Supporting Inclusive National Development through Increased Women's Political Representation

Speakers at the Gender and Politics Situation Analysis Launch.
Speakers at the Gender and Politics Situation Analysis Launch.

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.  In 2010, there was no female participation in the House of Representatives and no female Minister.  This placed 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, according to the Global Gender Gap Report, 2010.  The proportion of seats held by women in national parliament is an indicator of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 3, and given the level of representation, Belize is not on course to achieve this MDG.

Increasingly there is more national attention to the issue of creating gender equality in national platforms.  The Government of Belize following the March 2012 elections, appointed two female Senators who were then assigned Ministerial portfolios.  The House of Representatives additionally, has an elected female representative from the opposition.  The Government also supports the functioning ot the National Women's Commission (NWC).

Highlights

  • MoU is signed by National Women's Commission for Women's Political Empowerment Partnership
  • MDG3 Needs Assessment and Costing Prognosis Workshop is Held
  • Situation Analysis of Gender and Politics is Launched

Additional spotlight on the issue of gender equality as regards women's empowerment from a political standpoint may in humble measure be attributed to initiation of the partnership forged through a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the National Women's Commission and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on March 8, 2011.  In addition, an Advisory Committee convened by UNDP facilitates other United Nations and donor agencies, civil society, academia, and other Government of Belize partners to promote various initiatives that support gender equality especially in the context of MDG 3 achievement.

One recent activity supporting women's empowerment was the launch on December 10, 2012 of the report "Toward Equality of Opportunity for Equality of Results: Situation Analysis of Gender and Politics in Belize", supported by the NWC and UNDP.  The Report identifies ways to jumpstart the process of identifying and implementing concrete, enforceable actions that could increase the representation of women in electoral politics and achieve Belize's commitments to greater women's representation as quickly as possible.  Particular attention has been paid to strageties necessary to open the doors for women at the national level of electoral politics.  In the words of Deborah Backer, Deputy Speaker of the Guyana National Assembly "...the analysis that was today launched detailed a list of recommendations...and I can endorse all of them".

The situation analysis forms part of a wider project promoting women's right to representation and participation in national leadership as a prerequisite to improve their economic and social status in Belize.  It also complements the activities of the Project "Strengthening Women's Representation in National Leadership in Belize" funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund, and implemented by Women's Issues Network (WIN) Belize, and other initiatives implemented by other global and local partners.