CAMY Fund visit to GOBelize
Since 2004, the GOJoven program has trained over 200 young sexual and reproductive health and rights leaders in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Quintana Roo, México through a year-long fellowship. In 2011, GOBelize began taking over this work and since then has trained 58 new Fellows throughout the country.
Advocacy training for GOJoven Fellows in June 2015
Through support from the CAMY Fund, this past June GOBelize trained 16 of their Fellows, primarily from the Cayo District, in advocacy skills, specifically around comprehensive sexuality education (CSE). The training also included the design of a media campaign to publicly position CSE as an important tool for young people to strengthen their self-esteem, promote healthy and non-violent relationships, prevent sexual abuse and unintended teen pregnancy, and protect young people from sexually transmitted infections. Despite the seemingly consensus-building nature of CSE, it has proven very hard to implement in Belize.
Map of Belize where you can see the country’s six districts.
Belize has a highly diverse population of approximately 350,000 people. While it shares borders with Mexico and Guatemala, it is closely tied by history and culture to the countries of the Caribbean. Part of that history includes a tight relationship between the government of Belize and the Anglican, Catholic and Methodist churches. This relationship has created a situation whereby a significant amount of schools in the country are operated by these churches through agreements with the government under a Church-State partnership. There are also private and/or parochial schools and some secular public schools, but these are in the minority. The influence of religion in the education system in Belize is undeniable and one of the key effects has been on the implementation of CSE curriculum.
There is a curriculum called Health and Family Life in Belize, which touches on issues that CSE also addresses, however it is fairly limited in scope and somewhat moralistic in content. GOBelize has been trying to meet with public officials from the ministries of health, education and human development in order to intervene in decision-making spaces to propose broader and more comprehensive curriculum options. To date, they have had mixed results with some ministries resisting meeting with them, and others denying that they play a role in the development of such curriculum.
GOBelize team in a strategy session for their media campaign
When I met with the GOBelize team in early August they were just wrapping up a strategy meeting for their upcoming media campaign launch, directed at parents, teachers and students. We discussed the challenges they faced and some ideas for collaborating with like-minded organizations and carrying out more educational outreach with parents and teachers to gain support and momentum. Later this month, they will be meeting with several key ministries and anticipate finalizing a report, which seeks to highlight both the deficiencies in the curriculum, as well as the teachers’ willingness to implement CSE curriculum in the Cayo District.
CAMY Fund project leader, Elmer Cornejo
Though it has been an uphill battle, Elmer Cornejo, the CAMY Fund project leader, has done an excellent job of moving the GOBelize project forward and opening the door to young people receiving comprehensive sexuality education in Belizean schools.