Gems sparkle at inaugural ‘Women of Distinction’ award ceremony By Linda Rutherford
Guyana Chronicle
March 31, 2002

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SIX prominent locals who, in the eyes of the judges, have distinguished themselves in their respective fields of endeavour over the years, were conferred the prestigious ‘Women of Distinction’ title at a gala inaugural presentation ceremony and dinner earlier this month at Le Meridien Pegasus.

The event, which was hosted by the local Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) under the patronage of Justice Desiree Bernard, saw citations being awarded in five of the 11 categories delineated by the organisation, namely: ‘Arts & Culture’; ‘’Business & Profession’; ‘Health’; Community & Public Service’; and ‘Education’.

In the field of ‘Arts & Culture’, which attracted three nominees, the odds weighed heavily in favour of veteran theatre personality, Gem Madhoo-Nascimento.

In the ‘Business & Profession’ category, Frandec’s Gem Eytle got the nod over fellow businesswoman, June Mendes of Farfan & Mendes, while in the field of ‘Health’, which also had three nominees, the award went to internist, Dr. Enid Denbow.

Community activists, Ms. Margery Kirkpatrick and Ms. Yetrawatee Katryan, were each cited for their sterling contribution to the area of ‘Community & Pubic Service’, while educator, Ms. Florine Dalgety copped the coveted title from a field of six in the discipline of ‘Education’.

The title of ‘Honourable Mention’ was bestowed upon Ms. Irma Lowe, the sole nominee in the field of ‘Science & Technology’.

As Chief Judge, Ms. Magda Pollard explained shortly before the winners were announced, that many of the nominees were found to be eligible, but were inadequately profiled by their nominators.

This notwithstanding, she said the selection team approached its task “with diligence and seriousness, ever conscious of the fact that we must present to you as winners, women who have devoted their particular talents in service to others, and have done so in a manner deserving the status of distinction.”

The decisions reached, she said, were made in accordance with the criteria established for each category by the YWCA, based upon the information submitted by the nominators.

In the area of ‘Arts & Culture’, for instance, the criterion was that the nominee should have made significant contribution to the development, preservation, patronage or performance in either the visual, literary or performing arts, thereby enriching the cultural life of Guyana and expanding the influence of women in the others.

In the ‘Business & Profession’ category, the objective was to give recognition “to a businesswoman, manager or professional whose achievement and innovative spirit have helped create new opportunities for women and encouraged them to become more involved in business or other professions.”

For &#x2018Health’, the nominee had to have made “outstanding contribution in the health sector either as a researcher, educator or medical practitioner, or someone who has promoted women’s health issues.”

In the field of ‘Community and Public Service’, selection was based on the significant contribution of the nominee “towards the alleviation of social inequities and strengthening the voluntary participation and leadership in the community, thereby having a positive impact on women in our community.”

In the field of ‘Education’, the idea was to recognise “the significant contribution

to teaching, research, or administration in the public education system, employee training and development, community education or alternative programmes.”

Where these specific criteria were not met, and in their collective judgment, the status of distinction was not achieved, Pollard said, no awards were made as was the case in five categories, namely: ‘Lifetime Achievement’; ‘Young Woman of Achievement’; ‘Sport & Well-being’; ‘Communications’; and ‘The Significant Contribution by a Mother’.

As a closing comment, she urged the YWCA and national organisations “to ensure as far as possible the nomination of more women, particularly those serving in our rural and hinterland areas.”

YWCA President, Ms. Dhanmattie Sahai, noted in her welcome address that though new to Guyana, the ‘Women of Distinction’ awards is a 75-year-old tradition observed by many member organisations the world over.

The decision to launch a similar programme here and to make it an annual event, she said, was taken last year. Nominations were invited in October and closed on Wednesday March 13 of this year.

Besides Pollard, the selection panel comprised Mr. Yesu Persaud; Mr. John Caesar; Dr. Jennifer Basdeo-Green; Ms. Leila Parris; Ms. Rose Cadogan and Ms. Elfrieda Bissember.

Among those at the reception were British High Commissioner, Mr. Edward Glover; Leader of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNC/R), Mr. Desmond Hoyte; the Reverend Faye Clarke, who, besides co-chairing the event, was also a hot contender for the ‘Community & Public Service’ title; and the Caribbean representative on the World YWCA Executive Council, Ms. LaFerne Cato of St Vincent and the Grenadines, who gave the feature address.

A YWCA member since the age of seven, she based her presentation on the history of the organisation, noting that it has a presence in over 100 countries worldwide, 13 of which comprise the Caribbean region.

An organisation that has always been about empowering women and girls, she said theirs is an illustrious history when one thinks of the spirit of the women who pioneered it all those years ago in Great Britain.

“They shared their time, their talents, personal resources and made great sacrifices for the good of the movement,” she said, adding, “this kind of philanthropy was unique 100 years ago when, at the turn of the century, the impact of the industrial revolution swept the world.”

At that time, she said, there were no governments offering social services, neither any relief organisation such as the Red Cross Society.

It was the religious organisations that volunteered to serve those in need and in that way, the YWCA became organised and formalised. For instance, she said, women leaving the countryside to go in search of factory jobs in the city were not only housed in hostels but also educated by the organisation, until eventually, they were able to land better jobs elsewhere.

This tradition, she says, continues to this day, where the YWCA not only offers housing facilities for working women, but also the protection of a safe haven for abused and battered women and their children.

It also continues to be the hallmark of educational programmes, whereby women are strengthened through the many leadership programmes offered throughout the Caribbean.

Among Caribbean stalwarts she paid tribute to were Guyanese May Rodrigues who served as General Secretary of the local faction for going on 40 years; Barbados’s Pearl Gibbons and Dame Nita Barrow; Grenada’s Phyllis Osborne; and Montserrat’s Dorothea Grenville.

Currently the Acting Director of Family Services in St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Ministry of Social Development, Gender, Family Affairs, Community Development and Ecclesiastic Affairs, she herself has served two terms as President of her country’s YWCA.

Educated at Mona, Cave Hill and Canada’s University of Nova Scotia, she lists amongst her hobbies meeting people, reading, creating new recipes, following fashion trends and having a good fete.