Community counselling centres to be set up soon

by Abigail Kippins
Guyana Chronicle
March 9, 2001

TEN community counselling centres are soon to be established around the country in an effort to have women confront and find suitable solutions for their challenges, Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Ms Indra Chandarpal said yesterday.

She said women, in particular, must know that people are available to listen and help them make meaningful recommendations for their future.

Personnel within the Neighbourhood Democratic Councils will be trained to perform these duties, she told reporters.

Using International Women's Day, which was observed yesterday, to reflect on women's development under the administration of the People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), Chandarpal, who is also General Secretary of the Women's Progressive Organisation, noted that over the years, women have been actively involved in government policies and have been making their presence felt even in non-governmental organisations and the society as a whole.

She said Guyana has every reason to celebrate because the proposed projects pertaining to the welfare of women have been implemented.

She recalled that when she became Minister, there was a bureau and a state paper on women as well as several pieces of enacted legislation with regards to amendments to laws pertaining to women.

She said she had to look at the manifesto of what the government said it would do for women and try to figure the way forward in the entire scenario.

"We decided that there was no policy for women and that some policy must be in place if we are to do something for women".

She said that together with the non-governmental organisations and after examining and planning strategies, they managed to come to an understanding of the issues of concern to women.

Stakeholders were involved in different kinds of consultations so that those in the ministry were up to date with the views, concerns and desires of women in society, she explained.

Referring to the government's five-year action plan for women, which incorporates issues raised at an international conference in Beijing, China, Chandarpal said the government was seeking to set up a Women's Leadership Institute and sought suggestions for its implementation and smooth running.

"...issues relating to poverty, women's participation in the economy, leadership making, violence against women, women in education and health, were all issues of the five year action plan, which is not only a vision paper", she said.

The minister said since everything mandated for 2000 has been executed, the ministry is now looking at new issues including the necessary skills training for women, moving away from the more traditional areas.

"We realise that training women in non-traditional areas was important..."

She said it was noted that there are many institutions of learning which would benefit women who were denied the opportunity to go to school.

Noting that these women have talents, she said hundreds of women participated in educational programmes implemented by the current government over the past years.

She said it was also decided that the institutes had to be taken to the other regions to facilitate other women.

She said that this year, the ministry wants to focus on women heading single parent households and it is expected that officials would go out into the communities to render assistance and try to build women's confidence.

The minister stressed that violence is still a problem in society despite the legislation under which men should be persecuted.

She noted that since people view the beating of women as a norm in society, much more has to be done to eradicate the problem, including the education of the public in relation to these issues.

She said last year, a committee working towards eradication of family violence, was created and funded by the Government of Guyana and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with the intention of educating the people, even students.

The government has also been looking at the establishment of a Family Court, which she said was already approved but for which legislation is yet to be passed in parliament.

Noting that it was the late President Cheddi Jagan's initiative to have one-third of the Members of Parliament being women, she said while it would be good to have more women involved, many may not be prepared for the heckling in Parliament.

She said it is not easy and many may be incapable of dealing with certain pressures in Parliament.

As such, the minister said they were trying to organise an association of women parliamentarians and had a discussion Wednesday which saw many positive proposals and the drafting of a directory of women parliamentarians.

"Information must always be made available and that is why we created the documentation centre because without information you would not be able to analyse progress made", she said.

Minister Chandarpal said a weekly talk show to highlight and deal with controversial issues pertaining to women, is also in the making, in addition to a mediation centre for suicidal cases.