Women Miners’ Mahdia visit stirs hope, controversy
The Guyana Women Miners Association, which is expanding opportunities for women and alleviating the stigma of prostitution in the mining sector, is blowing a fresh wind of hope for those of their gender while upsetting some men.
They stirred up hope and controversy Saturday during a trip to Mahdia.
Even before reaching their destination, some men who observed the logo, “Expanding Opportunities for Women Miners”, on the women’s jerseys, openly rejected the organization, deeming it as a weapon for women to “fight back”.
The two members, President of the body Simone Broomes and Donna Charles, who were traveling to meet their counterparts in Mahdia on Saturday as part of their sensitization campaign, addressed the situation tactfully and firmly demanded the respect women deserve.
The men argued that the “bush” is no place for women and emphasized that the 1970s, was better with women staying at home with their children around the flambeau.
They laughed that women want equality.
In retorting, Broomes related that the organization is not against men but seeks to empower women, making them better partners in the “gold bush” and at home. She stated that society has changed since the 1970s with more women becoming breadwinners, forcing them to venture into the mining industry, even as cooks or dredge owners.
Broomes added that women are already equal and stressed that the organization seeks to have their rights implemented.
The men’s behaviour towards the organization made way for the meeting in Mahdia which attracted a large gathering. Many women and some men revealed instances of females being exploited in every possible way in the industry.
As Broomes unveiled the organization’s visions, including the expansion of opportunities for women miners; lobbying for the provision of better working conditions for female employees; and equipping commercial sex workers with skills to be gainfully employed in the sector, some women whispered “finally Mahdia rescued.”
The women stressed that for many years they were waiting for an organization to represent them since they are marginalized and treated as lesser beings.
Some female shop owners stressed that no woman should be judged since everyone has to earn a living, but the stigma that every woman who operates in the interior is a prostitute must be erased.
Several women related that they often venture to the backdam to work as cooks or shopkeepers but after several months they are either fired on false claims that they stole money or goods and or they are sent packing without any payment.
The women added that sometimes their colleagues try to have sex with them and when they refuse they are abused and sometimes fired by their bosses.