates.

Advocacy campaigns aimed at ending gender based violence and at the promotion of women’s rights are being developed and rolled out throughout the country.

UNDP's work in Belize

National MDG Target Achievement


Summary Scorecard - Belize Achievements and Challenges at a Glance

Goals, Targets and Indicators



Target 2015

Progress to 2015







Target 4: Eliminate Gender Disparity






Ratio of girls-boys in Primary Education

0.939 (1995)


1.01 (2009)


On track; new challenges to ensure parity for boys

Ratio of girls-boys in Secondary Education

1.105 (1995)


1.13 (2009)


Not on track; significant challenges emerging for boys

Ratio of girls-boys in Tertiary Education.

1.49 (2002)


1.73 (2009)


Far off track; major problems for males

Share of Women in wage employment in non-agricultural sector (%)

38.7 (1995)


41.7 (2007)


Not on track

Proportion seats held by women Nat'l Parliament (%)

3.45 (1993)


0% (2009)


Not on track


Targets for MDG3
  1. Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015
    • Ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education
    • Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector
    • Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament