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Senator-designate Janelle Chanona: “The voice of the NGO Senator will always be that of its membership”

Posted: Friday, March 11, 2022. 4:36 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: By a vote of 21 to 10, Vice-President of OCEANA Belize Janelle Chanona will be appointed at its next sitting as the thirteenth member of the Senate of Belize, representing non-governmental organizations.

And she has committed, she told reporters this afternoon, that “the voice of the Senator representing the NGO community will always be that of its membership – and when I say membership, not just those formally working in the NGO sector but all those NGOs, doing NGO work outside the official threshold of NGO work, because it has to be that the issues – as you said, wide-ranging – do get that platform at the Upper House, and do get the attention that they deserve.”

From crime to women and children’s issues to environmental issues, Chanona says that not much of NGO work in Belize has been discussed publicly. She further commits to making the consultation process “inclusive, and we have to get multiple perspectives; that’s the only way we can move forward, if we are on the same page. We will never have 100 percent agreement, but certainly once we can incorporate everybody’s perspective, we can make as informed a position as possible as the community that has the best interest of all the Belizeans we work alongside at heart, and we move forward from there.”

Just 31 organizations were able to participate in the vote – Chanona notes that there remains barriers to the NGOs participating including financial backing and being registered in good standing with the Non-Governmental Organizations Act. It is an increase from the 23 participants that elected Osmany Salas over two rounds in January of 2017 (29 organizations were eligible to vote at that time from a roster of more than 140). Campaigning was relatively quick – Chanona was nominated by the Belize Audubon Society, National Garifuna Council and Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) and conducted her campaign over the last few days before today’s vote.

Chanona lauded the continued interest of the NGO community in maintaining their voice and promised to be that voice on their behalf. She will be sworn in at the next meeting of the Senate and will continue to act as Vice-President of OCEANA Belize.


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