Women and Politics: Inclusion at the Highest Level
Thirty years after independence, the majority of women in Belize continue to face significant challenges in moving towards parity with men at almost every level of political leadership and decision-making. There is no female participation in the House of Representatives and no female minister. This places Belize in joint last position (131st) on the Global Gender Gap Index in the area of political empowerment of women, along with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei (Ref. The Global Gender Gap Report 2010). With the proportion of seats held by women in national parliament being a critical indicator of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 3, Belize is not on course to achieve this MDG.
The exclusion of women at the highest level of decision-making is attributable to a myriad of factors: socio-economic, cultural, and political, all of which coalesce to prevent the inclusion of women in politics. The participation of women in political leadership and decision-making is therefore a requirement as a matter of justice – women represent half of the world’s population and are an essential component to any government, which claims to be legitimate, representative, responsive and democratic.
In an effort to support improvements in women’s political participation in Belize, UNDP Belize and the National Women’s Commission have launched a collaborative initiative to: analyze the political and policy context of Belize with special emphasis on developments and issues related to gender; update previous research on the situation of women in Belize; expand the analysis of socio-economic, cultural and political obstacles to political participation; and foster a national dialogue on the issue.
The initiative will be guided by an Advisory Committee comprised of representatives from national and international organizations including: the National Women’s Commission, UNDP, UNFPA, the Organization of American States, Embassies of the United States of America, Brazil, Costa Rica and Mexico, the British High Commission, United Democratic Party, People’s United Party, Vision Inspired by the People, Women’s Issues Network Belize, RSV Media, University of Belize, and the Women’s Department.
To launch this partnership officially, UNDP Belize Assistant Resident Representative Francisco Roquette and Ann-Marie Williams, Executive Director of the National Women’s Commission will be publicly signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The signing ceremony will take place at Chateau Caribbean on March 8, 2011 at 3 PM coinciding with the commemoration of International Women’s Day.