Women in Politics: Seeking Opportunities for Leadership in Belize.
With financial assistance of the Inter-American Development Bank, the National Women’s Commission (NWC) carried out a study in 1998 to determine the reasons there are so few women seeking or holding positions of political leadership in Belize. Two consultants were contracted to carry out a review of literature, and a set of interviews with female political leaders. The consultants also planned and administered a clustered, stratified, random sample survey on 2013 women throughout Belize who were eighteen or older, and active in churches, NGOs, school organizations and/or political parties. The issues raised by the three activities were brought to seven focus groups for better understanding. Recommendations gleaned from the review of literature, interviews, surveys and focus groups were then grouped and simplified by the consultants and summarized in this report.
In addition to presenting valuable descriptive information about women active in public life in Belize, the NWC study includes sections on politics in the Caribbean and Belize; and on women in politics, globally and in Belize. The politics of Belize is similar to much of the English-speaking Caribbean which is characterized by small, highly permeable economies and Westminster style parliamentary government, dominated by the Cabinet and Prime Minister, operating in a patron/client context rewarding party loyalists, and facing an uneducated constituency demanding favors. Women generally function in a context promoting economic-sexual dependency, though education is beginning to allow some women to achieve more independence. The political role of Belizean women has been changing too. Starting with political independence, Belizean women have gradually moved from a purely supportive role and towards an egalitarian one, though that movement has been tentative thus far. The heterogeneity of women makes the issue of their increased political leadership problematic since it is not clear which agenda is preferable or desired.
The survey suggests that women are interested in political leadership but lack access to it because of family obligations, male impediments, lack of skills and lack of financing. Women’s intentions for seeking power are more to make improvements in social systems (e.g. schooling, health, sanitation). They are less focused on analyzing systems per se, or in changing them.
Those who have achieved positions of political leadership have been troubled by a tendency not to be heard, or to be heard but not taken seriously. Decisions are made without them. However, the women with advanced degrees now entering politics are articulating an interest in focusing on issues and on finding winning strategies instead of focusing on the pain and embarrassment being inflicted by the male politicians. They seem to be assuming power within themselves and moving away from a dependence on the male politicians.
The recommendations offered in the study are organized to improve women’s access to become political leaders, and to increase their participation as leaders. They are further organized to identify who might take action; whether action must occur over the short, medium, or long-term; and whether the action is of first, second, or third-level of importance.
Read the full report here!
How to cite:
Rosberg, M., & Catzim-Sanchez, A. (2010). Women in politics: Seeking opportunities for leadership in Belize. Belize: National Women’s Commission. Retrieved from: http://www.nationalwomenscommission.org/Publications/Women%20in%20Politics%20-%20Seeking%20Opportunities%20for%20Leadership%20in%20Belize.pdf