Aug 29, 2015 News
By Desilon Daniels
The University of Guyana yesterday launched its Institute for Gender Studies with the aim of educating Guyanese on the equality between men and women in the nation while fostering national development.
“The differences in our genders should be celebrated and used in the development of the nation,” Vice Chancellor of UG, Jacob Opadeyi said.
According to Opadeyi, yesterday’s launch was the fruition of a year of hard work. He explained that sometime last year he was approached by the Gender Equality Commission with the idea of launching a gender studies institute. He immediately acquiesced and later collaborated with the Ministry of Social Protection for the institute’s realisation.
“Gender studies matters; it improves our understanding of the world around us. It teaches us how to be equitable in our management of our issues,” Opadeyi stressed.
He further emphasised that being of a specific gender does not change one’s propensity to be an effective and contributing member of society, and said that the system must look at everyone within it no differently.
Additionally, Opadeyi shared that in preparation for the launch, he reached out to persons who would have been on the Gender Studies programme at the University of the West Indies. The support, he said, was overwhelming. He also received support from at least two North American universities, including York University in Canada.
In fact, a UWI official and also a York University official were present for the launch. Some aspects of the international and regional universities programmes will be included in the new local institute.
“I did everything within my authority to ensure that UG will stand tall amongst other universities in the world,” Opadeyi said. He also expressed hope that within a year or two the study of at least one gender studies course will be mandated for all UG students.
Opadeyi indicated big plans for the institute, particularly for the studying mothers who will attend the institute. He shared that day care facilities will be a possibility so that mothers can focus on their work without worrying about their children.
“Being a mother does not mean your brain is gone; you can still study,” he emphasised.
According to the Head of the Department of Sociology, Dionne Frank, the launch of the institute was an attempt to transform the gender landscape within the university community and nation. Further, she explained at length that the institute provided UG with the opportunity to live up to its mandate of imparting knowledge.
“Of importance is that today’s launch delegates the functional commitment of the University of Guyana to take certain steps to address the wide range of social problems which constantly affected women and girls, men and boys,” Frank said. Moreover, the launch recognises the university’s efforts to solidify its medium for the creation of knowledge and allow stakeholders to play a participatory role in building Guyana, she said.
However, the focus is not only on the women but also the men, and it was emphasised that the institute will not be a place for “men bashing” but rather an institute of unity and equality.
Additionally, Frank deemed the launch “timely” since it coincided with global post-2015 development agenda. One of the goals is the achievement of gender equality.
Amongst other objectives, UG will strive towards incorporating undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in gender.
“Commencing today, The Gender Institute will be on a mission to build on the existing strengths of the university and its partners to serve as a nucleus for multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary teachings, research, dialogue and local and international issues of women and gender,” she said. “There is no doubt that the Institute of Gender Studies will be a tremendous benefit, both nationally and transnationally.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Social Protection Volda Lawrence was particularly excited over the new institute.
“The struggle has been long, but today we are here!” Lawrence said to thunderous applause during yesterday’s launch.
“For too long our women have been struggling like our men, who never recognise that we walk with them and not behind them,” she added.
During remarks, Lawrence expressed “great pleasure” at being involved in the launching of the institute. She stressed that it was an extremely important beginning and came at a time when Guyana is working towards developing a national gender policy. She emphasised that a gender policy was a way of “putting democracy into practice”. She added that legislation to enforce the policy will also be a necessity.
“There is a role for academia in national development efforts,” she emphasised. “Unfortunately, in our dear land, this has not been so. But today the yoke is broken!” She went on to say that the gender studies unit must rise to the difficult challenge facing Guyana with regards to gender inequality.
“I want to see the Gender Service Unit as a strong and dynamic entity, because we are all involved in this. I am speaking of a new beginning for us all,” Lawrence said.
She further implored the head of the unit that the passion showcased at yesterday’s forum spills over into the future.
“It must not just become another unit,” she stressed. “We have arrived at the tape and we can cross the finish line, but I just ask that we cross it together.”
During yesterday’s forum, Opadeyi was also presented with two posters decrying sexual violence and sexual harassment as a way to “get the ball rolling”.
Opadeyi was also tasked with signing a partnership agreement with UWI which will see the regional institution aiding Guyana as it goes forward with this latest project.
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