Economic empowerment of women must be addressed
--says Shadick in message for International Women’s Day
Guyana Chronicle
March 9, 2002

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WOMEN have made significant progress after centuries of oppression, but a great deal of work is still to be planned and implemented in order to address other key issues of concern to women regionally and internationally. This is the view of Minister within the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security, Ms Bibi Safora Shadick.

In her message to mark International Women’s Day, which was observed yesterday, Minister Shadick noted that one of the issues to be addressed is the economic empowerment of women.

She said that during this year, there will be a greater focus by the Government agency, the Women and Gender Affairs Bureau to put in place policies and programmes related to increased and improved employment for women, and for the reduction of poverty.

“Women’s low participation in the workforce, their substantial participation in unwaged work, in the informal sector and in low-paying occupations are a few of the significant factors which continue to keep women poor,” she stated.

The Minister said in this context, the recommendations of the National Development Strategy and the Poverty Reduction Strategy will inform the work of the Women and Gender Affairs Bureau.

“The aim will be to move forward in a more focused way towards achieving our goal of gender equality in employment - moving to higher levels of economic empowerment which will contribute substantially to sustainable development in our nation state - a condition we sorely need,” she said.

According to Shadick, the Women and Gender Affairs Bureau will naturally continue to strengthen its involvement in other important and relevant areas such as health, education and legal affairs.

Shadick noted that in these early years of the new century, there will be renewed and continuing energy and commitment to achieve real progress in the situation and condition of the female population residing throughout Guyana in rural, urban and interior areas.

For many centuries, she pointed out, the traditional concept of a woman is that she was docile, weak and incapable of thought. Around the globe, women had little or no rights and were considered chattels. Their future was determined by the male figures in their lives, that is, either their husband or their father, and their life’s purpose was defined through marriage and children.

She said significant gains have been achieved in the latter half of the last century. Laws have been enacted, more girls and women are accessing education at all levels of the system, and more women are moving into more senior and managerial levels in the work place.

“But even as we acknowledge this progress, we realise that a great deal of work is still to be planned and implemented to address other key issues of concern to women both in Guyana as well as regionally and internationally,” Shadick stated.

“Especially this year, we, as women, express solidarity with our sisters world-wide in the call made by the women in Ireland for establishing a climate in this millennium in which women’s work and women’s lives are valued. We also support the international call for gender equality in decision-making at all levels of the national development process,” she said.

The Minister recalled that in 1981, the Government of Guyana ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and noted that an occasion like International Women’s Day provides an opportunity for reflection and assessment of women’s situation at the national level.

The principle of non-discrimination, she said, is the core tenet of the women’s movement, and as such, it devolves on women the responsibility of promoting and ensuring that the goals of the movement are achieved.

“Programmes to promote equity in access to education, to employment, to affordable health care, to economic resources and legal services for all disadvantaged groups in society are critical for stability in our country. In marking International Women’s Day this year, it is my hope that Guyanese women will be faithful to this vision and unswerving in their dedication to realise it.

“Today we conceived as a day of respite from labour in the harsh conditions of the workplace in Eastern Europe. It is now proclaimed by the United Nations and marked by countries worldwide. In that spirit, I extend every good wish to all the women of Guyana, as we work together to establish a just and humane society,” Shadick concluded.