Social and Economic Equity & Stability: Achievable for Most if not for All

Jane E. Bennett


There can be little doubt that an untapped source of human intelligence and creativity is found among the vast number of individuals in the lower socio-economic levels ... the bi-products of this waste are evident ... in unemployment ... in rising crime, delinquency rates, and most important in human despair. (Renzulli)

The critical areas being identified for discussion in this paper include but are not limited to innate perspectives and some evidence on the current socio-economic status of Belize. Some theoretical and global perspectives that are applicable to the Belizean situation based on social stratification will be discussed and then recommendations will be made for achieving “Social and Economic Equity & Stability for Most if not for All”.

Current Socio-economic Status of Belize

The current concerns in Belize are of an unsustainable foreign debt, high unemployment, growing involvement in the South American drug trade, high crime rates, and increasing incidents of HIV/AIDS. These are being addressed through a four-pillar approach: social investment through poverty alleviation; job creation through public sector investment; improving access to credit; and combating crime and violence.

Belize traditionally maintains a deep interest in the environment and sustainable development. A lack of government resources seriously hampers progress toward these goals (United States Department of State, Diplomacy Action, Bureau of Public Affairs).

The recently released United Nations’ Human Development Report for 2010 ranks Belize at 78th out of the 169 countries studied. The Human Development Index (HDI) has taken into account three dimensions: health, education, and income.  For Belize, the report found an HDI of 0.694. This figure places Belize into the High Human Development bracket, but doesn’t necessarily place us in good standing, since the Latin American and Caribbean region’s HDI is 0.706. The difference of .012 places Belize below the regional average. 

While Belize ranks close to midway, Norway, with its HDI of 0.938 was found to be in the leading position of all 169 nations observed. Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Ireland followed closely and rounded out the top five recorded in the report. In contrast to the top five nations, the lowest ranked countries were Mozambique, Burundi, Niger, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe, which was the lowest HDI of 0.140.

Social investment through poverty alleviation

Poverty by definition is inadequate nutrition and the inability to buy supplies; the increasing poverty contributes to the problems of school dropout and repetition. Current research shows that 23% of Belizean households are poor. Besides, these households produce more children. Poverty is a major issue. Approximately 25% of the children in Belizean schools are poor. Teachers need greater understanding of the realities and effects of poverty in student emotional adjustment, cognitive style and academic confidence (Education for All 2000 Assessment).

According to the Plan for the Eradication of Poverty in Belize (UN ECLAC Port of Spain 1998), the fight against poverty in Belize must have at the centre two key intentions: sustained economic growth and an equitable distribution of the benefits of such growth. Sustained economic growth depends crucially on the ability to diversify the economy given the imminent end to preferential agreements. This diversification effort must ensure that measures are introduced to enhance the competitiveness of the existing key sectors. High on the agenda will be the need to improve the physical and technological agricultural infrastructure, create more secure tenure for small farmers and the urgent adoption of sustainable natural resource utilization processes. Additionally, incentives for the growth of emerging sectors such as tourism need to be provided.

Several Caribbean countries have made a commitment to make serious efforts towards eradicating poverty and to embark on such a difficult task with a Plan of Action to guide the process. Belize is one of the countries that have engaged in a participatory process whereby all segments of society have had the opportunity to make their inputs into the formulation of such a Plan. The Plan of Action is geared towards substantial changes in order to increase equity in the spread of benefits and greater efficiency in addressing the needs of the disadvantaged areas and groups in Belizean society.

The Plan identifies issues of poverty grouped under specific subject areas. As a basis for action it examines the current situation, recommends goals and relevant strategies and tentatively proposes institutions and organizations responsible for action. The first subject area is Enhanced Social Protection and Reduced Vulnerability. Acknowledgment of the vulnerability of certain groups in Belizean society and the need to provide enhanced social protection is necessary. In this subject area the Plan includes issues that are specific to, for example, the plight of poor farmers and youth. Measures will do little, however, if an emphasis is not placed on the improvement of the lives of the majority of Belizeans. In that regard special attention should be paid to the next subject area of Productive Employment and Sustained Livelihoods. Employment has been regarded in both its quality and remunerative values. Key areas of concern are the following:

Subsequently the Plan addresses issues of Health and Education. The relationship between health and education levels and poverty is critical. As households become more impoverished, the ability to sustain certain minimum levels of nutrition is jeopardized and provision of health and education is reduced. The improved health and education status of the population is an important precondition for sustained economic growth.

Policy interventions need to marry public resource constraints with the need for relevant and fair distribution of social services. The subject of Population includes issues of migration (national and international), brain-drain, adolescent sexuality and unwanted pregnancy, poor single female-headed households and reproductive health facilities, such as Family Planning. Environmental Realities discusses issues of land-based degradation, land use, forest and watershed management, and eco-tourism versus conservation.

The need for integrated approaches to policy and project implementation is covered under the subject heading Integrated Social and Economic Strategies. This section addresses the need to enhance coordination between social programmes and macroeconomic policies.

Under the heading Institutional Mechanisms Government involvement is called for in social development programmes which help build the human capacities of the population and are not limited to the provision of welfare benefits. In this effort, the needs of the community must be more clearly heard. Involvement of the critical channels for such community concerns such as the NGOs, the business groups, organized labour and community based organizations is therefore essential. In this sense, while the Government should provide a coordinating role, the structures of governance – the last subject of the Plan – and of service delivery, need to incorporate this focus on greater participation and responsiveness to local conditions. Decentralization, collaboration and community involvement are the principles which should guide new efforts of poverty eradication.


One of the most outstanding educational theorists from the Central American region was Paulo Freire. In the examination of this critical issue which impacts the socio-economic equity and stability of the Belizean population the Frerian philosophy on education is very applicable.

Theorist Jane Thompson in her works on adult education quotes Paulo Freire's views on Popular Education:

There is no such thing as a neutral education process. Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate the integration of generations into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes the ‘practice of freedom’, the means by which men and women deal critically with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.

I take the following summary of Freire's work from Wikipedia.

Paulo Freire contributed a philosophy of education that came not only from the more classical approaches stemming from Plato, but also from modern Marxist and anti-colonialist thinkers. In fact, in many ways his Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970) may be best read as an extension of, or reply to, Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth (1961), which emphasized the need to provide native populations with an education which was simultaneously new and modern (rather than traditional) and anti-colonial (not simply an extension of the culture of the colonizer).

In Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970), Freire differentiates between the two positions in an unjust society, the oppressor and the oppressed. Although there is no direct reference in his published work, the theory of oppressor and oppressed nations stems back to Lenin’s thought on imperialism, self-determination and criticisms of Social Democrats.

Freire advocates that education allows the oppressed to regain their humanity and overcome their condition; however, he acknowledges that in order for this to take effect, the oppressed have to play a role in their own liberation. As he states: No pedagogy which is truly liberating can remain distant from the oppressed by treating them as unfortunates and by presenting for their emulation models from among the oppressors. The oppressed must be their own example in the struggle for their redemption (Freire, 1970, p. 54).

Likewise, the oppressors must also be willing to rethink their way of life and to examine their own role in the oppression if true liberation is to occur; “those who authentically commit themselves to the people must re-examine themselves constantly” (Freire, 1970, p. 60).

Freire believed education to be a political act that could not be divorced from pedagogy. Freire defined this as a main tenet of critical pedagogy. Teachers and students must be made aware of the “politics” that surround education. The way students are taught and what they are taught serves a political agenda. Teachers, themselves, have political notions, they bring into the classroom (Kincheloe, 2008). Freire believed that “education makes sense because women and men learn that through learning they can make and remake themselves, because women and men are able to take responsibility for themselves as beings capable of knowing — of knowing that they know and knowing that they don’t.” (Freire, 2004, p. 15)[8]

In terms of actual pedagogy, Freire is best-known for his attack on what he called the “banking” concept of education, in which the student was viewed as an empty account to be filled by the teacher. He notes that “it transforms students into receiving objects. It attempts to control thinking and action, leads men and women to adjust to the world, and inhibits their creative power” (Freire, 1970, p. 77). The basic critique was not new – Rousseau’s conception of the child as an active learner was already a step away from tabula rasa (which is basically the same as the “banking concept”). In addition, thinkers like John Dewey were strongly critical of the transmission of mere facts as the goal of education. Dewey often described education as a mechanism for social change, explaining that “education is a regulation of the process of coming to share in the social consciousness; and that the adjustment of individual activity on the basis of this social consciousness is the only sure method of social reconstruction” (1897, p. 16). Freire’s work, however, updated the concept and placed it in context with current theories and practices of education, laying the foundation for what is now called critical pedagogy.

More challenging is Freire's strong aversion to the teacher-student dichotomy. This dichotomy is admitted in Rousseau and constrained in Dewey, but Freire comes close to insisting that it be completely abolished. This is hard to imagine in absolute terms, since there must be some enactment of the teacher-student relationship in the parent-child relationship, but what Freire suggests is that a deep reciprocity be inserted into our notions of teacher and student. He goes so far as to say that “Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously students and teachers” (Freire, 1970, p. 72). Freire wants us to think in terms of teacher-student and student-teacher – that is, a teacher who learns and a learner who teaches – as the basic roles of classroom participation. Freire however insists that educator and student, though sharing democratic social relations of education, are not on an equal footing, but the educator must be humble enough to be disposed to relearn that which he/she already thinks she knows, through interaction with the learner. The authority which the educator enjoys must not be allowed to degenerate into authoritarianism; teachers must recognize that “their fundamental objective is to fight alongside the people for the recovery of the people's stolen humanity”, not to “win the people over” to their side (Freire, 1970, p. 95).

Paulo Freire was concerned with praxis – action that is informed (and linked to certain values). Dialogue wasn’t just about deepening understanding – but was part of making a difference in the world. Dialogue in itself is a co-operative activity involving respect. The process is important and can be seen as enhancing community and building social capital and to leading us to act in ways that make for justice and human flourishing. Informal and popular educators have had a long-standing orientation to action - so the emphasis on change in the world was welcome. But there was a sting in the tail. Paulo Freire argued for informed action and as such provided a useful counter-balance to those who want to diminish theory.

Belize: The Education System – Carrying Water in Baskets

So how does Paulo Freire’s philosophy apply to the Belizean situation?

Dr. Herbert Gayle in his Report on Male Social Participation and Violence in Urban Belize (2010) emphasizes that the issue with regards to the education system in Belize is that it is certainly failing boys and it is failing girls as well. It is carrying water in baskets, instead of buckets. He further states that dramatic changes must come in the immediate future in its structure of operation, followed by the creation of a more supportive human ecology, if the education system is going to work to meet millennium goals for the youth of the country.

There are three broad problems militating against the education system meeting its millennium goals.

Belizean Family and Social Violence

The Belizean family, as discussed by Gayle (2010), has the advantage of having a large proportion of couple families when compared to other developing countries. This is due to the strong representation of rural and highly religious people in its population. In other words, Belize has not yet fully urbanized and is still largely traditional, rather than secular. Undoubtedly, at 52 percent urban, Belize is in transition from rural to urban. This can be seen in the large area now listed by the country’s Statistical Institute as rural, but is actually already peri-urban as they are urbanizing very rapidly and no longer enjoy village life, but rather are active dormitory and copycats of the town located in close proximity. This area is 18 percent of the sample, suggesting that within a decade Belize will have another fifth of its population declared as urban. As a country develops it is expected to urbanize. The problem with Belize in this transition is that it is urbanizing without shedding some of the fetters, and the process is too fringe-driven or accidental.

One of the major fetters of development is the large sized family that has been carried over into urban life. Large families are good in rural spaces but certainly contribute to poverty and frustration in urban ecologies, as they have too much of a gap between earner and dependents – and without an abundance of cheap or subsistence food, and without the social capital of sharing that characterizes rural life. In a developing country with major economic challenges, families with households of over 6 persons in urban spaces are at major risk of fracturing. Gayle’s study has shown that a half of all urban families have been forced to drop the stable rural nuclear form and establish forms that can deal with the dependency crisis. Hence the extended family becomes the primary rescue family form, followed by the stepfather couple form, next the single-mother, and finally at the peak of economic and social crisis, the alternative family, which is an extension of the extended family but without any biological parents of the children adopted.

The nuclear families in urban Belize have high financial stability and inversely low levels of conflict, and hence provide good emotional support for most children. Conversely, the adaptive family forms have had problems in achieving stability. For economic and other reasons, they are located in less stable human ecologies (they created to some extent); their heads and supportive adults are more likely to be female and poor, which imply that adolescent boys often lack the benefits of the splintered roles of fathers, and are likely to seek emotional support outside, including on the streets. Mothers have, however, aggressively replaced many of the biological fathers with stepfathers, but these families carry a new set of problems for boys. Southside has the weakest ecological footprint or most problematic environment (see Appendix II for a snapshot of one result of this). Two-thirds of the fathers are missing and 83 percent of the adolescents are either aggressive or moderately so, with no parallels anywhere else in Belize. The reality is that despite the monotrophic bonding between mother and son, which is extreme up to age five, after that age fathers’ presence and function become critical for boys; and families need the right ecology where fathers are present and powerful for boys to remain stable. The Government of Belize has much to do to empower families. Obviously the family needs greater support in order to support the efforts for development (Gayle 2010).

In examining the relevance and impact of Dr. Herbert Gayle’s report (2010) on the socio-economic status of the most affected and disadvantaged groups in the Belizean society today, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is applicable.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Again, I shall rely on Wikipedia for an account of Maslow’s basic thinking.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is often portrayed in the shape of a pyramid, with the largest and most fundamental levels of needs at the bottom, and the need for self-actualization at the top.

The most fundamental and basic four layers of the pyramid contain what Maslow called “deficiency needs” or “d-needs”: esteem, friendship and love, security, and physical needs. With the exception of the most fundamental (physiological) needs, if these “deficiency needs” are not met, the body gives no physical indication but the individual feels anxious and tense. Maslow’s theory suggests that the most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will strongly desire (or focus motivation upon) the secondary or higher level needs. Maslow also coined the term Metamotivation to describe the motivation of people who go beyond the scope of the basic needs and strive for constant betterment. Metamotivated people are driven by B-needs (Being Needs), instead of deficiency needs (D-Needs).

1. Self-actualization

“What a man can be, he must be.” This forms the basis of the perceived need for self-actualization. This level of need pertains to what a person's full potential is and realizing that potential. Maslow describes this desire as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming. This is a broad definition of the need for self-actualization, but when applied to individuals the need is specific. For example one individual may have the strong desire to become an ideal parent, in another it may be expressed athletically, and in another it may be expressed in painting, pictures, or inventions. As mentioned before, in order to reach a clear understanding of this level of need one must first not only achieve the previous needs, physiological, safety, love, and esteem, but master these needs. Below are Maslow’s descriptions of a self-actualized person’s different needs and personality traits.

Maslow also states that even though these are examples of how the quest for knowledge is separate from basic needs he warns that these “two hierarchies are interrelated rather than sharply separated” (Maslow 97). This means that this level of need, as well as the next and highest level, are not strict, separate levels but closely related to others, and this is possibly the reason that these two levels of need are left out of most textbooks.

2. Esteem

All humans have a need to be respected and to have self-esteem and self-respect. Also known as the belonging need, esteem presents the normal human desire to be accepted and valued by others. People need to engage themselves to gain recognition and have an activity or activities that give the person a sense of contribution, to feel accepted and self-valued, be it in a profession or hobby. Imbalances at this level can result in low self-esteem or an inferiority complex. People with low self-esteem need respect from others. They may seek fame or glory, which again depends on others. Note, however, that many people with low self-esteem will not be able to improve their view of themselves simply by receiving fame, respect, and glory externally, but must first accept themselves internally. Psychological imbalances such as depression can also prevent one from obtaining self-esteem on both levels.

Most people have a need for a stable self-respect and self-esteem. Maslow noted two versions of esteem needs, a lower one and a higher one. The lower one is the need for the respect of others, the need for status, recognition, fame, prestige, and attention. The higher one is the need for self-respect, the need for strength, competence, mastery, self-confidence, independence and freedom. The latter one ranks higher because it rests more on inner competence won through experience. Deprivation of these needs can lead to an inferiority complex, weakness and helplessness.

3. Love and belonging

After physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, the third layer of human needs are social and involve feelings of belongingness. This aspect of Maslow's hierarchy involves emotionally based relationships in general, such as:

Humans need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance, whether it comes from a large social group, such as clubs, office culture, religious groups, professional organizations, sports teams, gangs, or small social connections (family members, intimate partners, mentors, close colleagues, confidants). They need to love and be loved (sexually and non-sexually) by others. In the absence of these elements, many people become susceptible to loneliness, social anxiety, and clinical depression. This need for belonging can often overcome the physiological and security needs, depending on the strength of the peer pressure; an anorexic, for example, may ignore the need to eat and the security of health for a feeling of control and belonging.

4. Safety needs

With their physical needs relatively satisfied, the individual’s safety needs take precedence and dominate behavior. These needs have to do with people's yearning for a predictable orderly world in which perceived unfairness and inconsistency are under control, the familiar frequent and the unfamiliar rare. In the world of work, these safety needs manifest themselves in such things as a preference for job security, grievance procedures for protecting the individual from unilateral authority, savings accounts, insurance policies, reasonable disability accommodations, and the like.

Safety and Security needs include:

5. Physiological needs

For the most part, physiological needs are obvious — they are the literal requirements for human survival. If these requirements are not met, the human body simply cannot continue to function.

Physiological needs include:

Air, water, and food are metabolic requirements for survival in all animals, including humans. Clothing and shelter provide necessary protection from the elements. The intensity of the human sexual instinct is shaped more by sexual competition than maintaining a birth rate adequate to survival of the species.

In relating Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to the Belize situation one example of “deficiency needs” is portrayed in the Socio-Economic status for residents of urban Belize City which is considered low and they are considered socially stratified (Palacio 1990).

Another confirmation of the existence of “deficiency needs” as it relates to Belize can be seen in the challenges faced with community development efforts that for example are focused on empowering women and youth from both urban and rural areas (Young Women's Catholic Association 2009). Efforts in meeting developmental needs are being carried out in accordance with achieving the goals of the United Nations agreements set out in the Millennium Development Goals, the Convention of the Rights of the Child and Convention on the Elimination of all forms Discrimination Against Women. Programmes target the eradication of poverty, promoting gender equality, protection from all forms of discrimination, the empowerment of women and girls, ensuring children’s rights to an education and providing a safe place for them to learn and be cared for.

Gender Equality

The findings of the Situation Analysis of Gender Issues in Belize (2009-2010) also lend itself to addressing the socio-economic equity and stability of the Belizean population. This analysis revealed the overwhelming consensus among stakeholders of the continued high level of relevance of the five existing priority areas. Statistical data validated the need to continue to prioritize the areas of health, wealth and employment creation, education and skills training, violence producing conditions and women in power and decision-making. Together, the statistical data and the experience of stakeholders allowed for a sharpening of areas of special attention within the five priority areas listed above (these are captured in Appendix III).

There is also a previous report done on Belize which highlighted the achievements and challenges in promoting Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (Belize Report on the implementation of the Beijing platform for action (1995) and The outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (2000)). In this report the priority areas for Belize continued to be violence against women, health, education, poverty and women in decision-making. Initiatives undertaken were centered on legislative changes, policy development, service delivery and gender mainstreaming.

The linkages and similarities of women’s issues between the two reports for socio-economic equity and stability of women in the Belizean Society are consistently clear.

Economy and Society

According to Giddens (1971, p. 10), “Any and every “economic” phenomenon is at the same time always a social phenomenon, and the existence of a particular kind of economy presupposes a definite kind of society.” ". In looking at the critical aspects of social phenomena in Belize there are very obvious links to this Marxian theory.

Capitalism is founded upon a class division between the working class (proletariat) and the bourgeoisie (capitalist). There is then an obvious and prevalent conflict between the classes for the distribution of goods and services. (Karl Marx’s early writings in Giddens 1971).

Needless to say, the disparity between the classes accounts for inequities in the socio-economic status of citizens where capitalism rules. Another sociological thinker, Emile Durkheim maintained that like the human body, society is a structural-functional system of interacting, exchanging, mutually adjusting and supportive parts that make necessary contributions towards the survival of the whole. Structures (parts) are analysed in terms of their effects or functions, that is, the services they perform for the system. The family gives birth to, legitimates and socializes children; religion integrates society; the state enforces laws, adjudicates disputes and makes decisions binding on the entire society; ant the economy provides the goods and services necessary for survival (Stones 2008).

Yet another perspective on the Belize situation which goes way back in Belizean history said, “But those who argue that social, economic and educational development must take place first, before political independence, are putting the cart before the horse. On the contrary, political independence is the first essential step forward, in order that a government may be established, representative of the people and not subservient to the exploiting monopolist interest. Only then does the possibility exist to utilize the resources of the country for independent social and economic development, instead of for tribute to absentee shareholders.” (A History of Belize, Nation in the Making, chapter 11.)

As can be seen from the different perspectives and theories on the economy and society there needs to be a concerted blending of hearts, minds and wills to ensure that there is a marriage between the two and that the relationship, like any good marriage, gets continuous nurturing.

Children and Youth

The development of the National Plan of Action for Children and Adolescents was guided by Belize’s national development priorities, as well as by key international instruments that speak to the development of children and adolescents including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Education for All and the outcomes document of the United National General Assembly Special Session on Children “A World Fit for Children.”

What will the NPA do for our children?

To ensure that the overall goals are met the National Plan of Action singles out six main areas for attention under which specific objectives, targets and strategies are developed. The six main areas of attention and their specific objectives are:

Education: To provide accessible and affordable quality education that equips students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes for moral, mental and physical development and self-fulfillment so that they can become creative and productive citizens. This area of attention includes targets and strategies to address the following issues: accessibility and affordability, quality of education, repetition and dropout, literacy, gender equity and equality.

Health: To provide conditions that ensures the optimum health of children and adolescents. Targets and strategies in the area of health address the following issues: infant and child mortality, nutrition, disabilities, public health and hygiene, adolescent’s health and mental health.

Child Protection: To safeguard the rights of children and adolescents, especially those at risk. The area of child protection outlines targets and strategies to address the concerns of abuse, abandonment, child labour, adolescent parenthood, disabled children and juvenile justice.

HIV/AIDS: To combat the spread of HIV/AIDS and minimize its effects on children and adolescents. This area of attention includes targets and strategies to address the issues of prevention (mother to child transmission, infections among adolescents), care to orphans and children made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination.

Family: To promote the right of children and adolescents to grow up in a nurturing family environment. Targets and strategies under the area of family are intended to address the concerns of poverty and economic survival, family strengthening and support.

Culture: To provide accessible and affordable programs that enable children to develop a sense of self and a healthy respect and appreciation for the diverse culture in Belize. This area of attention includes targets and strategies to address the issues of creative arts, cultural exposure and expression.

Models: The Central American model

HAVANA – Valuing and sharing common people’s knowledge and experience, awakening critical consciousness and finding paths for effective social participation are the processes used by more than 1,000 people in Cuba working in Popular Education, a liberating approach to education developed by Brazilian educator Paulo Freire in the 1960s (Acosta 2010).

“The deepest form of participation is when people come together, sharing their own thoughts and feelings, with a strong sense of commitment and full awareness of what they are doing,” said José Ramón Vidal, head of the Popular Communication Programme at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Centre (CMMLK). Combining true dedication and horizontal ways of organising to ensure everyone's opinion was included, the Fourth National Popular Education Encounter was held Nov. 9-12 in the Cuban capital. Cuba has appropriated this educational approach since 1995, when the first workshop was organised.

Promoted by Cuban and Spanish non-governmental organisations in three provinces on the island, the outreach initiative involves, directly or indirectly, more than 60 institutions. “Leaders and their community work groups are now going through a Popular Education learning process,” Monge said.

Some authorities have recognised the benefits of this way of doing things. According to Mario Cruz Díaz, a member of the local legislature in the province of Holguín, which borders Granma, the method “is a great help in the work of directing, planning, forecasting and coordinating.”

In his province, which has a population of more than 300,000, distribution of the few resources available is difficult, and they must be used to the best effect. “When a person receives aid as welfare, without consciously participating, he or she is incapable of really valuing the cost of what they are given,” Cruz said.

Freire’s educational goal was to encourage people to become critical subjects who were capable of collectively solving their problems, managing their lives and transforming their surroundings. Community and environmental groups and neighbourhoods facing difficulties like poverty and high levels of violence are taking up Popular Education.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The preamble of the Belize Constitution states that the people of Belize,

require policies of state…which eliminate economic and social privilege and disparity among the citizens of Belize whether by race, ethnicity, colour, creed, disability or sex; … (and) which protect the identity, dignity and social and cultural values of Belizeans, including Belize’s indigenous peoples (Moore and Williams 2008).

You will note the recurrent common issues which reverberate throughout the studies and the perspectives on the Belize situation which indicate an existing need for socio-economic equity and stability within the Belizean Society. This is an achievable goal with political will and dedicated focus of community leadership at all levels and within all sectors of Belize.

The current Socio-economic situation in Belize is crying out for social investments which will result in poverty alleviation. Education both informal and formal is at the core of our existence and is essential for survival and development of human capital. Reform of our current needs to be more rapidly accomplished and must be an inclusive and progressive education system. The Belizean Family and Social Violence are among the top societal issues that need urgent attention and action by everyone in the Belizean Society – these are everybody’s business. Families and in particular women and children at risk must be given priority by service agencies and must be covered by policies in the implementation of the National Plan of Action. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which encompass self-actualization, esteem, love and belonging, safety and physiological needs should be used as a guide at the community and national levels to achieve the goal of socio-economic equity and stability for most if not all.

The following recommendations are by no means exhaustive and are not listed in any particular order except for the purpose of this paper. Implementation of these can help achieve the needed and desired goal of Socio-Economic Equity and Stability of All if not Most if they are followed, monitored, evaluated and re-designed as necessary:


Acosta, D., 2010. Popular Knowledge Can Transform People's Worlds InterPress Service.

Anon., A History of Belize, Nation in the Making. Benque Viejo, Belize: Cubola Productions and on-line at

Anon., Wikipedia, Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Anon., Wikipedia, Paulo Freire.

Gayle, H., 2010. Male Social Participation and Violence in Urban Belize, on-line at

Giddens, A., 1971. Capitalism & Modern Social Theory, An analysis of the writings of Marx, Durkheim and Max Weber. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Macionis, John J., 1997. Sociology, 6th Edition. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Ministry of Human Development, Government of Belize, 2004. Belize Report, On the Implementation of the Beijing platform for action (1995) and The outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (2000). Women’s Department Ministry of Human Development, Government of Belize.

Moore, A and Williams K., 2008. Belize, Coexistence International at Brandeis University.

National Committee for Families and Children, Belize, n.d. The National Plan of Action for Children and Adolescents 2004-2015 “Investing in our Children”,

National Women’s Commission, Belize. Part 1, The Situation Analysis of Gender Issues in Belize 2009-2010, National Women’s Commission.

Palacio, M., 1990. A Social Profile on Belize City. SPEAReports 6, Third Annual studies on Belize Conference, Cubola Productions, Mexico and on-line at

President and General Secretary’s Message, 2009. Young Women's Catholic Association Belize.

Statistical Institute of Belize, Abstract of Statistics 2009, Statistical Institute of Belize, Belmopan City, Belize.

Stones, Rob, 2008. Key Sociological Thinkers, Second Edition. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

UN ECLAC, 1998. Plan of Action for the Eradication of Poverty in Belize. Port of Spain: UN ECLAC.

UNESCO, Education for All 2000 Assessment: Country Reports, Belize

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United States Department of State, Diplomacy Action, Bureau of Public Affairs, Background Note: Belize.

© Jane Bennett

HTML last revised 17th December, 2011.

Return to Conference papers.

Appendix 1

Social Exclusion and the Current Education System

The figures in this Table suggest that Belize has an extremely high school exclusion rate which has to be treated as a core contributing factor to the gang problem in Belize City and other urban centres.

Table 1. School Exclusion at the Primary and Secondary Levels
Source: Gayle, H., Male Social Participation and Violence in Urban Belize, 2010
Education Level Gender Population Net Enrolment Excluded Percentage Excluded
Primary Male 35,587 29,423 6,164 17.3
Female 34,011 28,801 5,210 15.3
Total 69,598 58,224 11,374 16.3
Secondary Male 16,895 6,314 10,581 62.6
Female 16,322 7,193 9,129 55.9
Total 33,217 13,507 19,710 59.3
ALL STUDENTS 102,815 71,731 31,084 30.2

Appendix II

Appendix III

Table 3. Proposed Areas of special attention for Women’s Issues
Source: Part 1, The Situation Analysis of Gender Issues in Belize 2009-2010, National Women’s Commission
Policy Priorities Special Areas of Attention
Health investing in primary health care programmes
integrating sexual and reproductive health as a national development priority
expanding injury prevention and treatment services geared to the special needs of women, men and children
creating a comprehensive mental health package of services delivered at the local level
expanding preventive health education services
increasing access to health care for rural communities
increasing male access to sexual and productive health and primary health care services
Education and Skills Training elimination of gender based discrimination at all levels of the education system
building opportunities for lifelong learning that is holistic, gender responsive, integrated and geared towards sustainable national development
increasing support for “second chance” programmes for boys and girls who drop out of school and developing incentives for them to stay in school
using formal and informal education to transform gender relations with the family, the community and in society
Wealth and Employment Generation eliminating discrimination against women and men workers, including workers in the informal sectors
expanding social safety nets for vulnerable women, men and children
creating greater equity in child maintenance provisions
increasing women’s access to land, credit and business development
creating gender equity in labour force participation and employment
mainstreaming gender into disaster management programmes
Violence Producing Conditions establishing family support systems that transform gender relations
expanding and strengthening child protection programmes
creating psycho-social support mechanisms and resources for survivors of gender-based violence
building institutional capacity to address gender based violence, crime and guarantee access to justice
Power and Decision-Making increasing women’s participation in decision-making positions
build institutional capacity for gender mainstreaming of all relevant policies, strategies and plans of action
implement gender budgeting across the public sector and across civil society organizations