The University of Guyana’s Student Society was established in 1973. Since then, the society has held elections every year to select a new President for the management of its proceedings. Dauntingly, only two women had ever been elected to serve as president of this student body.
That is, until October 1, when Devta Ramroop became only the third woman president of the prestigious university’s student society.
At 24, Devta Ramroop is in her final year of reading for her Biology degree. She intends to study until she acquires a PhD in marine biology. As a previous teacher of Biology to students at Queen’s College, her passion for teaching is strong, and she hopes to return to that profession some day. Ramroop also aspires to be instrumental in the discovery and protection of Guyana’s diverse array of marine fauna. She hopes to work as a conservationist on projects with the Protected Areas Commission and Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development.
Ramroop has done a great deal for the University, even before her presidency. Before being elected, Ramroop held multiple important portfolios within the society’s administration. She has been the Natural Sciences faculty representative and the Secretary of the Council. Her responsibilities included coordinating events like Interfaculty Sports, attending Faculty Board Meetings, and communicating with the administration on behalf of the Student Society.
Many persons attending the university would say that studying there is enough to fill their plate. However, while she juggles a plethora of school related responsibilities with her studies, Ramroop works at a boutique at the Giftland Mall and helps her mom to sell goods in the market on the weekends.
“I still find time to volunteer and take part in other youth related events,” she said. Ramroop takes part in UG’s Biology Club activities, clean-up campaigns, and even participated in recently concluded Youth Parliament activities. She had served as Minister of Public Telecommunications and was charged with proposing a media monitoring unit within the government.
One would wonder why such a busy individual would choose to run for Student Society president. Ramroop told Kaieteur News that running for president wasn’t part of her plan. She had intended to rerun for the position of Faculty Representative for Natural Sciences. However, as she prepared her documents and campaign for the elections, other students urged her to run for President. She had refused at first because she didn’t think that she would win, but she explained that the hope they placed in her was inspiring. So she started off getting signatures and endorsements for her campaign, and submitted her application an hour before the deadline.
On October 1, it was revealed that Ramroop won the election by a wide margin of 181 votes of the 575 students who voted. It was a surprising revelation for Ramroop. After all, only two other women had assumed the presidency in 44 years, the last of which was 16 years ago. Sexism has a lot to do with it, Ramroop posited. She explained that women have run for the presidency time and time again, but just weren’t given the chance to serve. Even while deliberating on the decision to run, she was worried that the constituents would prefer a man over a woman. Fighting back at this insecurity, one of Ramroop’s campaign slogans was “Let the woman set the house straight.” Quite a few men, she said, were offended by it, so much so that she was advised to take it down out of fear of losing out on men’s votes. Nevertheless, she won because her constituents knew who she was.
“People know that I am who I say I am.”
Her victory, she said, means a lot for women at the university. She recalled campaigning at the Tain campus in Berbice, and watching the female students cheer her on. Being a female leader is empowering, she explains. Referring to these women, Ramroop said: “they must believe we are capable and just as good as men.”
For her year as President, Ramroop intends to focus heavily on the improvement of the university’s administration, which many have complained functions poorly.
“I can’t fix that overnight. To better student life, we need lecturers to come to class, and if they come, it must be on time. UG needs to treat its students like paying customers,” she added, alluding to the hefty tuition fees that the students pay.
“We need better facilities, classroom and sporting facilities.”
Ramroop has confidence that she is capable of doing her job as well as anyone can, and that gender should not have bearing on how someone’s capabilities are judged.
“Don’t get me wrong. Men are great, but so are women,” she elucidated.
To all women growing up in a society that attempts to place them at a disadvantage, Ramroop says “You are good enough. Your gender does not make you weak. Be role models to your children. Most importantly, perseverance is key. It doesn’t matter how fast you get there. It’s about the arrival, and the experiences you gain along the way.”
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