Maybe the biggest thing I've learned from this time is how thankful I am not to be a Belizean woman.
The stories of the women in my focus group were of emotional abandonment and bullying husbands (and other relatives).
Ms. Else's story- that she's finally leaving the man she's been with for the past 19 years (who's been married to someone else that entire time.) "I swear to God, when I got pregnant and found out he was married, I was going to have an abortion. But he wanted this baby...he wanted a son, so I stayed. He never disrespected me, and he cared for my kids, so I stayed, because he already had use of my body." 19 years...of watching your partner have a family with someone else and trying not to interfere with that family...of settling for scraps of attention and money in order to raise 8 children. "he came to me twice , back to back with no money, and I told him 'we can make love on an empty belly but your son can't live with an empty belly."
The way she looked at me and said "We need people like you here to tell women that when a man is taking advantage of you, not supporting you, not helping you out with the bills and the kids, that's domestic violence too. And we need people like you to teach women in Belize how to think for themselves and stand up."
Ms. Anna today- visiting the doctor with complications from diabetes. "I've been dieting the last week, but my husband says 'I don't want you to start reducing your weight, because then people will say you have HIV/AIDS."
The conversation she had with her daughter: "I don't regret you, because you're mine and I love you. But I wish that I hadn't had so many... because I wasn't able to give you what you needed, or what I wanted to give you."
Questions about family planning ...very quickly became questions about whether relationships are healthy and whether people's rights and basic human dignity are being respected. I don't think I completely realized that before.