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B.D.F Women Officers and Soldiers Celebrated on International Women’s Day

Mar 8, 2023

B.D.F Women Officers and Soldiers Celebrated on International Women’s Day

Today was celebrated globally as International Women’s Day with the theme: Embrace Equity. To coincide with the occasion, a luncheon was held at the Belize Defense Force headquarters at Price Barracks for the women soldiers and officers who make up the rank and file of the military. Fittingly, on this occasion, cheers were made to the contributions that the women have made to the B.D.F after which they were served lunch by their male colleagues. News Five’s Marion Ali was on hand for the ceremony and filed this report.

Marion Ali, Reporting

The women who occupied the room at the Sailfish Club on the B.D.F. Camp at lunch time today are the full enlistment of female officers in the force – a mere six percent, or fewer than ninety. It is a reflection of an ingrained culture that military life is a man’s profession. So the women there are in a male-dominated environment. But the tides are slowly changing.

Brigadier General Azariel Loria

Brigadier General, Azariel Loria, Commandant, B.D.F

“In the past we used to weed out the potential recruits that are about to join us by the start of the day, being a physical assessment in which, the females are automatically weeded out most of the time. But that is not the case to the world. Physical fitness, yeah, it’s an important aspect of military training, but we have to understand too, as well that most of the civilian populists out there are not that fit. So we have to make sure that they have a respectable level of physical fitness to do the complete exam, to complete everything that is what we’re now doing with our officer selection board. Even if they don’t pass, we keep them, retain them, and eventually, if they make it through, we’ll work on their level of physical fitness.”

Today’s guest speaker, Special Envoy Rossana Briceño spoke to the progress that women have made over the decades in the fight for equality, to break barriers and earn the respect of men. But Briceño pointed to the realities of many women who continue to be humiliated simply because of their enlistment in non-traditional professions.

Rossana Briceño

Rossana Briceño, Special Envoy for the Development of Families and Children

“You will probably meet people who look down you and treat you differently of your gender, because of the way you wear your hair, for example. There will also be issues of verbal abuse, which includes snide remarks, nicknames, and rumors on what you do and how you act. As a principal, I have been there. You may be called out or criticized for not doing it like a man. You may also get an air full for not being petite and girly. But do not let these mean remarks and comments get to you. Instead take it as a challenge and prove them otherwise. They will try to push you to tears and blame you for being emotional, so do not let them get their way.”

In the past, the B.D.F has come under heavy scrutiny on allegations of sexual assault against its women. Brigadier General Azariel Loria assured that the B.D.F has zero tolerance for this type of behavior.

Brigadier General, Azariel Loria

“It’s through education, it’s through telling them what is right and what is not right, what is what it is to feel disrespected. It’s all about respect and that is what we’re trying to inculcate – to educate our soldiers that it is not right to be conducting offenses towards women. We maintain our zero tolerance that involves sexual harassment and allegation towards females. That type of mentality must be eradicated. It is not okay be out there doing abuses to our female soldiers. I have mentioned it repeatedly, over and over. We have our directives and we are going to enforce it wherever it may be.”

The Special Envoy also had a message about the culture of women tearing down each other.

Rossana Briceño

“I think we as women need to be our greatest allies, not our worst critics, and that’s what we’re very good at in Belize. We criticize each other, bring down each other, and that needs to change.”

Marion Ali for News Five.