Mar 09, 2016 News
– Challenges still abound, says Social Protection Minister
By Sharmain Grainger
“If it is wrong to sell ganja, I think it is more wrong to separate a mother from her
children.” This assertion was made by President David Granger as he delivered the feature address at an International Women’s Day (IWD) forum at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre yesterday.
The Ministry of Social Protection-spearheaded event was held under the theme “Planet 50:50 by 2030: Step it up for Gender Equality.”
President Granger during his task emphasized the important role of mothers in their children’s upbringing. Moreover, it was in order for them to take on their child-rearing responsibility that he decided to pardon 11 convicted mothers last December.
And according to him, he has every intention of repeating the action this year end.
“I have a serious problem separating a mother from her children because she was trafficking in a few joints of ganja,” the President asserted.
In his address, Mr. Granger also disclosed that for the past several days he has been engaged in discussions to address problems affecting the penal system, but added that “I think if the amount of time allocated to the Guyana Prison Services over the last 10 days was spent on women’s issues, we probably would have been further along the way to solving the problems facing women.”
“We can and we must achieve greater gender equality,” the Head of State stressed as he emphasized yesterday that “we need to have a conversation among ourselves about women’s equality…So many things are embedded in our upbringing in our minds that cannot be legislated, and I think this is one of the problems we face.”
But efforts are being made to address issues that face women.
And the President highlighted yesterday that Guyana, in mid-January, celebrated its 40th anniversary of the presentation of its State Paper on the Equality of Women to the National Assembly. The State Paper was presented on January 15, 1976. And according to Mr. Granger, this development occurred in Guyana merely a few weeks after the conclusion of the United Nations-designated International Women’s Year.
“The State Paper on Equality at that time broke barriers… (and) a lot has happened since then. I think we were something of a trendsetter and today I am happy to be associated with continuing the campaign we started 40 years ago.”
And the mission is poised to continue, announced the President, as he added “we pledge to work assiduously at the local, regional, national and international levels to achieve this objective over the next 14 years.”
But according to Social Protection Minister, Ms. Volda Lawrence, while significant inroads have been made – characterized by more women assuming leadership roles, undertaking entrepreneurial endeavours and featuring in decision-making positions – there are yet some glaring challenges.
She underscored that “women are still challenged by male chauvinism, discriminatory practices, sexual violence, abuse, human rights violations, denial of opportunities to work and be educated, non-recognition of our labour in the home, and disrespect by men among others”.
In order to achieve gender equality and end discrimination and violence, she stressed the need to ensure equal participation and opportunities in all spheres of life.
She however disclosed yesterday that “today marks a historical and significant day in our national and international calendars. Another eighth of March is here, and we have all congregated in this auspicious building for the express purpose of paying homage to women all over the world, but more particularly to the Women of Guyana, who over the last few years have heeded the call and have emerged from the closets to assume important decision-making positions and critical roles in our society”.
As suggested by the IWD theme, the Minister noted that the need for the promotion of Gender Equality has already been identified, and has in fact been listed as Goal number five in the Sustainable Development Goals that were drafted for the Caribbean. And according to her, “this call for renewed action implies therefore that our efforts have to be intensified”.
“Our respective Governments have made progress, but many more initiatives, policies and programmes need to be embraced and implemented to narrow the gap of gender inequality and realize new heights of social, cultural, economic and political cohesion and inclusion,” said the Social Protection Minister.
“Our respective Governments must pledge to make sound investments in Gender Parity through concrete and measurable strategies, activities and programmes that will dismantle some of the fundamental barriers that threaten our achievement of gender equality.
“We must commit to a future where women are equal, where individuals’ rights are not violated because of their sexual persuasions and orientations, where remuneration is fairly structured and access to resources is free of gender bias,” Lawrence added.
The high point of yesterday’s event was the handing over of awards to a total of 50 women and three groups. Awardees were drawn from all 10 administrative regions.
Speaking of the selection process, Head of the Social Protection Ministry’s Public Relations Department, Mr. Terrence Esseboom, said that the respective regional administrations and government ministries were encouraged to submit suitable nominees. A committee was also established to vet the list of those nominated to ensure they met the requisite criteria, after which a final list was compiled.
The event, which attracted a capacity audience in the main conference hall of the Convention Centre, was attended by First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Granger; Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and his wife Mrs. Sita Nagamootoo; Speaker of the House, Dr. Barton Scotland; Ministers of Government, members of the diplomatic corps, among others.
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