Jan 30, 2017 News
– GHRA report urges safeguards
The Guyana Human Rights Association has warned that unless conscious steps are taken to resist the effects of mining, the communal dimension of indigenous life will continue to be sacrificed at an accelerating rate.
According to the report entitled “The Impact of Mining on Amerindian Communities: Survival Strategies for Interior Communities in Guyana,” the threat of mining on Indigenous communities is significantly greater than when the GHRA would have first engaged with the problem years ago.
In a statement issued by the association, it said that indigenous communities are pressured to a much greater extent to be more ambitious, to improve their material lifestyle, and to provide their families with educational opportunities, all of which require access to a cash income, which only mining can currently provide.
To address the issue the association’s report suggests a range of specific actions to reinforce the communal dimension of life, which will both build capacity for a more autonomous direction of communities and combat the ill effects of mining.
Firstly, the development of community life plans would strengthen the community’s sense of itself and where it wants to be over the next decade. “Such a plan provides purpose and context for evaluating specific plans and proposals brought into the communities from external agencies. The planning exercise should involve the whole community in developing internal agreements with respect to issues such as community, governance, territorial boundaries, productive activity, infrastructure, education, language and health.”
Also, the GHRA recommended that support networks are needed to combat the fragmentation of community and family life by facilitating safe transfer of monies back to families, maintaining contact with children in educational institutions on the coast, and assisting Amerindians in trouble with the law.
It was recognised that a lot of work is needed to assist women in these communities. As a remedy, it was suggested by the human rights body that initiatives to support women in these communities to address absence of males from family life, trafficking of young women to mining areas and increased presence of miners, traders and other itinerant males in communities.
Further, actions to prepare Amerindians for life outside communities is said to be a good step forward, according to the GHRA. To implement this, it would need the development of technical training programmes in mining for Amerindians, training in cash management, and a help-line for girls and women who find themselves in abusive work situations.
Lastly, the association recommended national consultation over the future of Amerindians as a national rather than as a geographic community. “Opportunities must be created for communities to benefit from the skills and experience of the growing number of well-educated and successful coastal-based Amerindians living on the coast who maintain a lively interest in the welfare and future of their communities.”
The report published by the GHRA provides an insight into the social and economic impact of mining on interior communities. Recently, this newspaper had reported on the lure of gold and pervasive drug and alcohol use being blamed for the high levels of suicide, sexual harassment, and physical violence in Baramita.
The community had been ranked as one of the most affected communities by mining according to the GHRA. Sexual abuse, drug abuse and absenteeism were among some of the grave effects which the industry had brought on the community.
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