The Government of Canada through its “Enabling, Gender - Responsive Disaster Recovery, Climate and Environmental Resilience in the Caribbean (EnGenDER)” Project has committed USD$1,149,000 towards efforts to tackle Gender Based Violence (GBV) and COVID-19 in nine participating Caribbean countries including Belize.  USD$100,000 has been allocated to Belize and will be used to enhance and expand the capacity of the Belize Social Protection System (BOOST) by creating virtual safe spaces and support networks including the provision of psycho-social support for women victims of Gender Based Violence (GBV).  The support will also include a system of delivery aides for Belize’s elderly and disabled.

More broadly, EnGenDER is an initiative that seeks to address the issue of climate change impacts, particularly on vulnerable groups such as women, children, youth, persons living with disabilities, and indigenous and tribal populations.  In light of COVID-19, a portion of the project funding has been tailored to meet the needs of the host-countries’ response to the pandemic.

 “The Government of Canada continues to support Belize in its efforts to combat climate change through EnGenDER. Through providing targeted support to address gender-based violence and livelihoods we will ensure prior progress is not derailed by the measures taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19. While these measures have unfortunately created the environment for increased vulnerability of women, children and other at-risk populations to violence and economic challenges, we are taking action through EnGenDER to address these challenges directly and protect the safety and livelihoods of Belizeans.”-  Rita Rudaitis- Renaud, Ambassador of Canada to Guatemala and High Commissioner of Canada to Belize.

In Belize, the COVID-19 crisis has not only put a strain on the health system but has also triggered significant social and economic challenges, heavily impacting the tourism and other allied sectors. The tourism sector once considered an important source of gender-equal employment with a female workforce of about 46%, has been decimated.

“The support for the COVID-19 response within the EnGenDER project perfectly aligns with the project’s overarching focus of addressing the inequalities and socio-economic vulnerabilities for women and girls and those most at risk.  We therefore commend the Government of Canada for approving the repurposing of these funds to meet the urgent and clear needs arising from this crisis by supplementing the support to the most vulnerable and disproportionately affected population and strengthening the steps towards eliminating gender based violence that could be exacerbated in these circumstances.” Denise Antonio, UNDP Resident Representative to Belize.

“While home is a place of refuge for many it can be a terrifying place for some. Caribbean countries for which violence against women (VAW) surveys were undertaken are in line with or exceed the global average of 1 in 3 women having experienced VAW at the hands of an intimate partner in their lifetime.  With the on-set of COVID, we have also seen the rise of the shadow pandemic of GBV increasing at home, online and in public spaces. After consultation with the National Gender Machineries, UN Women proposed reprogramming, which would sustainably meet the needs identified by those who provide direct services to survivors. We are thankful that the Government of Canada and our project partners were responsive and flexible to ensure that the programme adapted to meet the immediate needs identified by our partners” Tonni Brodber, Head of Office a.i. UN Women MCO Caribbean.

These funds will support the national COVID-19 response measures and address the compelling needs of the most vulnerable segments of the population.  This is consistent with UNDP’s promise to support governments in safeguarding the progress made towards the realization of the sustainable development goals.

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