Observing Gender Roles in Rural Northern Belize

Jamir Sanchez is a December 2018 Cum Laude graduate from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, USA with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Financial Economics. He is an Economic Consultant and Research Assistant at the Centre for Applied Development Studies. 

I started working at Centre for Applied Development Studies in January, 2020. Dr. Jay Coombs and I hit the ground running with a project in analysing gender roles, behaviours and responses in regards to the preparation of the Jaguar Protection Project. As we progressed with conference calls and field trips to communities that the project would directly affect, it dawned on me how important field research and community outreach is. This was definitely a leap from the type of research and analysis I was used to. It forced me to think more critically and creatively in gathering and analysing data. 

While visiting the Shipstern Nature Reserve in Corozal and the surrounding communities of Sarteneja, Fire Burn and Little Belize, I noticed that each community had a different experience with Jaguars and wildlife, new perspectives on how to move forward mitigating conflict, and small differences in living lifestyles. The Sarteneja community for instance, comprised mainly of households where men were fishermen and farmers, still holding on to the role of the main breadwinner of their families. Women in Sarteneja formed and established a group, “Las Sartenejeñas Cooperative” in 2013 in order to earn some income sewing as they have tapped into a vendor market in San Pedro that desires embroidered tote bags with prints of Jaguars, Tapirs and Sharks, to be sold as souvenirs. 

Consultation with Sarteneja Women’s Group “Las Sartenejeñas Cooperative”

This experience taught me that there are communities in Belize that still hold on to certain aspects of traditional gender roles. I say certain aspects because men want to be able to feel at ease knowing they put forth all their effort to ensure their families are taken care of. Although men primarily do a bulk of the heavy lifting in terms of farming and fishing, it surprised me to discover that the roles are actually being shared within households. Women will actively help out with farming duties just as well as men do. Some members of “Las Sartenejeñas Cooperative” disclosed that some of their husbands who are not fishermen or farmers, have learned to be just as skilled at sewing alongside their wives. It was fascinating to know that men are breaking away from the stigma that certain jobs are only designated for women and vice versa. I viewed that as a step toward equality. 

Tour of Shipstern Nature Reserve atop 95ft Observatory

Working as part of a team of consultants from UNDP Belize and PPF Capital, encouraged more questions, more brainstorming and more discussions. These veteran consultants showed me how to look at current scenarios and frame them from perspectives I had not quite understood just yet, or had not even thought of. They were more than willing to assist me in understanding the overall benefits and impact of the project.

I want to express enormous gratitude to Heron Moreno, the Executive Director for the Corozal Sustainable Future Initiative for his leadership in Jaguar protection and management, and his team at the Shipstern Nature Reserve for the wonderful accommodation and hospitality.

Connect with Jamir Sanchez here on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/jamir-sanchez-8a758514a/

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