Oct 13, 2020 Editorial
Kaieteur News – A week ago, the First Lady of Guyana passed the final unofficial litmus test of her transition into her official role – she was forced to respond to attempts, made largely via social media, to use her name to engage in fraud. As a release from her office stated:
“It has again been brought to the attention of the Office of the First Lady that fake social media accounts are still attempting to transact business on behalf of HE, Arya Ali – First Lady of Guyana – with unsuspecting citizens. The Office wishes to reiterate that at no time will the First Lady or any of her staff attempt to transact government business, including but not limited to the sale of lands.”
This the sort of public notice that her immediate predecessor, First Lady Sandra Granger would not have been unaccustomed to, being the subject of several attempts at fraud, from phone card schemes to housing scams. This is the downside of the recent phenomenon of the visible and socially engaged First Lady of Guyana, one that started with former First Lady, Varshnie Jagdeo, and continued somewhat with First Lady Deolatchmie Ramotar.
To be fair, the Office of the First Lady is a primarily American concept, one no doubt created to fulfill the mythos of a functional and useful executive family. Within that dichotomy, which was to no small measure a reinforcement of the larger patriarchal structure, the First Lady’s public role was to speak to soft or social issues while her husband dealt with ‘real problems’ such as the economy, law and order, and war.
That said, there is the possibility of real impact coming out of the Office of the First Lady as we know it here in Guyana, particularly at a time when our supposedly soft issues are fast transitioning to hard issues of the future. The environment, for example, is becoming increasingly central to develop discussion as climate change poses a metastasizing existential threat to human existence, greater than any armed conflict in the past.
Against this stark reality, it was good to see First Lady, Mrs. Ali, within a month in office, becoming directly involved in a seawall cleanup effort, getting her hands – granted gloved for good sense safety measures – dirty along with a group of other young people. She has had a busy two months in office, throwing her support behind issues like breast cancer and mental health awareness, going beyond mere statements but using her office as a platform for young people to speak for themselves. One of the most commendable, and tangible, efforts so far was to have met with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to identify key areas for possible collaboration on the development of children and young people.
There is however no area that is going to be more critical to the First Lady’s platform than that of gender equity, a theme she touched on in her message in commemoration of International Day of the Girl Child two days ago. It was one that she spoke about three weeks ago after participating in a virtual conference organized by the Spouses of CARICOM Leaders Action Network:
“It is no secret that we live in a male-dominated world and as men continue to exercise power over women, this impacts every area of the latter’s lives. It is only fitting therefore that men become part of the solution to reduce gender inequality. We are therefore tasked with ensuring that we help to build responsible masculinities, and create protective spaces for women and other vulnerable groups. It was also disheartening to learn that gender inequality and violence have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. I therefore wish to make an urgent call for each of us, to play our part in ensuring that we create a society that places equal value on individuals regardless of their gender.”
Mrs. Ali is extremely young, likely the youngest first lady we’ve had, and with her also young husband just months into what may very well be ten years in office, she has a bully pulpit and unique leverage to not only influence the key policymaker in Guyana, but to build upon and considerably expand her own initiatives in this and other areas. All that and, of course, sending out messages in response to fraud schemes using her name.
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