20,000 Strong Women’s Rally in Belize City Brings out Skeptics; Makes Me Cry

Yesterday, women and children from every district in Belize woke up before dawn to fly, drive, bus and walk to march for equality.  To come together and show our country that we have a voice, that we are not passive, that we should not live fear – that we will not take discrimination, bullying, violence and abuse lying down.  That the women of Belize deserve equal education and healthcare opportunities as men.

It was absolutely breathtaking and beautiful.   I started crying too many times.

Women and Girls Rally in Belize City, 20000 StrongThank goodness for sunglasses.

Hero Malala Yuosafzai delivered an impossibly amazing speech to the UN on her 16th birthday and said:  “So here I stand, one girl, among many. I speak not for myself, but so those without a voice can be heard. Those who have fought for their rights. Their right to live in peace. Their right to be treated with dignity. Their right to equality of opportunity. Their right to be educated.”

The speech was referenced again and again yesterday at Belize’s 20,000 Strong Womens March.

Here are my pictures from the event but before I get to that just one quick thing.

I arrived home late in the afternoon dusty, hot, hopeful and empowered by the whole experience.

And then I read the Belize news…questioning the size of the rally, wondering if the school children (who made up the majority of the 1000s of marchers) were “roped into” the rally and asking if “the message and the symbolism of today’s event is relevant to the serious times we live in”?  (Quotes from Channel 7 Belize)

Kim Simplis Interviewed for News, Women and Girls Rally in Belize City, 20000 StrongI can’t even word how dismayed that makes me.  Angry.  And shocked.  How dare they make those kids feel bad about it…attempt to make us feel like we all wasted our time?

But let me just get to my photos.  Because despite the negativity – and it must take some serious effort to see only that about an event that highlights women and youth, that showcases small businesses run by women in our country, to hear speech after speech by high school students about bullying and abuse and how we can change it – I thought the event was AMAZING.

To the photos.

The police, the coast guard, the Belize Defense force all marched.

The choir from St Luke in Belize City sang the national anthem so beautifully.Janelle Chanona from Oceana Belize and Ms Kim Simplis Barrow, the First Lady of Belize.

There were booths set up by high school students to show projects and initiatives they were undertaking in their community.

Some of the hardest working people I know – those who work with Oceana Belize,  They understand the power of knowledge and education.  They know what Belizeans can do when we come together.
There was an area where small businesses set up to show their products.  Women…many working out of their homes…

I bought 2 bottles of Ms Muriel’s hot sauce – pineapple habanero and yellow ginger.  I LOVE the labels!

Earrings, beauty products and clothing.  Baskets and one of my favorites, MayaBags from Punta Gorda.  Where local women are making fabrics and doing basket weaving for products that are being sold internationally.

My MayaBag is one of my prized possessions.

This length of dense gorgeous fabric can take up to one week to finish.  I asked this beautiful lady if she can watch TV while she weaves – and she told me that her village does not have electricity.

Here on a Punta Gorda, Belize website, her village:  Indian Creek, population 571, Ethnicity:  Kekchi Maya

Some of the things they make at MayaBags.

I bought this beautiful handmade clay bead tapir for $15bzd.

A day to get together and feel energized by our collective power.  If one school child can go home and share something with her mother or her neighbor or his baby sister, it was worth it.

Ladies, you amaze me.

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