Using retirement to advance empowerment
- Lt Col Brenda Aaron fulfils second calling

by Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
March 9, 2000

Retired army officer, Lieutenant Colonel Brenda Aaron, has single-handedly begun a programme aimed at empowering women, to which the response has been so great, that she plans to take it to other communities.

Working out of her National Avenue, South Ruimveldt Park home, Aaron voluntarily works with four groups of 15 women each, for one and a half hours each week for 12 weeks.

In an interview with Stabroek News, Aaron, who was not quite prepared to go public about the programme, but conceded to do so, said that initially she had planned to work with groups of 12, but extended the number to 15, because of the interest shown. Her groups are a blend of housewives, the unemployed, working and professional women.

The women are drawn from the North Ruimveldt area, South Ruimveldt, West Ruimveldt, East La Penitence, Lodge, Kitty, Campbellville Plaisance, Beterverwagting and Mahaica. And Aaron now plans to take the programme to the village of her birth, Buxton, as well as to the Albouystown and Tiger Bay areas.

Aaron, who became the first female to hold the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Guyana Defence Force and armed forces among Caribbean Commonwealth countries, said that she works with small groups to facilitate interaction and enhance learning. Once women are better able to express themselves in smaller groups, Aaron said, she would be in a better position to assess their particular needs and work collectively in that setting to find solutions to the problems.

Asked what was the main focus of the programme, Aaron said that it was geared to develop confidence, enhance self-esteem and to help women improve goal-directedness. It is also aimed at helping women to deal with stress and problems encountered on a day-to-day basis. By the end of the programme, "women should be able to take their lives in their own hands and develop a more positive approach to life", she said. "I focus a lot on the importance the mind plays in determining one's experience in life. I try to get women to understand that whatever their goals are, they can be accomplished."

Asked how she started the project, Aaron said that it was a plan of hers since she retired in 1995, because she had recognised that many women were not realising their potential and lacked the confidence to assert themselves. However, it was only this year that she started the programme in Guyana.

Over the last three years she has been conducting a personal leadership and empowerment programme with a perinatal agency in Brooklyn, New York and also conducted a similar programme with the church, the Divine Centre of Truth to which she has been affiliated. The agency is headed by Guyanese Ngosi Moses and the church by Rev Joy Thomas another Guyanese. Both are influential persons in the Brooklyn community.

Aaron said that she blended her professional experience as a one-time military officer in a leadership position, with her spiritual experiences at the Raj Yoga Centre, in Georgetown, where she has done meditation. She has used these experiences to get women to know themselves better.

Aaron opined, based on her experience, that there can be no true empowerment without spirituality and unless one garners the inner strength and develops some personal power therein.

She said that from working with the groups she has discovered that there is in fact a need for women to be empowered. Many of them felt that the course was timely and was one that could help them to vent frustrations, relieve stress and generally build their confidence. Some of the women have expressed an interest in learning the art of meditation.

Stating that what she is doing is a small contribution to the empowerment of women, Aaron said that if everyone became involved the empowerment of women would begin to become a reality.