Empowering lesbian and bisexual women in Belize: Interview with Charrice Talbert, President of PETAL

“The project has sparked transformative change for women’s safety and empowerment.”

The organization Promoting Empowerment Through Awareness for Lesbian and Bisexual Women (PETAL) is a women’s rights and women-led organization based in Belize and dedicated to fostering social, economic and gender justice for women and girls.

A leading activist organization for lesbian and bisexual women in Belize, PETAL is leading an initiative with support from the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund) to empower lesbian and bisexual women of Indigenous and African descent through skills training and economic empowerment sessions in efforts to prevent and respond to violence against women.

We talked with Charrice Talbert, PETAL’s President, to find out more about the project.

Charrice Talbert, President of PETAL
Charrice Talbert, President of PETAL

Why does PETAL work specifically with lesbian and bisexual women and girls?

Lesbian and bisexual women, like many other gender non-conforming folks, have faced marginalization, discrimination, and especially invisibility in various spheres of life, including employment, healthcare, and social acceptance. We want to create a space that provides targeted support and establish inclusive policies to address their unique needs.

In what ways has PETAL addressed these needs? What have been the most important activities to ensure lesbian and bisexual women regain control of their lives and rights?

Firstly, we want to make sure that our participants are aware of their rights, including reproductive rights and legal protection, and the services they can access. We organize tailored workshops, outreach programmes and training sessions to provide comprehensive education; we also partner with relevant agencies and support networks that provide essential resources, such as healthcare, education, employment and legal aid services.

Secondly, it is important to invest in financial independence. We offer skills training, entrepreneurship programmes and microfinance initiatives to empower them and enhance their economic autonomy.

Thirdly, we want to create impact that lasts. We advocate for marginalized women’s rights at the local, national and international levels, and promote their representation in decision-making processes and leadership roles. This is essential to both amplify their voices and address systemic inequalities.

In terms of results, as of August 2023, 123 women have reported experiencing improvements in their lives and at least 50 women have completed our training on livelihood skills and financial literacy.

How can community- members be part of the collective efforts to ensure women’s safety and end violence against women?

Community-level mechanisms play a vital role by creating a supportive environment, fostering collective actions, and addressing underlying and harmful societal norms and structures. Here are some ways these mechanisms have proved effective:

  • The community policing programmes and safety initiatives enhance women’s safety by promoting community engagement in crime prevention.
  • Safe spaces, such as support groups, provide essential support services (health care, psychosocial counselling, legal aid) and refuge for women survivors of violence or those in need of assistance.
  • Local awareness-raising campaigns challenge harmful gender norms and stereotypes that perpetuate violence against women in communities.
  • Collaborative partnerships between community organizations, government agencies, law enforcement, health care providers, schools and civil society groups strengthen overall response to women’s safety and drive systemic change.

How has UN Trust Fund supported your organization in achieving these results?

The UN Trust Fund’s support plays a crucial role as it has provided us with the necessary resources to implement strategies, scale up our interventions, and sustain impact over time.

First, the funding has enabled us to develop and design an effective, evidence-based programme and tailor our services to the specific needs of the women and girls we serve, through research, needs assessments and programme refinement.

Second, the UN Trust Fund’s support has also strengthened our capacity-building efforts as we were able to equip our volunteers, partners and board members with skills, knowledge and tools to deliver high-quality services and fully support project participants.

Last, it has facilitated our monitoring and evaluation efforts, which include data collection, performance monitoring, impact assessments and feedback mechanisms to inform decision-making.

In terms of sustainability, the partnership has contributed to furthering our opportunities to secure grants through fundraising strategies and to develop partnerships to support expansion efforts.



UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women

The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women is the only global grant-making mechanism dedicated to eradicating all forms of #VAWG. https://untf.unwomen.org/