On the role of the Women’s Affairs Bureau
By Hymawattie Lagan
Administrator (ag), Women’s Affairs Bureau
Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security
Guyana Chronicle
May 20, 2003

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TWENTY-two years ago, the Government of Guyana established a Bureau of Women’s Affairs in response to the urgings of the United Nations that each of its State Parties should embark on relevant national programmes to address the issue of discrimination against women.

The goals of the United Nations decade were Education, Development and Peace. The sub-themes were Education, Health and Employment. The goals and the sub-themes are very closely inter-related and are as relevant today as they were in 1976, at the beginning of the decade. What this means is that changes related to a nation’s social, economic, cultural and political situation are not as easily or quickly affected.

Policies, mechanisms and measures to realise the desired goals have changed across the decades, resulting in reasonably satisfactory level of change. In Guyana, a national policy was approved in 1996, which saw the appointment of a National Commission on Women by the Executive President and an Inter-Ministry Committee to advise and support the Ministry and the Bureau in policy and technical matters respectively.

Further, the introduction of the regional system of administration, the regional women’s affairs committees are also tasked with responsibility for women’s programmes and projects. The community of Non-Governmental Women’s Organisations in Guyana is also an important feature in the national system and this network of mechanisms can indeed be described as the national machinery in Guyana.

Let me now turn to a very important policy direction, which was mooted a little over a decade ago, and that is the change from women to gender, which is currently gaining momentum in Guyana. Much confusion has been caused by this change, which is by no means obligatory, but if accepted, must be clearly understood and interpreted within the context of the women’s movement promoting a clear understanding of gender. The implications of its adoption in terms of structures and operational procedures will be a key focus in this year’s programme of the Women’s Affairs Bureau. Other key areas will be gender mainstreaming across sectors, effecting closer programme linkages with the non-governmental women’s organisation community to strengthen the network; promoting economic empowerment for women; giving stronger support to rural and indigenous women through outreach programmes.

From the Bureau, we hope through our efforts to ease some of the problems and burdens currently being experienced by women and girls in Guyana. There is recognition of the fact that males are also experiencing problems. Hopefully in our on-going work we can establish an environment in which our several gender needs can be met for a greater measure of well-being.

In my view, a more genuine effort is required for more collaboration by other agencies, NGOs, private sector and governmental organisations.

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