Abuse of indigenous women increasing - La Rose
Stabroek News
August 18, 2002

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There is an increase in abuse against indigenous women and very often the police do not prosecute the perpetrators, says Programme Administrator of the Amerindian People's Association (APA), Jean La Rose. This disclosure came at a press conference yesterday morning at the Ocean View International Hotel, which brought the curtains down on a three-day National Amerindian Women's Conference, which was aimed at finding ways of empowering the indigenous women of Guyana. The theme was `Empowering Indigenous Women - The Way Forward'. According to La Rose, in many cases of abuse, there is a lack of accessibility to legal advice and counselling. She said very often, the offences are committed by miners and the police are unwilling to prosecute, either because they are friends with the accused, or are getting "drawbacks." "We found out that there has been an increase [in cases of abuse] but we also found out that there has been an increase in certain activities in the communities, for example, mining.

Where mining activities are taking place, there is a lot of [selling] of rum, drugs. So you find that not only the elders, but the younger persons are using alcohol and drugs and then there is physical violence, sexual abuse," she told reporters. After three days of panel presentations and discussions, the general consensus was that women need to be educated and form support groups to help each other in order to overcome the various issues affecting indigenous women. Some of the other concerns raised were the basic rights Amerindian women should enjoy, in terms of health, economic opportunities, education and empowerment. The government is being called upon to boost health care in outlying areas. La Rose said very often, there are no proper health facilities, personnel or adequate prescriptive drugs. The delegations, drawn from six of the ten administrative regions of Guyana, Four, Five, Six and Ten not included, also examined why indigenous women were not in leadership positions. Very often, they pointed out, women are involved in a myriad of community activities but not very many of them hold the post of village captain. Some other recommendations put forward were: the need for educating women about their rights, especially those pertaining to owning land; the need to train Amerindian women in areas of management and accounting; and a need for markets for products coming out of the various communities. The opening of the conference attracted various speakers including Merle Mendonca of the Guyana Human Rights Association, who dealt with the norms, legislation and conventions pertaining to the rights of women, both locally and internationally; and Yvonne Fredericks, APA Vice President and captain of Mainstay/Whyaka, who together with Norma Thomas presented on land rights and mining for indigenous women. On Friday, issues of abuse, HIV and AIDS alcoholism and violence against women were dealt with by Vidyratha Kissoon of Help and Shelter and Thomas; while attorney-at-law Anande Trotman looked at the Guyanese law affecting Amerindian and other women. Women's activist, Karen DeSouza presented on the economic opportunities and alternatives.