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.