Belize names first indigenous woman as head of state
BELMOPAN – Froyla T’zalam was sworn in as the first female and third Governor General of Belize on Wednesday, taking over from Sir Colville Young.
T’zalam, an educator, is also the first Maya Indian to become a Governor General and her appointment was in the works, ever since Sir Colville demitted office at the end of April.
Prime Minister John Briceño said at the official ceremony at the refurbished House of Culture that T’zalam brings with her more than just 20 years of experience in the country’s rich Mayan history.
“She brings more than her masters in rural development and her anthropology degree,” Briceño said.
“She brings more than the total of her work as an academic, her scholarly publications and decades of experience as a community organiser – all of which makes her fully qualified for her new role.”
The ceremony was steeped in historical significance with the Acting Chief Justice Michelle Arana, a Garifuna woman, standing side by side with T’zalam as the oath of office was proclaimed.
In her inaugural address to the nation, T’zalam paid tribute to Sir Colville and his wife “for their unwavering commitment to Belize for nearly three decades of service”.
“I want to thank the Prime Minister John Briceño and his Cabinet for their trust in me to serve in this high office,” she said.
“I also want to thank the many Belizeans who have expressed their delight and support over social media and personal notes to my appointment.”
T’zalam told the country that with her new platform, she intends to be a champion not only for the Mayan people, but for all citizens of Belize.
“Although we were not financially wealthy, we had our values,” she said. “My parents did not raise us to see ourselves as poor.
“We had food and shelter. I was surrounded by family with lots of rooms to run around, as well as chores to teach me how to be responsible.”
She said: “These chores imbibed in me an appreciation for the benefits of hard work. While the installation of a Mopan woman as a Governor General can be seen as a symbolic milestone, it should not be seen as wilfully ignoring our colonial past.
“Rather, it is a new chapter in Belize’s evolution as a country for all and by all.”
The new Governor General said she intends to carry out the constitutional role of her office with the required diligence.
“It is also my hope that time will permit me to carry out more than my constitutional duties,” she said.
“This is an institution with its own culture, however, like all institutions, it is inhabited by people. Since my appointment was announced, I have had many requests made of me. From building bridges and roads to amplifying the voices of the people.
“I intend to fully build metaphorical bridges in this country, uniting all of us in the rural areas and the towns. I will use my interest in strengthening local communities to build a nation that can overcome challenges.”