|Sylvia Sarita Flores
Former Speaker of the House of Representatives of Belize
Sylvia Sarita Flores is a Belizean educator, politician and former Speaker of the Belzie House of Representatives. She was the first woman to be Speaker of the House of Representatives and to be acting Prime Minister of Belize.
Early life and education
The daughter of Evelyn Avila and Santos Flores, she was born in Dangriga and was raised by her stepfather Bernard Rhys. She taught Spanish in high school in Dangriga. She went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Political Science from Hunter College in New York City.
Flores returned to Belize and, in 1983, was named a justice of the peace. In 1988, Flores became the first woman mayor of Dangriga, serving two terms.
She served Speaker of the House of Representatives from 12 September 1998 to 1 July 2001 and was President of the Senate from 14 August 2001 to 4 February 2003.
In 2003, Flores was elected as representative for Dangriga; she was named Minister of Defence and National Emergency Management. As Defence Minister, she secured additional funding and support for the Belize Defence Force and partnered with the U.S. Embassy to strengthen national security and drug eradication.
In 2005, she was named Minister of Human Development and Women. As the Minister with primary responsibility for women’s rights, she made immense contributions in areas of women’s advancement and gender equality and was instrumental in revising the Domestic Violence Act, which assesses stiffer penalties for perpetrators of violence against women and girls.
After retiring from public service, she returned to Dangriga, and her first love - teaching. Mrs. Flores taught Spanish at the Stann Creek Ecumenical High School and Economics at the junior college for a total of twenty-six years. She also taught both Spanish and English for five consecutive years, for free, when the management of Delille Academy had no funds to pay teachers. Besides teaching, she also raised funds to enable girls to attend classes and meet the cost of books.
Honours and awards
In 2013, she was named Woman of the Year by the United States Embassy in Belize.