Relay for Change: Mentoring Youths to Prevent Violence in Belize
Rafael Roberts, Youth Officer, Department of Youth Services
BELIZE CITY, Belize- Preventing violence against women and girls will require a generation of men and boys who believe, model and promote gender equality in all places and spaces.
Meet three men in Belize who are opting in to promote positive masculinity. By participating in Spotlight Initiative-supported #EngagingMenandBoys sessions, these men are learning more about emotional wellbeing, balance and their critical roles as mentors for the next generation boys and men.
Role modelling positive masculinity
Gilmore Williams, 38, is a retired teacher who mentors at-risk youth in the Southside of Belize City, an area known for its high rates of crime and violence. Through the newly formed Belize Anglican Men’s Fellowship, mentors employ a hands-on approach to making a difference in the lives of young men and boys – diverting them from a future of violence and misogyny.
“Mentoring has its rewards, but it does take a lot from me physically and emotionally,” said Mr. Williams. “There is no cut-off time from when you need to provide guidance. Sometimes I get a call in the middle of the night and I need to dissuade the caller from making a bad decision."
“Mentoring has its rewards, but it does take a lot from me physically and emotionally,” said Mr. Williams. “There is no cut-off time from when you need to provide guidance. Sometimes I get a call in the middle of the night and I need to dissuade the caller from making a bad decision." - Gilmore Williams
When asked about his own experiences as a counselor, he described it as a learning journey. “Knowing these boys need a positive male figure to help guide them pushes me to be there, even if it means trying to find the right thing to say when the timing is wrong.”
Gilmore believes the information he got from the #EngagingMenandBoys sessions provided him with deeper insights on core concepts like masculinity. He feels better equipped to help young people overcome their trauma and begin the healing process. “The sessions emboldened my ideas and knowledge about gender and violence. I can now use this information to challenge young people to be accountable to themselves and society.”
Dismantling patriarchy at work
Lincoln Flowers, 33, is an advocate and youth empowerment coordinator at the Belize Department of Youth Services. In his professional role, he helps young people navigate government programmes to access the services and support they need. But Lincoln also recognized that he needed more tools to help him deal with the stresses of his difficult, high-pressure job.
“It is important to separate the personal from the professional,” said Mr. Flowers. “I often help young people with very challenging problems, stories and situations. I do my best to provide solutions, but I need to ensure my own mental stability is not negatively affected by my work.” - Lincoln Flowers
“It is important to separate the personal from the professional,” said Mr. Flowers. “I often help young people with very challenging problems, stories and situations. I do my best to provide solutions, but I need to ensure my own mental stability is not negatively affected by my work.”
Rafael Roberts, 25, has been working at the Department of Youth Services as the youth officer since 2017. He facilitates meetings, oversees data training, and provides support services for clients.
“We received the invitation to attend the session from the Department,” said Mr. Roberts. “Even though attendance was optional, I willingly participated because I believed the content was interesting. I thought it could be a space to join with other male officers to have an open discussion about relationships between men and women.”
Rafael knew that gender disparities existed in workplace, but he now making the connection between discrimination women face at work and at home. “I know many strong-minded men who take full ownership of being the head of their households. In their homes, women can't freely express themselves."
Both Lincoln and Rafael believe that the #EngagingMenandBoys workplace sessions have had a real and positive effect in their personal and professional lives.
"It challenged me,” said Lincoln. “Sometimes we tell kids ‘boys shouldn’t cry’ and that certain things are ‘just for girls.’ As a father of two young kids, I know I must be fair when dealing with my son and daughter because I understand that they both need a father’s love and guidance equally.”
"I will try to keep myself composed in difficult situations,” said Rafael. “I believe that the world doesn’t need more dominant and egotistic men,” said Rafael.
#EngagingMenandBoys is part of the ‘Engaging Men and Boys to Advance Gender Equality and Help Prevent Gender-Based Violence’ project. The project was created in 2020 by the Spouses of CARICOM Leaders Action Network (SCLAN) and the National Women’s Commission’s (NWC), with support from the Spotlight Initiative.
The project aims to create agents of change through training and learning opportunities that target men. Sessions provide safe spaces for men and boys to challenge views about masculinity and gender using role modeling and the positive deviance approach to behavioral and social change.
Gilmore, Lincoln and Rafael are three of the 270 men who have participated in 10 training session across Belize in the past year.