GINA Press Release
“I am convinced that women are far more empowered (today), because when I look at many young women these days, they have been aspiring towards attending university, to having a higher learning/education and even higher studies at the master level, and I think it is a great accomplishment, for all of us as women, because education is the key to success, and government over the years, has been giving priority to education, and we will continue to do that.”
Very poignant and fitting was this comment from Minister of Human Services and Social Security Jennifer Webster, who made some telling remarks, regarding the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic, in the lives of the women of Guyana. She echoed, in a very succinct manner, that the government of the day is far removed from partisanship of any sort. Her conviction was backed with solid examples of some of the workings of the PPP/C.
Dignity and status of women
“The PPP/C government has always been a government for all Guyanese.” She highlighted that its policies and programmes have always been structured around people, and those that have been implemented have far reaching effects throughout the country.
This declaration was used to debunk some critics, as they had accused the PPP/C of being partial in the implementation of its policies and programmes. Minister Webster alluded to the fact that if gender issues (alone) were to be considered, then the PPP/C would score very high.
The minister showed that where women issues are concerned, Guyanese females have made great strides in this country. She cited the National Assembly, where the proportion of women in parliament, amounts to 32% and “that has been a significant increase from 1992, when Guyana had about 18.5% of female parliamentarians in a House of 65 seats.” The minister recalled that because of this investment in women capital, Guyana was recently ranked 29th in the world, and in the Caribbean, the only other country that is ahead is Grenada, that is, in terms of percentage composition in the House.
According to her, since, for a long time, women’s issues were hardly in the forefront, this kind of thinking from the PPP/C shows how much the party values women empowerment as it is from this base other things can fall into place. She added that over the past five years, there have been a number of programmes, coming on stream, where women, from all walks of life, have benefitted.
Women of Worth (WoW)
Minister Webster explained that the “Women of Worth” programmes have been moving along very well, and that there are some very good success stories about the WoW, which was launched in 2010. She noted that the ministry is looking at expanding the micro credit facilities available to women in Guyana, and “we have been having discussions with the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industries Ltd. (GBTI) and have found that there have been 2nd, 3rd and 4th time borrowers, who have actually grown above the category of the maximum loans … they have graduated.”
The minister referred to a client, Petrina Chandro who took a loan to start a day-care facility, and today that facility has grown, as she now has staff members and more children in her care.
The point then is quite clear; it is that women, under the PPP/C, are now being given a chance to become entrepreneurs, and so empower themselves. In fact, Ms. Webster emphasised that because of the support and inspiration from the PPP/C, there are many women in agriculture, who have applied for loans, through the WoW programme, and these are making a difference, in an area that men normally dominate.
She opined that “one of the biggest success stories of the Women of Worth is that its programmes have given women opportunities to empower themselves, by doing something that they like, and at the same time, it has enable them financially, to be able to earn, and at the same time to expand businesses in many ways.”
Minister Webster highlighted that a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) group did a documentary on this programme and the members had interviews with her and many of these women. She thinks that Guyana must be applauded for this kind of positive attention, via the initiative and vision to change the lives women, especially those women in rural communities.
The spin-off of something like this is that some good work is being done in an important area. Currently, Guyana’s socio-economic landscape is rapidly changing, and there is the dire need to look after very young pre-school children. The minister pointed out that the formative period of every child’s life is important so “We are working with all the care givers and facilities, throughout Guyana, to licence those facilities, to ensure they meet the minimum standard for caring for children, while their mothers are at work.”
She went on to say that the PPP/C government is supporting the expansion of these services in the 10 administrative regions, because of the fact that many mothers are single parents, and by going in this direction, more support and continuing empowerment will redound towards them. The minister observed that many women, who were once timid, are now coming forward in other areas.
Lots of single women through the Board of Industrial Training (BIT) have gone on their own and started small businesses in cosmetology, hair dressing, garment making, and poultry rearing, after completing training.
Further training is provided by the Women’s Affairs Bureau (WAB) which falls under the purview of the Human Services Ministry.
The minister touched on some areas where women have benefited immensely. She detailed that many women today own their homes and, “I think coming from a period of time, in our country, maybe 20 years ago, many of them could not aspire to own their own homes, and it is through our government’s policies that they are now the owners of their own homes.”
This again, the minister pointed out, is due specifically to the fact that policies and programmes, developed by the PPP/C government, are geared towards removing gaps and stereotypes, as traditionally, women were seen as mere adjuncts within most spheres of a community. The fact that a woman can own a home means that she is not an the mercy of male domination, and “she can enjoy the opportunity to learn to use the computer, as there are many training programmes available online today for women to learn many things, trade, garment construction, and web designing (so) many women today in Guyana can stay at home and work and do designs and graphics, from the computer from the confines of their own homes.”
For the minister, this means that Guyanese women today have more hope than ever before.
Minister Webster addressed the very sensitive area of domestic abuse in Guyana. She said that through the Women’s Affairs Bureau, the ministry has been working in communities with women and counselling them, and “we have been able to help some of those women, who are victims, to gain employment to support themselves.” She explained that the association refers some for training, helps many acquire house lots (this in collaboration with Housing Ministry), partners with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to provide counselling and guidance, and follow up.” This, she said, clearly shows that the ministry has been efficaciously working with women on the ground, in communities to help them to overcome their challenges. For her too, at the higher level, this means that Guyana is a true democracy and that women today feel more confident, when they have to speak about what are their concerns.