The United Women’s Group (UWG) is the women’s arm of the People’s United Party (PUP). It was established in February 1959 by Gwendolyn Lizarraga (Madam Liz as she is popularly known); a woman that advocated for social justice and empowerment of women.
Gwen Lizarraga began recruiting women in Belize City at PUP divisional meetings and by the end of March 1959 had 900 members, which rose to fourteen hundred (1,400) by May. In April Lizarraga began recruiting in the districts, and branches were founded in Stann Creek and Cayo (both in San Ignacio and half dozen villages) where groups of PUP women had been mobilized since at least 1954. Soon after branches were formed in Maskall and Orange Walk, then in Sand Hill, Benque Viejo and Punta Gorda. By November 1959, membership had reached five thousand (thirty-five hundred outside of Belize City alone) and only Corozal had no members. It formed its branch in May 1960.
Gwen Lizarraga was a great woman of this country who always thought of the poor and needy. In politics, her influence was broad and deep and her experience in social work had helped her to get to know many poor people and their support for her in every election had been very impressive.
The aim of the UWG still remains the same today; to raise the consciousness of Belizean women in the history, politics, culture, economy, health and society of Belize so as to empower them. This the UWG does through health fairs and meetings in the many different branch locations.
A Brief History of the Founder: Madam Gwendolyn Margurite Lizarraga
Gwendolyn Margurite Lizarraga was born in Maskall Village on 11th July, 1901 to parents Sidney Smith and Guadalupe Smith nee Baeza. She was educated at Mr. Datsun Primary School, St. Mary’s Primary School and later went on to St. Catherine’s Academy. She later married a police photographer Victor Manuel Lizarraga in 1926 and had five children. But, Gwen Lizarraga was not only a mother; she was also a businesswoman and a successful chicle and mahogany contractor in northern Belize.
Gwen Lizarraga was unlike other women of her time; she wore pants, carried a gun, smoked cigarettes and drove a land rover as she went about her business to the chicle and mahogany camps. She was known to be a very outspoken businesswoman and legislator and dealt with big companies like Wrigley’s, Castillo and Thurton. Before she got into politics she was very active in the social scene and that was when she formed the United Women’s Group. Wherever she went she tried to assist people around her, especially women in unfortunate conditions. She was once a probation officer in the Social Development Department where she organized women’s group and centers geared towards the advancement of women. Madam Liz as she was commonly known was the co-founder of United Women’s Credit Union, where they encouraged women to save even if they could only afford $0.25 per week.
During the 1950’s and before Universal Adult Suffrage only property owners were allowed to vote so Madam Liz assisted women in acquiring their own house and lot.
In 1961 Madam Liz decided to enter the political reigns and won in the Pickstock division for three terms. She was first elected in 1961 and became the Minister of Education, Housing and Social Services. There were five challengers in that division that year, but Lady Lizarraga garnered 69% of the votes. It was the first year that a woman even ran in the national elections in Belize.
She was then elected for a second term in 1965 and served again as the Minister of Education, Housing and Social Services. She firmly believed that everyone was entitled to a house and lot and assisted people in acquiring their housing lots. She’s remembered for assisting a woman in locating her lot covered by bushes and mud.
In 1969 she was elected for a third term and served once again as the Minister of Education and Housing. This is when she began the building of low cost homes in King’s Park, Lake Independence and Queen Square areas. She was very interested in improving the housing conditions and providing educational opportunities for youths. While she was the Minister of Education the first Junior Secondary School was established in 1968 which later became Gwen Lizarraga High School and she also endorsed the bill for the introduction of Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) to Belize.
This exceptional woman holds at least two records in this country: as she was the first woman to be elected to the National Assembly and first female minister. She was also the only politician who made no secret of her opposition to the granting of a casino concession in the country of Belize.
Madam Liz was an excellent chess player as well and helped organize the first chess club in Belize. She conducted pioneer work as a folklorist and choreographer in the revival of the Mestizada dances.
Gwendolyn Margurite Lizarraga passed away on June 9th, 1975 at the age of 73 years. The pallbearers for her funeral included the then Premier Hon. George C. Price and then Deputy Premier Carl Lindbergh Rogers. Internment was at Lord’s Ridge Cemetery.
Functions of UWG
- To promote the best interests of the P.U.P.
- To advocate for the recognition and realization of women’s rights generally, and promote the full participation of women in all phases of national and community life.
- To hold political, educational and cultural activities with a view to raise the consciousness of Belizean women in the history, politics, culture, economy and society of Belize.
- To work as a body for the achievement of the aim of the People’s United Party and to carry out membership drives, voter registration, and election campaigns in cooperation with the Executive Committee of the Constituency Branch.
- To hold social or other functions in order to raise funds for the P.U.P. and to place such funds at the disposal of the Constituency Branch.
- To do all such other things as are required by the Constituency Branch or by National Executive for the benefit of the People’s United Party, including attendance as a group at meetings, parades, etc. of the People’s United Party.
- To organize among themselves, and under special rules formulated by the U.W.G. and ratified by National Council, any scheme for the benefit of members.
You are eligible for membership in the United Women’s Group if you:
(a) Accept the creed, aim and objectives, principles and policies of the P.U.P.
(b) Are not members of any other political party or of any organization whose principles or policies are contrary to or inconsistent with those of the P.U.P.
(c) Have attained the age of 18 years.
(d) Have been an active member of the People’s United Party for a minimum of 2 years.
That I pledge to work for the achievement of the aims and objectives of the peaceful, constructive Belizean revolution. To work for the principles, policies and programs of the People’s United Party. To abide by the constitution, discipline and decisions of the People’s United Party. To vote and encourage others to vote for all candidates of the People’s United Party in all election and Not to be a member or supporter of any other political party or organization which principles, policies or programs are contrary to or inconsistent with those of the People’s United Party.
So help me God.
- Revive and network the thirty one (31) Constituency Executives of the UWG.
- Create an electronic data-base with all pertinent information of the thirty one (31) Constituency Executives.
- Conduct a consultative workshop to brainstorm ideas to develop a strategic plan for the UWG which will clearly highlight its Mission and Vision.
- Put together an official Party’s position on Women and Women’s Issues in Belize to submit to the Party Executive within the first 100 days of office, so as to contribute to the Party’s Manifesto for the upcoming General Election.
- Launch a UWG website within the first 100 days in office.
- Plan the first fund-raising drive.
- Publish an annual Calendar of events.
- Embark on a comprehensive national membership recruitment drive.
- Develop a Strategic Plan of the UWG.
- Conduct countrywide district workshops promoting the goals and ideas of the Party. Put together and publish position papers on national issues affecting Women.
- Get involved with agencies such as Women in Politics and the National Women’s Commission.
- Conduct a National Young Leaders Workshop to prepare young women in the Party for leadership positions both within the Party and in Government.
- Get a sound percentage of Women in the Party engaged in leadership positions.
- Increase the number of Standard Bearers in the Party that are women.
President: Mrs Yolanda Schakron
Facebook: UnitedWomen’sGroup Belize