Welcome 2003
By Gayle Gonsalves
Guyana Chronicle
January 5, 2003

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NEW Year’s Day marks the end of the Christmas festivities for some people. The gaiety ends and we return to our day to day routine. The mundane task of housekeeping and work contrasts sharply to our colourful Yuletide celebrations.

January 1st signals the infamous New Year’s Resolution to accomplish some goal or break a habit. The question most often heard during this time period is: `What’s your New Year’s Resolution?’ Oft times, the responses are to lose weight, stop smoking, exercise more and make more money. When asked this year about my resolution, I have openly acknowledged that I’ve stopped making resolutions because I always break them.

Over the years I’ve set aside a time for inner inspection prior to the New Year. At some point leading up to the calendar change, I find time to escape to my inner sanctum and review the year - my actions and responses to the events.

As a woman, I’ve found that my inner self always seeks nourishment and I give my soul a chance to rejuvenate. In this place, I make my peace with God, the world and my place in that world. Over the years, I’ve acknowledged this time always makes me recognise the power of my sex and the roadmap that is needed to allow the power and strength of my sex to rise above the socialised perception. I am tired of the phrases such as, ‘second sex’, ‘inferior sex’, ‘weaker sex’, ‘ho’, bitch’, and the millions of other permutations that give birth to the inferiority that we face on a day to day basis. These terms need to be eliminated as they are nothing more than negative statements against us as a group. All minorities hate these prejudicial terms that are used to further debase their character. As women, we must also discard those terms.

Around the world, women have begun to recognise their rights and take stands to ensure their voices are heard and we ascend to our rightful place in society. We know that we are more than women who can give birth and cook but thinking, feeling individuals who can contribute to the world.

The Caribbean is a matriarchal society with an economic system that was created by a colonial past. At the end of this chapter in our history, power was passed onto the men of the region. Some of these men did not honour their birthright or country as some heads of states in the Diaspora abused the power that had been vested in them. Their self-centred desire for power further corrupted our societies and gender related issues never came to the forefront.

Welcome 2003. It is time that our needs are addressed. The year is new and we as a group need to assert our power. We can do this by creating a plan, one similar to the five- and ten-year economic plan that a country creates to attain economic goals. Here are some issues that can be easily addressed in a five-year plan and have long-term positive impact on the society.

1) Lower the incidence of Teenage Pregnancy: One of the goals of the five-year plan would be to lower the incidence of pregnancy amongst unwed teenage girls. We are all aware that young women who become pregnant so early are unable to reach their full potential and support their offspring. Many are forced to leave school and this leads to a negative cycle. We need to ensure that young women are taught the importance of birth control to stop unwanted pregnancies and also to educate them that there is nothing romantic in teenage pregnancy.

2) Create a supplementary education system to aid women who did not finish school due to pregnancy or familial problems. This will enable them to learn a skill and have an opportunity for a better life for themselves and offspring.

3) Educate the police force that domestic violence is a crime and not a family issue. People are arrested for disorderly conduct in the streets but when a man strikes a woman, the law turns its head. This is not the case. Women make up half the population of the country and our rights must be ensured as much as any other citizen.

4) Reform the system to ensure that men take their full financial responsibility for their offspring. The legal system is too lenient on this issue and men tend to ignore their responsibilities. Women must also be educated on their rights in this issue so that they are not short-changed by the system.

The Caribbean is plagued by inequity of the male/female that is often ignored because of the economic and political problems of the region. However, economic and political problems do not happen in isolation. They are created not only by bad policies but can be further aggravated by the social problems of the country. For us to reach our full potential, not just as a people but as a region, the roles of its citizens must evolve to allow both the male and female to be responsible citizens willing to be partners to their mate and responsible parents to their children. Creating a plan to eradicate some of the social ills of our society will enlighten a further sector of the populace and allow our societies to become more productive.

Welcome 2003! I look forward to the challenges and ask each of you to think of five to ten-year plans. Perhaps one day there will be an opportunity for us to create a forum to achieve realistic but lasting goals that will build a better society.

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