Belize and the EU

A Human Rights-Based Approach to Child Protection: Changing Social Norms and Engaging Civil Society to End Violence against Girls and Boys in Belize

23/08/2018 - 00:00
Democracy and Human Rights

Overall Objective: A Human Rights-Based Approach to Child Protection is fostering social change for the benefit of the most vulnerable boys and girls in selected urban and rural areas in Belize.

Specific objectives: 1. Build the capacity, engage and mobilize civil society organizations, young people and their care-givers to bring an end to violence against children; 2. Promote the adoption and implementation of rights-based legislative and policy-oriented actions to prevent and mitigate child sexual abuse, corporal punishment and other forms of violence in the home, school and community (HSC); 3. Develop new social norms and positive behaviours and attitudes to prevent and mitigate child sexual abuse, corporal punishment and violence in the home, school and Community; 4. Strengthen child protection systems, in particular the availability, accessibility, and quality of services to survivors of all forms of violence with particular reference to child sexual abuse, corporal punishment and violence in HSC.
 

Total Cost (EUR): 100 000

EU contracted amount (EUR): 100 000

Duration: June 2013 - June 2015

Implementing organisation: UNITED NATIONS CHILDREN'S FUND

Funding Instrument: European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR)

Benefitting zone: Belize

 

STORY: Empowering one girl at a time in Belize

Rather than thinking that you have all the answers to people’s problems, you create a space where people can create trust to transform their own realities.

 
 

Michele Irving, POWA Coordinator

 

CONTEXT

The HIV prevalence in Belize is 2.5%; estimates show that 1 in every 10 children in Belize is affected and vulnerable. Toledo district has the highest rates of violence against children in the country, with a rate of 81.4%. The Productive Organization for Women in Action (POWA) is a community-based organization in Dangriga Town, Belize. The POWA youth arm focuses on girls that are vulnerable because of their exposure to issues such as HIV and gender-based violence and it is supported by UNICEF and the European Union since 2006.

 

OBJECTIVES

  • Build the capacity, engage and mobilize civil society organisations, young people and their care-givers to bring an end to violence against children.
  • Promote the adoption and implementation of rights-based legislative and policy-oriented actions to prevent and mitigate child sexual abuse, corporal punishment and other forms of violence in the home, school and community.
  • Strengthen child protection systems, in particular the availability, accessibility, and quality of services to survivors of all forms of violence with particular reference to child sexual abuse, corporal punishment and violence in home, school and community.
  • Develop new social norms and positive behaviours and attitudes.
 

RESULTS

  • POWA and UNICEF’s relationship focuses on supporting children in the areas of literacy, nutrition, and HIV education.
  • Members receive training on HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive health, community outreach, self-esteem and negotiation skills.
 

TESTIMONY

Breaking the silence, changing power dynamics and creating role models for girls

Dangriga looks like the cover of a travel magazine. A tropical paradise in southern Belize. What onlookers may not know is that it is also the district with the highest rates of teenage pregnancies in the country, HIV prevalence higher than anywhere else in Central America, and a place where violence and poverty are an ever-present reality.

 "Being a woman in this community is not the easiest task," India, 19, shares. "We are the main targets here and you will often see older men prey on younger and vulnerable girls".

Sitting next to her in a POWA session, Kenima, is only 15 years old but has already been a target. "The men approach us with little suggestions at first. A beer, a lunch for letting them hold our hands or maybe even touch a breast… Then they offer to pay your school fees, pay your mother’s rent, take care of the house bills... It’s really not easy to say no when you are in our situation."

Young girls in Dangriga find themselves lost in a system where they aren’t expected to have ambitions to ever provide for themselves, and where their own mothers feel that they have no other choice than to encourage them to accept these offers. The high HIV prevalence in Belize confirms this reality, as rates are highest among young girls and old men. Teenage pregnancies are the main reason for school dropouts, and sexual abuse is one of those things everybody knows about but too few dare to report.

Michele Irving, the coordinator for POWA, explains, "We work on the self-esteem of girls, on keeping them in school, teaching them about safety and trying to keep them away from dangers. We target girls at risk and we try to support them with school stipends and giving them practical skills that they can use to secure their own income and become economically independent. All of this to keep them away from falling victims to this horrendous abuse of power."

Under the leadership of Michele Irving, POWA runs after-school programmes for vulnerable children, literacy and school completion programmes for women, an HIV prevention and stigma and discrimination reduction programme, and conducts extensive work on empowerment of women and girls.

In fact, Michele and the POWA programme break the law of silence, change the power dynamics and create role models for other girls to follow, allowing them to grow to be concerned, protective and empowered women.

 

FACTS AND FIGURES

  • The HIV prevalence in Belize is 2.5%.
  • Estimates show that 1 in every 10 children in Belize is affected and vulnerable.
  • Toledo district has the highest rates of violence against children in the country, with a rate of 81.4%.

 

PARTNERS

 
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