Sunday, April 29, 2007

Stella Says…The women of Guyana inspired me to keep writing

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 29 April 2007)

I need to admit that during the time that I took some time off from my column, I had considered not resuming my writings for Kaieteur News. It was not because of any bad feelings with anyone at the newspaper at all. I was just contemplating a move in a different direction.

If anything, my time away dragged on because I was feeling despondent concerning the situation of women in Guyana – an issue that is very close to my heart. I had a visitor from Guyana to my house over the Christmas holidays and after asking how she felt things were progressing for women, the response was quite discouraging.

When I first began writing for Kaieteur News, Freddie Kissoon said that he hoped I was in this for the long haul. His statement made me quite uncomfortable because I have never been one to stick with any job for very long thanks in large part to the same creative and punchy side of my personality that helped to land this position in the first place.

Freddie’s haunting encouragement motivated me on more than one occasion to continue with the column, even when I felt my usual itchings to steer my focus to something else. However, it was not Freddie who caused me to return from my sabbatical. On the contrary, it was the women of Guyana.

During the first quarter of this year, I have been so encouraged by the activism of the women that it sparked hope in me again. The were reports that certain women’s groups intended to hold the politicians accountable for their campaign promises made concerning women’s issues.

There were letters to the editors of the newspapers expressing outrage at the treatment of women by society and demands of action on the part of politicians to do something about the many murders and rapes of females.

Even, Priya Manickchand, Minister of Human Services and Social Security, had made some very impressive steps in stressing the importance of addressing women’s issues. Any time someone in the PPP does something besides make excuses for not doing anything, I am impressed. Prim and Proper Priya is making it a habit to impress me.

This obviously organised effort was so inspiring to me that I felt there was no way that I could not be there for the women of Guyana if they were going to fight so hard. After all, I am just a mere cheerleader on the sidelines. They are the ones in the trenches of the real battlefield.

Having said that, it now seems there has been somewhat of a lag in the efforts to keep women’s issues at the forefront of minds of public officials. Those in governmental offices have such short memories when it comes to important issues, which is why the women of Guyana cannot rest for any length of time until they have seen marked change in their situation.

The past weeks have seen more women killed and hospitalised at the hands of men who supposedly cared about them. The most horrifying attacks on two women have recently had plenty of exposure in the media, but where are the public outcries from the women’s groups and the demands for justice and retribution?

Perhaps there are concerted efforts happening and I am just unaware of them because I am so far away, but from what I have been able to read in the newspapers, there does indeed seem to be a deafening silence in the last few weeks from the women.

This is one time when silence is not golden. Though the patriarchal system has long taught us that the best type of woman is the one who holds her tongue, we only hurt ourselves by keeping silent while women continue to be treated with so little respect.

To their advantage, the women of Guyana do have the media on their side in this regard. This paper has long been an advocate of addressing women’s issues and Stabroek News seems to have caught the vision as well. Even the Guyana Chronicle recently impressed me when it highlighted the plight of those two women who were beaten near to death.

This is the perfect time for the women of Guyana to come together in a concerted effort to demand a change in the way society views and deals with domestic violence, rape and the sundry of other women’s issues.

It is time to demand progress from the politicians. It is time to demand justice from the judicial system. It is time to demand the expected protection from the police and supposed protectors of society. It is time to demand employers to treat women with the respect they deserve. It is time to demand that society understands the value of each and every woman in Guyana.

If I am wrong and the ladies of Guyana have not in fact taken a break from their efforts to make sure their voices are heard, then I apologise and heartily add my voice to the chorus.

However, if there has indeed been a lag in the labours that were just starting to make some headway, then consider this my attempt at inspiring the women of Guyana to keep on fighting in the same way they inspired me.

We cannot give up ladies, the price is too steep and the consequences too devastating. If you need any more proof, go visit those ladies who were brutalised and you will see what the future holds if the silence continues.

Email: StellaSays[at]

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Stella Says…Modern society is producing murderers

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 22 April 2007)

The shooting in Blacksburg, Virginia this past week was just too close to home for me. As many of you know, I lived in Virginia until last summer and my son still lives there. In fact, he lives just across the street from the Virginia Tech (VT) campus where he also works. The VT campus is where a gunman took the lives of 32 students and staff members and injured dozens more this past week.

My son does not attend VT, but his girlfriend does. Luckily, neither of them was on campus last Monday morning when a lone shooter chained the doors of the Science and Engineering building and went from classroom to classroom killing every person he could. One doctor said there was not one surviving patient who did not have at least three shot wounds – this young man meant to kill everybody.

On one of the many times I talked to my son this week, he told me the overall mood in Blacksburg is depression. I can definitely relate. A dark cloud of depression has hovered over me all week as I considered how close my own child was to this brutality and how I have three children who fall in the college-aged crowd.

In light of this incident and other such brutal attacks, like the one at the Kaieteur News printery last year, I cannot help but wonder about what can possibly happen to a person in life to create such killers. Or to put it more precisely, why are our young men turning into mass murderers?

Although I never allowed violent video games or music in my home, I know there is plenty of this offensive material out there. In fact, one story that is not being told by the media is that the VT shooter loved to play one of the more violent computer games produced by Microsoft.

The computer game in question, which I will not name because it does not deserve to be mentioned, allows the player to shoot the images of people with several different types of guns. There is no way that this mentally unstable young man did not pick up a thing or two from Microsoft’s computer “game.”

Recently, radio shock jock Don Imus was fired for his racist and sexist statements. Yet every day our children are exposed to music that is so full of hate that it would even make Imus’ statement seem mild. Is it any wonder that society is producing murderers?

The next course of action - after such a brutal attack on a college campus - is for the officials at VT (and all other universities) to find ways to protect the students from another such attack. However, anyone who has ever been on a college campus knows it is near to impossible to ensure complete safety and still function normally.

Perhaps a better method of protection would be to eliminate the influences that encourage these types of attacks in the first place. The debate at hand should not be about gun control, security measures or what could have been done different.

The necessary debate should be about the fact that modern society – heavily laden with violent scenes on the television, hate-filled lyrics in the music and video games that sear the tender consciences of our youth – is producing murderers.

If we want to protect ourselves from these killers, then it is upon us as parents and leaders of the community to protect the minds of these young men (I say young men because I cannot recall any women committing these acts) from the elements of society that feed hatred and murder.

We cannot expect our children to fill their minds with hate, violence and murder all day via the television, music and video games and then expect them to grow up to be well-balanced individuals who are ready to contribute positively to society. If we raise violent children, we will eventually live with violent adults.

It is time we took responsibility for allowing violence to permeate the lives of our children and start fighting back against this hateful culture that has overtaken society in the last few decades by eliminating these influences. Otherwise, we can only expect to see more massacres, more death and more violence.

It is time to let our children be young and innocent again.

Email: StellaSays[at]

Monday, April 16, 2007

Stella Says…It is never too late to fight for your rights

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 15 April 2007)

The feminist movement heydays were long over before I even knew I needed to stand up for my own rights. I grew up in an urban environment, single mother, poverty-ridden home.

Those who grow up in such situations are never thinking about fighting oppressive government policies, they are more concerned with just getting by from day to day. Will the electric be turned off today? Can we eat something more than mayonnaise sandwiches? Will my overworked, high-pressured, abusive mother snap again today? The last thing on my mind was fighting for my rights as a woman.

On top of everything else, there was school to keep my urban survival skills sharp and church to make me feel small and insignificant – as if I did not have enough to accomplish that task already. One of the many things I learned in church was to be mad at the feminists. I did not know why, I just knew that I should. I was taught they were out of control male wanna-bes.

I married at a young age to a wonderful guy and started having children 18 months later. My focus was then on toddler chasing and house cleaning. I still did not know I should be concerned with my rights. In fact, at this point in the late 80s, feminism was an intimidating topic for me. I just knew that I needed more than to stay at home with the kids. I was in dire need of some intellectual stimulation, but instead I tried to play the role of what the church declared to be a good wife and mother.

For some women, this would be fine, but I needed more. My husband was working during the day and going to college at night. So I would care for the children all day - every day of the week. Then on the weekend, I would go to church to have them tell me how I should be happy since this was God’s design for women.

I tried to be happy and to some extent I was happy. I had beautiful children whom I adored and a good husband. Beyond that, I was bored and feeling like a slave. It wasn’t that my husband did not love me, we just both fell into the traditional roles of family life, which worked for him – but it did not work for me. After years of this, I decided I could not handle it anymore. I honestly did not know what I needed; I just knew I needed more than what I had.

I started rejecting the church’s notions on women and realising I could not possibly fit in the suffocating mould they had created for all women. It was time for me to take control of my own life. After years of discontentment, I decided I needed to go to school. This would change my life forever.

I loved learning about astronomy, geology and reading the classical writers. I loved writing long essay papers because in my mind they turned into works of art. Each letter was a stroke of a paintbrush and I would work for hours on one paragraph just to make sure it portrayed the message I intended. When it was finished, I would beam with pride over the art I had created. I had finally found what was missing in my life. I was a writer.

I learned a great deal more at school, too. I realised that not only could I disagree with the church, a step I had already taken, but I could also disagree with the government and even the president. Not only was it my right, but it was also my responsibility to voice dissent when I felt the need. I saw so much injustice for the poor when I was young and for women when I got older that I just could not help but voice my dissent.

By the time I had matured to the point of realising I needed to fight for my rights as a woman, I was well into my thirties. It seemed so late for me to start this process that most women’s rights advocates begin in their late teens and early twenties during their college years. But I had a gift for writing and a passion for activism, so I decided against being intimidated any longer.

Now I spend my time studying and writing about the many grievances I have with the unbalanced social equilibrium of the sexes. When a person’s physical equilibrium is off, it is difficult to stand up straight or walk a straight line. In fact, they often get sick to their stomach. This is the same type of symptoms we see in our world because of the unbalanced social equilibrium between men and women.

It is time to find a cure for the injustices forced upon women. I want to see a healthy world that is balanced and fair. This is not a battle of the sexes; it is simply a matter of finally allowing the natural balance of power to run its course in every aspect of human interaction. It is time for equal distribution in the scales of power – in the home, in the church, at the workplace and in the government.

I do not see this balance being handed over easily to women though. This is something we have to take for our own by resisting the traditional feminine roles and stereotypes handed down from a patriarchal society. By rejecting these unjust expectations and embracing our rights as equal beings to the opposite sex, we can make huge strides.

Ladies, it is never too late to fight for your rights. If we have to call on the spirit of our Amazon ancestors, then so be it. I would rather be called arrogant and intimidating than to be the slave of that system. The fight will make us stronger and ensure equity of power for our daughters and their daughters.

Email: StellaSays[at]

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Stella Says…Hey Freddie, I am an Anglo-Saxon western journalist

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 08 April 2007)

After returning from my sabbatical, I wanted to address a few things that had been on my mind concerning women’s issues. Then there was that pesky little BBC reporter that needed to be taught a thing or two about international niceties.

However, in the meantime, I have sorely overlooked a long overdue acknowledgement of dear Sweet and Sensitive Freddie Kissoon in regards to his query about my absence and a response to his assertion that I had somehow lost my groove – “again.”

I certainly do not want to seem ill-mannered and since one of Freddie’s columns has caused me ire this past week, it seems there would be no better time than the present to address some of his previous tittle-tattles and taunts.

Naturally, I feel it necessary to first refreshed my aging colleague’s mind and assert that it was not I who had lost my groove so many months ago, but Freddie himself who jumped to a conclusion that I had somehow implicated him in a matter concerning a letter to the Editor about the President suing a newspaper and a citizen for printing material he found to his Excellency’s disliking (His Excellency, the President - not Mr. Kissoon).

I was then forced to respond to Sweet and Sensitive Freddie in a forceful manner to point out the powerful energy of my groove and just how weak his groove appeared at that particular time. Freddie and I eventually ironed out our differences, as is clear in his column from January 31 when he said all sorts of very nice things about me, which is a great example of why I call him Sweet and Sensitive Freddie.

However, like any mere human (yes, Freddie, you are a mere human too), it seems my friend can find himself in the same trap as the rest of us when it comes to stereotyping a section of people. Case in point, Freddie’s column from April 2 was as stereotypically nasty as the now infamous column from the BBC sports writer Martin Gough.

In fact, Freddie’s obvious contempt for western journalists and Anglo-Saxons far surpassed Gough’s hasty judgement of Guyana and was ever bit as ugly as the article in the current Caribbean Beat by James Fuller, which was all too quick to point out the blemishes of the Caribbean people without mentioning any of the beauty.

Fuller’s article was brought to my attention by the Guyana media critic, who has – much to my disappointment - been quite slow on his blogging lately. I do hope he is just busy with all of the fun of cricket and not retiring his good sense and keen eye on a permanent basis.

Let us return to Freddie’s sweeping comments about western journalists and Anglo-Saxons. I feel it necessary to point out that Freddie was responding to a Bill Cotton (John Mair) column in Stabroek News in which Mair defended Gough’s distasteful assessment of Guyana.

It is not Freddie’s decision to respond that I find offensive; it is the response itself. To my deep disappointment, Freddie said, “Western journalists and travel writers display a deep Freudian superiority complex when describing the Third World. There is the definite instinct that ‘we are more civilised, developed and modern than them and they are the poor and wretched of the earth’.”

I feel this is a bit unfair, since I am in fact a western journalist and do not share these sentiments at all about any Third World country. But Freddie went on, “It is not that we are dismissed as poor, which is the heart of the problem. The western journalist evaluates our human condition by the state of our economy. We are thus classified as flawed human beings, not because we have character faults but because our economy is not developed.”

Again, this is stereotyping all of western journalism as arrogant fiends, a fact that is simply not true. There are scores of western journalists who care about the lives of others outside of their western nation as much as I do and have the capacity to judge a person by his/her true character.

All of this I would debate with my Sweet and Sensitive Freddie, which I may do in person very soon, but it is one of the last of his points that took me by utter surprise. He said, “One senses that a Freudian, racist mind, too, is at work in western journalism that looks down even on the non-Anglo-Saxon world. American, French, British and German reporters do not see Greeks and Northern Italians, Singaporeans and Japanese in the same way they perceive Irish and Anglo-Saxon, and Teutonic societies.”

Are you saying that all of western journalism is racist and uncompassionate? Are there are no good and decent journalists in the western world, Freddie? Is there not even one western journalist who sees those in the third world as equal to those in the western world?

Freddie, my friend, this statement is something I expect from the shallowest of individuals, not from an educated and freethinking mind. In one statement, you swept every caring and respectable journalist in the western world (like me) into the same dustpan as the arrogant and obdurate (like Fuller). I do not deserve such a judgement and there are many more just like me, dear friend.

I do not for one second negate the fact that there are also numerous western journalists who fit your description. They may even be in the majority. However, there are also many of us who stand far from your assessment.

In short, Freddie, your assessment was completely unfair. Moreover, you trapped yourself with your own net in this argument because you became the very person on which you were attempting to condemn. In questioning Gough’s quick assessment of Guyana, you asked if it was his Freudian mind at work. Likewise, you pondered the equivalent of Mair. I now wonder the same of you, dear friend.

You have stepped on my toes, Freddie, and I just bought these new patent leather peep toes. I do hope this was just one song to which you could not groove. Surely you just got caught up in the nastiness of all the mischaracterising and stereotypical writing that seems to be circulating the Caribbean right now for some reason.

I would hate to think we could never groove again since you think so little of this Anglo-Saxon western journalist. Because I must make myself very clear, I do not groove with shallow-minded people – no matter how brilliant they think they are.

Email: StellaSays[at]

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Stella Says…What does a BBC sports writer know of Guyana?

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 01 April 2007)

After reading last Tuesday’s front-page comment by this newspaper about a blog written by BBC Sport Journalist, Martin Gough, as well as the blog itself, I decided to go to the Website in question to do some further reading.

It turns out that Gough was taken aback by the response to his blog and offered an apology for angering the Guyanese. He said in his blog the next day, “If you took offence, I apologise. I am in Guyana for 14 more days, during which time I expect to have far more positive experiences to pass on and I hope it won’t all be taken in the same way.”

In truth, it seems to me that Gough’s hurtful remarks were done more from sheer ignorance than pure arrogance – although the latter played a significant role as well. This is typical of Western attitude – and I should know. I see this attitude far too often.

For example, he probably did not know that the statement about his “rudimentary hotel” would have people seething because the nation at large was proud to offer him a comfy place to stay – even if it was not up to his lofty standards.

A year ago, Guyana would have not had the capability to house even the teams, much less the media. Obviously, Gough did not realise how much hard work Guyana has put into making sure it was ready for the CWC or how much financial strain it has been under with such an undertaking.

So allow me to take the precious time necessary to explain a few things to Mr. Gough, so that he will not make this same mistake in another country. You see, Martin (May I call you Martin? Thanks ever so much.), Guyana may not have very much - yet, but it is quite proud of what it does have.

This nation has been in constant struggle, each and every single day, since their independence. If it is not one thing that pulls them down, then it is another. They have had a healthy share of despots for leaders, Martin. The entrenched poverty sends many of their best minds to the shores of other countries.

The racial division, initiated by the nation’s previous despotic leaders from your very own country, also divides the people politically and drives a tangible fear into their hearts around every election time.

Yet despite all of these – and many more – barriers, the Guyanese still remain strong and forge ahead, hoping one day to find a way to make their nation great. This is why they have sacrificed and invested so much to bring the CWC here in the first place, and why they were so insulted at your haughty statements.

This whole nation has been waiting with bated breath to finally have the world say something kind about the land they love so much. They have always believe that if the world could see how beautiful Guyana truly is, then everyone else would love it just as much.

Then you came along and the first words they hear about their beloved Guyana is from a sports commentator who is so spoilt that he does not have the sensibilities to connect with the nation before doling out off-handed remarks or the common sense to research a country to which he was assigned for his insight into a mere game.

Your blog says you have now taken the time to go to Kaieteur Falls, a trip most Guyanese have not even been privileged. That should have adjusted your view of Guyana a bit. A boat ride down the Essequibo River would do the same. Moreover, the local cuisine is to die for.

Allow me to share the sentiments of a fellow Brit with you about Guyana. In 1860, this is what Anthony Trollope said concerning Guyana:

When I settle out of England, and take to the colonies for good and all, British Guiana shall be the land of my adoption. If I call it Demerara perhaps I shall be better understood. At home there are prejudices against it I know. They say it is a low, swampy, muddy strip of alluvial soil, infested with rattlesnakes, gall nippers, and musquitoes [sic] as big as turkey-cocks; that yellow fever rages there perennially; that the heat is unendurable; that society there is as stagnant as its waters; that men always die as soon as they reach it; and when they live are such wretched creatures that life is a misfortune… There was never a land so ill spoken of - and never one that deserved it so little. All the above calumnies I contradict; and as I lived there for a fortnight – would it could have been a month! – I expect to be believed.

…For Demerara is the Elysium of the tropics – The West Indian happy valley of Rasselas – the one true and actual Utopia of the Caribbean Seas – The Transatlantic Eden.

The men in Demerara are never angry, and the women are never cross. Life flows along on a perpetual stream of love, smiles, champagne, and small talk. Everybody has enough of everything. The only persons who do not thrive are the doctors…

Martin, almost a century later, Guyana was free from Britain, but not from the innate problems left behind by its colonial masters. While you have been living in a virtual political and social bubble across the ocean, the Guyanese have been trying to build a goodly nation. A nation you had the audacity to deeply hurt with your careless words.

On your blog, you seemed taken aback by the reaction of the locals to your quick evaluation of their nation. That is because you did not understand them or how much weight your words carried at this crucial point. They have a lot resting on the CWC.

Maybe you will understand them a little better now and appreciate that “rudimentary hotel” for the true miracle it is to the people of Guyana. If not, then it would behove of the BBC to find a sport commentator with the ability to truly appreciate the finer things in life, which have nothing at all to do with hotel rooms.

By the way, you have a typo in your now infamous blog.

Email: StellaSays[at]