Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Women's Month

I have lived in quite a few countries but in none before is International Women’s day, on March 8, receiving so much attention as here in Belize. Not only do we celebrate on Women’s Day, the entire month of March is dedicated to women. There are activities ranging from free self-defense training to forums on Crime and Violence; from a 15% discount for women at the hardware store to Women in Art exhibitions.

The women’s month kicked off with the first-ever US Embassy Belize Women of the Year 2010 award ceremony. When political officer Kelly McCarthy received a request last year to nominate a Belizean for the US International Women of Courage award, she quickly realized that her embassy had no process for identifying outstanding women in Belize. One evening, after watching CNN’s heroes, she thought: hey why don’t we start something with nominations from the public. And so it began.

I recently attended the ceremony. I dressed up for the occasion as it felt a bit like going to the Oscars, and well, any occasion in Belmopan to dress up should be taken, because they are few…

And the nominees were - just to name some:

  • Jewel Quallo, for her work to promote sexual reproductive health and family planning as basic human rights
  • Beverly Swasey, as president of the cancer society in Belmopan
  • Carolyn Trench, the first and youngest women ever to head a governmental department
  • Kimberly Vasquez: the only screen writer and film producer in Belize, who often volunteers to teach creative writing to children
  • Phyllis Cayetano from Dangriga, always at the fore front to preserve Garifuna cultural customs and values
  • Margaret Bradley, a retired nurse but still tirelessly involved in voluntary counseling and testing of HIV positive people
  • Sonia Lenares: a retired teacher and principal who became the head of YWCA, protagonist to help out-of-school and at-risk girls
  • Phillipa who started the Emmanuel scholarship fund for deprivileged children, which she regularly complements with her own salary
  • Judy Krieg, better known as nurse Judy from Hopkins, who opened the House of Equity where she tirelessly provides health care 24 hours per day 7 days per week.
And the award went to:
Sonia Lenares. Her daughter had flown over from Miami for the occasion, lucky her. I remember when my mom received an honorable award from our Queen (!!) I was unable to fly over from Zimbabwe. Anyway, Sonia Lenares accepted the award with grace, in her brand new suit judging by the little plastic tag thing that was still on her sleeve (sorry – I’m a women, I can’t help noticing these things). .About her 18 year working with young women she said: "It's not a job, it's an honor". That truly deserves an award if you ask me. Hats off to all strong Belizean women who are examples to others!

And to Kathryn Bigelow, the first women director to win a real Oscar. Why did that have to take 82 years?


  1. hi my friend!!! You have a perfect blog. I am a friend from Greece


    This is my site. Please visit me, friends of Belize !

  2. Hi Susanne! I love your blog and it is really giving me a sense on what to expect...we are movingto Belmopan in September....wrote you an email aswell, hope we can be in touch!
    Moniqe & family!

  3. Hi my Greek friend,

    Visited your blog, looks interesting, I think. If I could understand Greek....


  4. Wow, 10 jaar weg uit Belize, maar de namen zijn nog steeds dezelfde.
    Typisch Belize om kaartjes aan de kleding te laten hangen :)