The Time is Now (Part 1)

first_imgDear Editor,This year’s International Women’s Day theme, “Time is now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives” could not be more apt as women’s activism globally is on the increase in sharp contrast to a slowing down on the advancement of the women’s agenda. This slowing down or reversal is no more telling than here in Guyana.After decades of activism, especially sustained by rural and working women for their right to vote, to work, equal access to health and education, to end discrimination against women and to end domestic and sexual violence, and to hold political office, we are witnessing our proud achievements as Guyanese women being rapidly undermined and reversed by the APNU/AFC Government.The World Economic Forum 2017 Global Gender Gap Report concluded that:“On current trends, the overall global gender gap can be closed in exactly 100 years across the 106 countries covered since the inception of the Report, compared to 83 years last year. The most challenging gender gaps remain in the economic and health spheres. Given the continued widening of the economic gender gap, it will now not be closed for another 217 years. However, the education–specific gender gap could be reduced to parity within the next 13 years. The political dimension currently holds the widest gender gap and is also the one exhibiting the most progress, despite a slowdown in progress this year. It could be closed within 99 years. The health gender gap is larger than it stood in 2006.”Guyana, which was reported on for several years in the Global Gender Gap reports, was ranked number 66 of 145 countries in the 2015 Global Gender Gap Report with a ranking of 1 for both Educational Attainment and Health and Survival, and 37 for Political Empowerment and 124 for Economic Participation, its weakest area. Guyana, however, strangely is no longer included in the reports of 2016 and 2017.Of note is that of 125 achievements advertised by the APNU/AFC coalition Government for its second anniversary, not one related to the status of women, youth or children in our society. These omissions are most significant.Despite the fact that the  APNU/AFC coalition Government inherited a healthy economy and an emerging middle-income, democratic nation,  we, in Guyana, have witnessed the regression in the economic participation and empowerment of women, and lack of concern of the APNU/AFC Government with its retrograde measures such as the practical abolition of the “Women of Worth” programme, and the “Single Parents Assistance Facility and the abolition of the “Cash Care Programme” for all children in school, the introduction of VAT on essential items and services that were designed to help the poor and vulnerable, and the noticeable reduction of women’s presence and role in the political and public spheres.After two years of the APNU/AFC Government, the emerging trend in Guyana is clear, the Government is reversing the democratic gains, bit by bit, methodically; the decline in all sectors of the economy, increased poverty and hardships with 200 new taxes, reversals of the social programmes, including property rights through the housing programme, reversals of social safety nets for children and elderly, and of course, witch-hunting of political opponents to the Government.Since the APNU/AFC Coalition took office, we are witnessing at an alarming rate an open level of discrimination against women, most especially Indo-Guyanese and Amerindian women, particularly in the public sector. Pre-1992, Indo-Guyanese and Amerindian women held less than one per cent of the public service posts, now 26 years later, they have once again been reduced to a token presence.The composition of Government and State Boards in 2015, 2016 and 2017 has been overwhelmingly male-dominated, and, visibly dominated by one ethnic group. This reduction of women’s participation in decision-making, workforce and in the economy is telling and an indictment of the Government.This discriminatory trend is not only focused on women in high and senior positions, but women also at the lower levels of the public service. Women who were in clerical and lower technical areas have been terminated as “suspect PPP supporters” because of their ethnicity or alleged political affiliation.The State-owned sugar industry is the largest single employer in the Public Sector. The closure of Wales Sugar Estate in December 2016 led to 1700 workers losing their jobs of which 300 were female (field and administration). With the closure of three more estates in December 2017, another 5000 workers have lost their jobs with more pending; of these, 2000 are females. Women in the sugar sector have become mere “collateral damage”.The multiplier effect of more than 2000 women in one sector losing their jobs coupled with their male counterparts is devastating at the individual, familial, community and national levels. In a small economy such as ours, their removal is irreparable, unless the Government takes corrective measures. Regrettably, the Government churns out a time-warped mantra of the 1970s of investing in making and selling plantain chips as an entrepreneurial opportunity! Surely, this cannot be the answer!Sincerely,Gail Teixeira, MP;Priya Manickchand,MP;Gillian Burton-Persaud,MP;Pauline Sukhai, MPlast_img