20,000 Strong Empowerment Rally inspires change
Friday, March 7th, 2014
Story submitted by Lisa Anderson
Photos submitted by Colette Kase & Lisa Anderson
The women of San Pedro and Caye Caulker joined the rousing ranks of energetic marchers attending the Women’s Empowerment Rally and March in Belize City on Thursday, March 6th. Dressed in the power color of the day, bright tangerine and orange, small groups of friends from the cayes were joined by female students and teachers from San Pedro High School and Ocean Academy. They were a proud contingent sporting bright signs which carried the slogan, “R E S P E C T is the CAYE!” Busloads of women from all the districts of Belize emptied along Princess Margaret Drive, filling the area with energy and enthusiasm. The island groups were supported by sponsorships from Caye Caulker Water Taxi, San Pedro Red Cross, Manuel Heredia Jr., and Gecko Graphics. The event was organized by Belize’s Special Envoy for Women and Children and the National Women’s Commission (NWC).
Under a searing sun, thousands of women settled into what shade was provided, or stood on the wide field of the Marion Jones Stadium as poignant and empowering speeches commenced. Addressing the crowd as “sisters, mothers, daughters, tias and abuelas”, women from all walks of life took to the stage to rally the thousands. International business icon Marie Sharp encouraged women to follow creative and original ideas, take risks, and not to give up in the face of competition. A tearful 19-year-old Jennifer Lopez detailed her challenging life and road to empowerment; while growing up she received little support from her nuclear family and was threatened by sexual molestation at home. She struggled with much adversity before finding support services from a case worker at Family Services, enabling her to continue her education and nurture her young daughter. Musical artist Melonie Gillett led the thousands ladies in a strong sing-along rendition of Alicia Keyes’ “This Girl is on Fire” and singer Christelle Wilson rallied a danceable version of Chaka Kahn’s “I’m Every Woman.”
Additional speakers encouraged women to be strong, continue education, and support each other. Mrs. Rosanna Bricenio, wife of Orange Walk Town Area Representative Johnny Briceño, invited women to participate more aggressively in politics. Then San Pedro’s own Patty Arceo took the stage, grabbing the attention of the whole crowd by employing three languages to reach everyone in attendance. She reminded young and mature women to support each other, not detract or criticize, no matter what others say, and to keep attitudes positive. Patty encouraged listeners to take action – ask questions, keep eyes open, and be undaunted in efforts to make changes to improve Belize. Finally, First Lady Kim Simplis-Barrow, Special Envoy for Women and Children concluded the speeches, reminding women to always strive for achievement, support families, and join organizations to make Belize a better place.
Following benedictions and prayers, including a moment of silence observing Patty Arceo’s own recent family tragedy from violence, the thousands of women, and a few courageous men, exited the Marion Jones Stadium to carry the messages of female strength and empowerment throughout all of the districts of Belize.