Building on women's achievements

Guyana Chronicle
March 10, 2001

ONE of the more commendable initiatives reported from the International Women's Day observances Thursday was the announcement that 10 community counselling centres are soon to be established around the country.

This is 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.

Women, for example, continue to face a host of challenges in the workplace, at home and in the wider society and avenues should be available to offer help when needed.

In many places, women dominate the workforce but they continue to be subject to harassment and violence from men who see them only as sex objects to prey on.

It is sometimes difficult for them to deal with these situations in the right way and the ministry and related agencies should be establishing mechanisms to address these concerns.

Much has been achieved towards improvement in women's rights but there is a lot to be done, especially at the community and domestic level.

Under the counselling centres plan the minister outlined, 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.

These are initiatives in which all sectors of society should be involved because they eventually affect everybody.

Mrs Chandarpal referred to some critical points that have been identified on issues that sometimes are often talked much about but on which little is sometimes done.

It is clear that the ministry has put in much work on its programme and that the groundwork is laid for advances on women's issues.

"...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.

The rules for these elections required parties to have their lists of candidates be comprised one-third women and this is an advance that has to be built upon.

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.

Much has been done, but no one can afford to relax at this stage and the momentum has to be kept up.