By Marion V. Ali
Women from all walks of life in the Belizean society from across the country marched and rallied from the Memorial Park to the Marion Jones Stadium in Belize City today as part of a movement for greater empowerment and to celebrate their cause as women.
While the event was spirited, the numbers that turned out fell short of the projected 20,000 that organizers had hoped for.
By our estimates, the crowd did not reach 10,000 but other estimates round the figure off to 12,000 at its peak.
The Office of the Special Envoy for Women and Children, Mrs. Kim Simplis Barrow, who spearheaded the event, described it as a huge success.
Via a late Thursday evening press release, the Special Envoy’s Office, while not confirming the actual number of women at the event, referred to the attendees as having set a positive tone for their empowerment in Belize.
The release added: “We are now poised to move forward with plans to provide opportunities for women to uplift themselves and by extension their families, communities and the country as a whole.”
A few pundits blamed the relatively low turnout on the stance that the Catholic Church and the Opposition People’s United Party took against the event.
The PUP announced Wednesday that it wouldn’t support the event because they did not feel that it would address the needs and concerns of women across the country.
In addition, the PUP was concerned about the amount of money that was spent on this one event.
But their views did not stop the message that the women and their organizers wanted to amplify to the leaders, political, denominational, or otherwise.
Patty Arceo, who is a member of the People’s United Party, was one of the speakers at the event.
She told The Reporter that she came out “as part of the women’s group from San Pedro and Caye Caulker to present issues that are effecting the islands and that have to do with the children.
“We want the relevant authorities and the Government to listen…to us islanders and the needs that we have. When it comes to health, we need 24/7 health services.”
Arceo did not feel that her participation will come with any repercussions.
In his message to female teachers at Catholic institutions, Belize National Teachers’ Union President, Luke Palacio, advised them to “exercise discretion”.
This came after some of the female teachers had reported a level of intimidation if they took part in the event.
While Catholic women teachers did not turn out, many others did, including men who support the vision of women empowerment and upliftment.
William Neal, the Public Relations Officer for the University of Belize, was one of them. He told The Reporter that women “are the backbone of Belize, the social fabric of our nation. It’s the women who are the crazy glue that holds us together. If it weren’t for the women that raised us we wouldn’t become the men that we are.”
The event got the majority of its funding from the Oak Foundation.