They will do so with a €700,000 grant (BZ$1,750,000) from the European Union and BZ$435,000 from the Government of Belize under the Belize Rural Development Project II.
YWCA Secretary General Sonia Lenares signed an agreement to this effect with Paola Amadei, the European Union’s Ambassador to CARICOM and Ambassador Yvonne Hyde, Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Finance at the Y.W.C.A. headquarters on St. Thomas Street.
The project, expanding economic opportunities through entrepreneurship and marketing development, is intended to reduce poverty by improving the way of life for marginalized rural women and young people, so they become more productive, earn more income and create employment by developing their own enterprises.
Project director Mrs. Regina Campbell explained that the project will target under-privileged women and young people in the rural Belize, especially Cayo, Stann Creek and Toledo, because although the number of women in the work force is only about half the number of men, they are twice as likely to be unemployed. The same is true for young people, 14 to 24.
The project will seek to empower women so they can achieve gender equality with men, in line with Millennium Development Goals.
It will have four components. The first is to identify products and services that are in demand, as well as to develop an effective marketing strategy, and to mentor trainees with technical support and a formalized relationship to an institution that will promote entrepreneurship.
A second component is to reach out to the rural women and young people in the districts and train them with skills, resources and support so that they can successfully start their own enterprise.
The third component is to create small and medium enterprises in the villages, which will then provide jobs, develop skills and encourage the participants and their prospective clients to accept their cultural identity.
The fourth component is to establish a market outlet for arts and crafts and processed food products in Belize City, and to build a National Resource Center for Enterprise Development in Belmopan.
The YWCA will also seek to identify other successful businesses that are producing or marketing products that the participants are being trained to make, and to help them market their products.
The idea is to ensure the continuity of the training program, for it to be sustainable even after the EU funding is used up.
This market network will then ensure that the women and young trainees will be able to sell their products and services, so they can have a secure source of income to support themselves and their families.
The center will also improve the Y.W.C.A.’s infrastructure to deliver all its other programmes to help empower women.
The project will also build on the success of the first B.R.D.P. project by offering further support and business mentoring to participants of that project.
Ambassador Yvonne Hyde explained that the Belize Resource Development Project is a $27 million operation.
The European Union is contributing $25 million and the government of Belize is putting up the other $2 million. She noted that the Y.W.C.A. management succeeded in submitting a project proposal that passed the rigorous EU scrutiny process, so that they won approval for the €700,000 grant.
She noted that their success with this proposal was in part due to their resourcefulness in drawing on the experience acquired when the Y.W.C.A. successfully completed an earlier project that the EU funded for an amount of €300,000.
Ambassador Amadei congratulated the YWCA on meeting all project requirements of the rigorous EU approval process to get the grant and said she felt no need to offer advice, since she could see from the Y’s previous success that the “Y” had the necessary expertise to get the job done.
This was Ambassador Amadei’s first visit to Belize. She said she looked forward to it being the first of series of such visits as she monitors the Y’s progress in its partnership with the EU over the next 34 months.
After the signing ceremony, Ambassadors Amadei and Hyde toured the Y.W.C.A. training facility, which was built with EU funding through an earlier grant for the Y.W.C.A.’s Gender Based Rural Sustainable Livelihoods Project, and unveiled a commemorative plaque on the building.