The past two decades have seen significant strides being made in advancing the welfare and wellbeing of Belizean children. During this time period, Belize became a signatory to a key number of international commitments, beginning in 1990 with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and most recently the World Fit for Children Declaration. The country has also developed many policies and programmes for children that are based both on these frameworks and national development priorities.
Although much progress has been made, there is still much more that must be done to ensure that all Belizean children enjoy the quality of life they deserve. It will take all sectors of society working together to ensure this. Advocacy, public awareness and resource mobilization are key to engaging all the stakeholders in scaling up efforts on behalf of children.
One strategy that has been used successfully by international organizations such as the United Nations and by individual countries such as Jamaica is to identify high profile persons to promote the issue. The Special Meeting on Children of the CARICOM’s Council on Human and Social Development held in February 2008 recognized the utility of this strategy in promoting children’s rights issues and called for the identification of regional and national “champions for children.”
The Special Envoy for Children and Women is the Belizean champion for children, working primarily in collaboration with the Ministry of Human Development and Social Transformation and the National Committee for Families and Children to fulfill the following duties:
a) Advocate for and influence the development of social policies and legislation in defence of women and children.
b) Advocate for the implementation of programmes and initiatives that benefit children and their families and promote their rights.
c) Collaborate with government and quasi-government bodies to present projects seeking financial resources at home and abroad to support government programmes and initiatives for women and children.
d) To participate in delegations that represent the Government of Belize at international and national forums relating to women and children.
e) Engage in public awareness and education activities designed to sensitize the general public to issues affecting women and children.
Mrs. Kim Simplis Barrow
Mrs. Kim Simplis Barrow is the wife of the Prime Minister of Belize, the Right Honorable Dean Barrow and Belize’s Special Envoy for Women and Children and Global Ambassador for Special Olympics since 2008 as well as the Founder and Director of the Lifeline Foundation, which raises thousands of dollars annually to aid disenfranchised children. Her two major projects as Special Envoy for Women and Children are a Paediatric and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit constructed at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital and The Inspiration Center which offers healthcare and therapy for children with disabilities. Her efforts to raise public awareness on the commercial sexual exploitation of children includes successfully advocating for the passage of two pieces of legislation to strengthen protection for victims of sexual violence and human trafficking as well as an amendment to the Criminal Code for harsher penalties for perpetrators of sexual offences. Mrs. Simplis Barrow has co-written two booklets on sexual abuse prevention and produced multi-lingual educational videos. She has also hosted national conferences on ending commercial sexual exploitation of children and ending all violence against children. She later produced a Children’s Rights Activity Book entitled Having Fun with Rights. In her efforts to improve the situation of women entrepreneurs in Belize, Mrs. Simplis Barrow focus groups and consultations countrywide and hosted the National Call to Action Conference on Women and Girls’ Financial Health as well as a global First Ladies Conference in New York. Under the 20,000 STRONG Women’s Empowerment campaign, two national rallies were held to uplift women and in 2016, the event was used to unveil the 20-4-20 Women’s Economic Development Program.