A national call was issued and women responded by the thousands on March 27th, 2014 for the first 20,000 STRONG Women’s Empowerment Rally organized by the office of the Special Envoy for Women and Children in collaboration with the National Women’s Commission. The 20,000 Strong Rally was the start of a new movement in Belize where the power, influence and significance of women is fully recognized and appreciated. It is a movement that encourages women to uplift themselves, their families and communities, and each other; to dream big and believe that they can achieve anything. Other 20,000 STRONG activities included the MILESTONE Photography Exhibit and Weekly Social Media features called Trailblazer Tuesdays which highlighted women who excelled in traditionally male dominated field.
The second 20,000 STRONG Women’s Empowerment Rally was held on March 11th, 2016. Once again, the turnout of both women and men was a clear sign that Belize is ready for the next step toward true gender equality. Belize’s women are ready to play bigger role in the country’s development and to effect the changes needed to address the injustices many of them still face in their professional and personal lives. Both national events featured dynamic speakers delivering messages of unity, strength and the mountains that can be moved when we come together for a common good.
The rally was also the platform for the unveiling of the 20-4-20 Women’s Economic Development Program, which will provide micro-financing, training and mentorship for women entrepreneurs to start small businesses, or grow existing businesses that have become stagnant due to a lack of resources. The development of this program has involved countrywide consultation including a national workshop held in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank and small focus groups to identify the challenges and opportunities of women entrepreneurs.
Call to Action: Women and Girls Finanical Health
The Special Envoy has made a significant step forward in the movement to empower Belize’s women and girls financially; hosting a National Call to Action Conference on Women’s and Girls’ Financial Health in Belize on August 29th, 2014. The event focused on the situation of women entrepreneurs throughout the country. It was an information gathering exercise to create the foundation upon which the 20-4-20 Women's Economic Development Program is being developed.
This conference also introduced the 20,000 STRONG Marketplace where women entrepreneurs countrywide were offered the opportunity to showcase and retail their products.
Mrs. Simplis Barrow then took that call to action to the rest of the world with the First Ladies Global Call to Action Conference on Women and Girls’ Financial Health; a side event at the 69th United Nations General Assembly on September 25th, 2014 in New York. The gathering of spouses of heads of states and governments were encouraged to support areas of micro-financing for female entrepreneurs, violence prevention initiatives and women’s health and education. The resources and networks of these influential women leaders and organizations working in the area of gender equality and women’s development provided a unique opportunity for partners to chart a progressive way forward on behalf of the world’s women and girls.