REPORT #37 March 1999

Produced by the Belize Development Trust
We are going to borrow heavily from an article written by Ms. Dorla Bowman in the newspaper THE REPORTER of Sunday, February 28, 1999. In this article she charges that Belize is not a democracy, because there is not a gender balance in government.

From the Inter-Parliamentary Union this quote "The concept of democracy will only assume true and dynamic signficance when political and national legislation are decided upon jointly by men and women with equitable regard fr the interest and aptitudes of both halves of the population."

Despite the Government's of Belize making several committments at UN Conferences on women, Commonwealth meetings, at the Summit of the Americas and in their party political manifestos. The commitments to gender equality in government have never been transformed into realities through legislative mechanisms and laws.

Both Dorla Bowman of Belize and Colleen Lowe-Morna, a Commonwealth consultant agree that; "A government by men for men, cannot claim to be a government for the people, by the people." In Belize the nation, the population is slightly biased to more women than men.

It could also be said, that there is inequality in Belize by geographical representation from the six districts and also from demographics and population counts and locations. Belize City is infamous for being the illegal stronghold of both the major political parties for control of first; a) the British style political party machinery and b) then the nation itself through illegal manipulation of the voting blocs, centered in defiance of the Belize Constitution in the one port town of Belize City.

Both major political parties have continued the charade of rhetoric and bombast espousing democratic principals; while in the real world, keeping a lock on the apparatus of government, power, policy making, treasury and perks. Rubber stamp parliaments, appointed Senators and other power controlling and grabbing mechanisms from Colonial days are perpetuated today by both major political parties. Indeed, many have said they have no choices under the current system of government in Belize. It is either the "frying pan", or the "fire". With nothing much to choose between them.

Dorla Bowman in her article pointed out that for realization of democracy in Belize, there must be a process consisting of both sexes. If this requires legislation mandating quotas, split between the genders like some other countries to realize democracy in Belize, then so be it. It has to be done.

Indeed, the history of Belize shows that both major parties, controlled by men and in particular cliques, or gangs of intellectuals and lawyers from the one port town of Belize City, have run the nation of Belize into the ground with a growing National Debt soon to reach mega proportions of one billion dollars for a population of only 220,000.

Dorla Bowman went on to show by statistics that the current House of Representatives has 27 men and only 2 women, that the cabinet has 15 men and only one woman, the seven Town Boards have 43 men and only 6 women, Permanent Secretaries of Department have 16 men and only 3 women. While heads of Government Departments have 42 men and only 8 women.

Are women therefore, considered to be more stupid than men? Or is it the way the government is structured? Many allege the country is run by incompetents from both political parties in each five year cycle. The party individuals themselves feel, they are smart, intelligent and strut and expound like a "cock of the walk".

To date 13 Statutory Boards have 79% men and only 20% women. The question of gender equality does not even begin to statistically attack the discrimination in appointments by district geographies. Board members are appointed by the government controlling political party. In Belize, this has evolved into an elected dictatorship with rubber stamp parliament. With no democratic checks and balances. Nor any method of seeking either geographical six district consensus, or gender consensus by geography.

Dorla Bowman charges that without gender equality in government there is no democracy in Belize. Most countries that have succeeded in acquiring a semblance of gender equality in their nations, have had to do so via affirmative action laws and quotas. Some countries are doing very much better than Belize; which is not doing good at all. These are India, Bangladesh, Papua, Taanzania. South Africa, Mozambique, Canada and Australia have quota systems and laws. Other countries trying the quota system by legislation are; Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama and Peru.

The chairperson of the Conference on Women's Leadership roles at Harvard University was member of the House of Lords, Baroness Shirley Williams, professor of politics. The House of Lords is another monarchist restrictive acronism that Prime Minister Tony Blair of England is seeking to legislate out of business. This chairperson did suggest that each electoral division should elect two candidates. a Female and a Male to the legislature, or parliament. I might add, that in Belize, the illegal use of extra electoral divisions needs to be addressed at the same time, to distribute voter equality to the rest of the nation. In order to temper party politics, there also needs to be staggered terms of office, with two year terms and one half of the candidates being elected each year in total. The rapacious plunder cycle of five year terms needs to be halted.

Belize is not a democracy! It is run by a gang of opportunists who many people allege are so incompetent, they cannot survive in the free wheeling business environment of open competition. Thus they elect to run for five year terms of office, in order to gain security, land, money by salary, perks, travel allowances. The only skill they have to master, is party politics. They make connections within a party, of a smaller group of people, hoping that one of their clique will become party leader and thus if the party wins the elections, they will get a good job with lots of opportunity for salary security and opportunities for personal enrichment and plunder, through the old boy party network and cronyism. True or not, these accusations have enough elements of truth to lend credence to the reasons, why both major political parties continue to thwart democratic change and improvement to the future of Belize. The enemy of Belize are the political parties and the way the political structure in turn, of government is practised, with this winner take all spoils and plunder apparatus.

What is even sadder, is how some swell headed political party hack, thinks he is God's gift to Belize and only his opinion, or decisions are the valid one's in policy making. Rather than that of meetings, debate and majority vote of consensus participatory democracy. There is no greater fool than the person who thinks their decisions are the only correct ones.

In summary, Dorla Bowman leads the cry for gender equality in power sharing of government, in both elected positions and appointments to statutory boards and hiring for management positions. To this, I would add the fair dispersal of same to the six districts in equal portions. Only so, can we build a nation!

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