by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 16 November 2007)
What is it going to take for the men of Guyana to start treating the women with the respect they rightly deserve? Just last Sunday I wrote a column about the need for the nation’s leaders to be educated on violence against women. However, it seems that education needs to be far more comprehensive.
In that same Sunday Kaieteur News paper, Raphael Trotman wrote an open letter to President Jagdeo asking for the Executive to reconsider the VAT tax as it has brought much hardship on the people. Trotman sent copies of this letter to ten organisations that he termed as stakeholders on this issue, of which The Red Thread was not on the list.
Allow me to first say that I applaud Trotman for taking the initiative to accomplish something positive for the people (Although when I acknowledge the PPP for doing the same, Freddie gets mad. But I am sure he will not have one word to say about objectivity extended toward the AFC. Such hypocrisy!)
Indeed, it is refreshing to see various politicians (regardless of their political persuasion) doing something good for the people after such a long dry spell of inactivity. In fact, it may be because of the introduction of the AFC into the national political scene that has caused the PPP to get off its lazy rump and finally do something because at long last they see a potential threat come 2011.
So here is my bravo to Trotman. Hoorah for you. I offer a sincere pat on the back for doing the job you were elected to do. However (You knew there would be a “However,” right?), how could The Red Thread not be included among the stakeholders you publicly listed in your letter on the VAT tax?
You really must understand how this omission translates to the women of that organisation. It is a public slap on the face. It summarily dismisses these women and their work as negligible when they have probably worked more than anyone else to highlight this issue.
Raphael, it is time that the women of Guyana start calling the men on this indifferent attitude toward women. It is demeaning and it is frustrating. This attitude is at the very core of why women are treated so badly overall, including domestic violence, rape and murder.
I could not have been more proud of The Red Thread ladies for pointing out your injury. They even said they believe your offence was because they are women – and I tend to agree.
Whether your omission was overt or not does not matter. There would be no reasonable explanation for you to make a conscience decision to omit The Red Thread from your stakeholders list. However, if you did, your offence was intentional and meant to send a message to the women – a message that was received.
However, if your decision was simply because you did not think to include them – this is just as insulting and is akin to the PNCR’s crime initiative’s draft that did not address the overwhelming violence inflicted on Guyana’s women every single day. This indifferent attitude toward women stinks.
Where was Sheila Holder in this whole process? Did she not think to mention how insulting this would be to dismiss the women’s group that has been so vocal on VAT for months now? While the AFC still remained silent, The Red Thread was pleading for help for the people.
Raphael, you owe the women of The Red Thread and the nation at large an apology for this insult. You are a leader of the party that promises change and one issue that needs to change the most in Guyana is this dismissive attitude toward half of the nation’s population. Your party vehemently claims to reject racism, how about firming rejecting sexism as well?
I expected more from you. I expected you to be an advocate for equality. I expected you to comprehend the magnitude of the suffering of your female constituents, of which you just contributed by dismissing their representatives. Raphael, you need to make this right.
The AFC should extend a hand of reconciliation to The Red Thread and stand in solidarity with this organisation to accomplish great things for the people.
It will be interesting to see if Raphael has the capacity to correct this situation, whether it was intentional or not. It will say a lot about his character and the type of leader the nation can expect to see.
If this is left undone, I know it will completely change the way I view Trotman and the AFC from this point on.