Saturday, December 03, 2011

What does each party’s manifesto pledge to do for Guyana’s women?

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 26 November 2011)  

The elections are upon us and this year has seen more focus on women’s issues on the political platforms than ever before. This is how it should be and even more so until women are safe and hold equal status in all spheres of life. As such, I combed through the manifestos of each party to see what Guyana’s leaders had to offer the women.

This column highlights what each party has stated it will specifically do for the women of the nation in the next term. Key issues pertaining to women will be addressed with the coordinating response from the parties according to their manifestos. If there is no answer provided for the issue, it will be noted.

(Note: Each party’s manifesto response is listed alphabetically by the party’s acronym.)

Domestic violence:
AFC – Establish legal aid support for women who are victims of domestic violence systems and a rescue support fund during rehabilitation. Increase the number of shelters and care centres available to women in trauma. Establish and implement a Family Court to address the specific needs of women. Enact a Family Law Act to deal with common law unions, child support and the custody of children, spouse maintenance and the resolution of property disputes. Establish systems to ensure earlier intervention by social services in disputes and the collection of data to determine causes of domestic violence, identification and implementation of solutions. (Page 31) Train and empower the police to respond more effectively to domestic violence. (Page 17) 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Is sexual harassment really a big deal?

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 19 November 2011) 

When I was in the Seventh Grade (about 12 or 13 years old), two male classmates came up to me and grabbed my breasts. The entire class was standing in the hall in a line as we waited for our teacher to instruct us to move into the classroom. However, immediately after this incident occurred, I walked out of the line, right past my teacher who was demanding I get back in line and went straight to the principal’s office where I told those in the office what had happened.

The boys were suspended for two weeks and no guy at school ever dared to try something like that with me again.

The subject of sexual harassment has been all over the news in the US as one of the Republican presidential candidates is facing allegations of sexually harassing several women. In my opinion, sexual harassment disqualifies a person for leadership as it creates the picture of a leader with significant deficits in terms of temperament, judgment and, potentially, veracity.

This issue on sexual harassment sparked a conversation on Facebook recently between some Guyanese friends when one gentleman asked, “What is sexual harassment? …you been told ‘you having a thick-delightful butt, you looking sexy, great lips, mellow breast, you have the height of my wife.’ Does this amount to sexual harassment?”

The immediate reaction from a female was simply, “Yes.” There was a lengthy discussion on the topic that of course touched on the attire of the woman and whether she is seeking attention.
Allow me to interject here that a woman’s attire is not a solicitation for sexual harassment.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Our very lives are at stake

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 12 November 2011)

“You know this is not really a matter of women’s liberation, it is really a matter of survival.” This is what a friend said to me this week on Facebook. She was responding to this statistic I had posted on my page:

“Women perform 66 percent of the world’s work, produce 50 percent of the food, but earn ten percent of the income and own one percent of the property.” (UNICEF, ‘Gender Equality – The Big Picture’, 2007)

When my friend said those words, “it is really a matter of survival,” it pierced my heart and I realised that she was absolutely right. Some may think her words an overstatement, but I had just returned from a domestic violence awareness weekend in Orlando with Sukree Boodram where I shared some other vital statistics that prove my friend is right; it is really a matter of survival.

Here are some of those statistics:
  • More girls have been killed in the last 50 years, just because they were girls, than the number of males who were killed in all the wars of the 20th century. (Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

You could save your daughter’s life

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 05 November 2011)

When I found out that my eldest daughter was diagnosed with the human papillomavirus (HPV), I was more than a bit distressed. Cancer runs in my family and, in fact, my mother died of a different form of cancer at the young age of 48. Therefore, it was a frightening thing to discover my 24-year-old daughter had a virus that is known to cause cervical cancer.

According to an October 14 report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Cervical cancer is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the Americas, where an estimated 80,574 new cases and 36,058 deaths were reported in 2008, with 85% of this burden occurring in Latin America and the Caribbean. Two oncogenic human papillomavirus types (16 and 18) cause approximately 70% of cervical cancers and a substantial proportion of other HPV-related cancers.”

Concerning Guyana, a report by the Remote Area Medical [RAM] Guyana Cervical Cancer Project said, “According to the Pan American Health Organisation, in 2002 the incidence of cervical cancer in Guyana was 47.3 per 100,000, and the mortality rate 22.2 per 100,000. By contrast, the incidence and mortality in the US were 7 and 2.3 per 100,000 respectively.”

The good news is that in 2009 a vaccine was made available to prevent disease caused by the oncogenic subtypes 16 and 18, said to be responsible for approximately 70% of all cervical cancers worldwide. Two years on, it still boggles my mind that humans have created a vaccine against cancer.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Beating women into political submission

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 29 October 2011) 

Within the last three weeks, there have been reports of women being assaulted, both verbally and physically, while participating in politics. These events are of particular relevance as just last month 28 female politicians from various nations signed a declaration that their countries would ensure the safe participation of politics for women.

The Joint Declaration On Advancing Women’s Political Participation said in part, “We call upon all states, including those emerging from conflict or undergoing political transitions, to eliminate all discriminatory barriers faced by women, particularly marginalized women, and we encourage all states to take proactive measures to address the factors preventing women from participating in politics such as violence, poverty, lack of access to quality education and health care, the double burden of paid and unpaid work, and to actively promote women’s political participation including through affirmative measures, as appropriate.”

It is no small thing for a woman to find a way to contribute politically. There are so many obstacles to overcome just in everyday life alone that the idea of adding political participation can be simply overwhelming.

Additionally, in a poll conducted in Guyana in 2003 of 446 women, “A significant portion held the view that ‘politics is too dirty and ugly.’” The last couple of weeks have proven these women to be right in their assessment. Why is it that women must fight so hard to exercise a right that is already constitutionally theirs?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Renewing sisterhood in Guyana

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 22 October 2011)   
I have had both men and women tell me that in Guyana, some women are as cruel to women as some men are. I cannot rebut this claim as I have seen or read about women who have been very abusive to others of their own gender whether by a verbal beat down, proudly stealing the husband of another woman (even if he has children with her) or even physically harming a woman.

The harsh words I have heard from women about other women have baptised me in a deep grief. It seems some females would rather tear down other women than ever lift a hand to help. Even more, there are some women who critique others from head to toe without one kind word. She is fat or she is skinny or she is ugly or her hair looks stupid. I could go on and on.

To make matters worse, some women are often unwilling to help each other – even to the point that a neighbour could be beaten to death by her husband while the women of the area hear it and yet do nothing. Some even blame the woman for the beatings she receives or for a cheating husband.

I am not sure what caused this division between the women of Guyana. What drove this wedge between Guyana’s sisters? The hostility that some women display toward other women is highly disturbing. I do not know why this is so, but I do know it has got to end if the quality of life for women in Guyana is ever going to improve.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Presidential backball

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 15 October 2011)    

These two words, presidential backball, seem contradictory – as if the two words should never be uttered in the same breath. Indeed, there ought to be respect when the word “president” comes across our lips. Backball, on the other hand, is a lewd word, something we hope our children do not mutter until they are adults.

Yet we are begrudgingly forced to join these two paradoxical words as we consider the conduct of President Bharrat Jagdeo and the PPP Presidential Candidate, Donald Ramotar, who both received backballs at their party’s recent rallies. I honestly cannot even believe that I am forced to talk about such coarse behaviour, but talk about it I must and so I shall.

The Urban Dictionary defines backball as a “Caribbean term for sensually gyrating in a forward bent over position, most often in front of a male while partying, sometimes also touching the ground with hands. Referred to as receiving by males and giving by females.”

This type of conduct is something that should be done in private, or at the very least in a dark room at a club full of people who are doing the same thing. It does not belong on the platform of a political rally in front of all and sundry – including children and impressionable young people.

However, my focus for this column is to draw a clear and concise line on how the crucial issue of domestic violence relates to the president of a country receiving a public backball. Common sense tells us that this type of public behaviour is inappropriate for any leader, much less the president of a country, but allow me to connect the dots for those who still do not seem to get it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ask yourself, can you as a woman, do better than the men are doing right now?

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 08 October 2011)    

In 2003, a national survey of 446 women from the ten administrative regions in Guyana was conducted by Roxanne Myers with the assistance of UG students, on the political participation of women in Guyana. Of the 446 women surveyed, a whopping 68 per cent “felt certain they would endorse a woman candidate.”  Well, ladies, here is your chance to do just that.

Valerie Garrido-Lowe, the new presidential candidate and party leader for The United Force (TUF), has already faced an attempted coup d‘état by the former party leader, Manzoor Nadir, who this past week was on his Facebook page promoting the PPP rally this weekend.

Garrido-Lowe felt it was essential for TUF to go into the elections without any of its previous ties to the PPP and even though Nadir had the power and prowess of the PPP machine behind him in his attempt to take back a position that was no longer his, Garrido-Lowe did not shy away from this David/Goliath situation. This is one tough lady!

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Must we lock away the men for women to be safe?

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 01 October 2011)    

Today is the first day of October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness month. There is some important information I want to share with you as well as part of a story written by an Indian woman in 1905.

Domestic violence makes absolutely no sense in society – it has no purpose other than to control the victim and maintain subjection to the abuser. This type of hostility and barbarianism has no place in a modern world and must be exposed for the lowly ideology that it is.

According to a September 23 article entitled, “India, China Responsible for Many ‘Missing’ Women,” on the Wall Street Journal Blog, “In its annual World Development Report, which this year focuses on gender issues, the World Bank estimates that two-fifths of the world’s 3.9 million “missing women,” or over 1.4 million, went “missing” at birth. And this was in 2008 alone, the latest year for which figures are available. The rest are excess female deaths at later stages in life.”

The US Council on Foreign Relations blog had and posted this on September 20, “The most alarming statistics are with respect to the roughly 4 million excess deaths of women and girls, relative to males, in low and middle income countries.  Forty per cent of these ‘missing girls’ are never born: the spread of inexpensive sonogram technology allows parents to abort unwanted female fetuses. Another 17 per cent die in early childhood. Some 35 per cent die during their reproductive years. Maternal mortality, which takes approximately 1,000 female lives a day, is still the top killer of women in many countries.”

And according to, “Among women aged between 15 and 44, acts of violence cause more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined.”

Saturday, October 01, 2011

An abuser is not a ‘bad boy’ that daring females should find intriguing

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 24 September 2011)  

According to the Toronto Sun, “One of Canada’s ‘Most Wanted’ criminals, who was convicted twice of beating women, has been deemed a threat to public security.” Since this most wanted criminal is a Guyanese, Canada has sent him back here.

The report said, “Shameer Ally Allie, 36, of Guyana, was picked up Thursday [September 15] by the RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police]. He had been on the run since January to avoid deportation stemming from a lengthy criminal record that includes convictions for assault causing bodily harm, threatening death, assault with a weapon and twice failing to report to authorities.”

Allie arrived in Guyana this past week and now his conduct is the business of local law enforcement. The Canadians called him “a violent offender who has shown no sign of remorse or rehabilitation.” What did he do that was so bad?

The Toronto Sun report said, “…[He] was convicted in 2003 for attacking a common-law wife with a baseball bat…Allie also attacked another woman, whom he was seeing, with a ‘large kitchen knife’ after he accused her of dressing provocatively, Stephanie Echlin, a counsel for the immigration department said.

“The woman was threatened with death several times and escaped after the building’s landlord heard a struggle and ran to her aid. ‘Both of those assaulted were women with whom he had a close relationship,’ Echlin said. ‘He (Allie) is a violent offender who has shown no sign of remorse or rehabilitation.’”

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The female voice of authority in Guyana

 (Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 17 September 2011)  

As more women venture into areas previously occupied solely by men, there is bound to be a clash of cultures, of sorts. The leadership style employed by many women is vastly different from that which has been used by men for millennia. The dress style will, of course, differ greatly. Even the way in which women in leadership speak will be in sharp contrast to their male counterparts.

However, one should not misconstrue the distinction in the way women voice their authority as being weak. In fact, it is quite the contrary. The new Executive Editor at the New York Times, Jill Abramson, wrote an article entitled, ‘On the Challenge of Creating a Female Voice of Authority,’ which was published on in 2006 and re-published on recently.

Abramson said, “I know that acquiring authority as a woman is tough enough; using and projecting it is even more complicated. There are plenty of pitfalls and few good role models.” This is true in all societies that are currently unwrapping themselves from the longstanding patriarchal culture and embracing women as equals in all segments of society.

This cultural shift is happening in Guyana, too, and it is evident that some – both male and female – find the change chafing. I recognize that there are times when the female voice of authority may sound defensive, but it must also be acknowledged that there are credible reasons for women to be defensive.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My choice for the next president of Guyana

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 10 September 2011)  

I have never made a public declaration on political candidates because I attempt to stay as objective as possible in my role as a columnist. However, in this case, the numbers speak for themselves. Also, I am an advocate for women and, as such, it is my obligation to speak up at times like this when a female voice is necessary.

In the last 12 weeks of this column, I presented one question per week that was posed to Guyana’s major presidential candidates on women’s issues and their answers. At the end of each column, I rated the candidates’ answers with the anticipation that the candidate with the highest score would be the one who most deserved the female vote.

I rated the candidates on a scale of 1-3 with the highest rating going to the best answer, in my opinion. There were also times when the candidates rated a zero. Please keep in mind that the highest possible overall rating is 36 points. (If you would like to read the past 12 columns with the questions and answers, they can all be found at

Here is the tally of the ratings: APNU candidate David Granger – 20. 5; AFC candidate Khemraj Ramjattan – 26.5; PPP/C Candidate Donald Ramotar – 18.5. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Guyana’s presidential candidates on getting the female vote

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 03 September 2011)  

Question 12 of 12:  What are you actively doing in your campaign to secure the votes of women?

 AFC Candidate Khemraj Ramjattan
(This answer was edited for space)

I am, more or less, doing what every politician does, and that is to try to come across as an honest, decent, man of integrity who is going to keep his promises to them. At this stage in the campaign, there’s nothing else you can do but ask them for their trust in you so that when you get into [office they know] these are the programmes you are going to implement.

I have largely indicated what I am talking about here [during the interview] — reduce domestic violence by the education process, make sure that women are going to be employed, they are going to have better wages, their security is going to be taken care of by a better and professional police force – all of that of which I am talking about for the country, they are going to benefit from.

What is required from a politician is to ensure that the womenfolk will understand you and understand that you are speaking from the heart and that you are not in any way trying to confuse them into just wanting their vote. I think I have managed to do that with the women, especially.

At the legal level, I have managed to win the support of very many of the women lawyers. Wherever I speak, I talk more to the women. At the bottom house meetings, women come out to see me more than the men. And it’s amazing.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

How would your candidate help a colleague who is being abused?

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 27 August 2011)   

Question 11 of 12:  
If a colleague or a spouse of a colleague came to you because she was being abused, how would you handle the situation? Would you handle it in the same way it has been handled in the past – with silence and try to cover it up?

PPP/C Candidate Donald Ramotar

(Laughing) You don’t really expect me to answer that. (More laughing)

First of all, I would not expect a colleague of the PPP to behave in such a manner because that goes totally against the whole grain of everything that we believe in. So, first of all, I would not expect it. Secondly, if something like that really occurs and it is brought to my attention, I will let it take its course…let the law take its course.

I do not think I would like to intervene in a situation like that, to defend even a colleague caught in that situation. The most I would probably do to help is if there needs to be psychological help or to get medical attention. Sure I would help in that regard.

I don’t expect it; let me put it that way. But if it does occur, then I would allow it to take its course. It’s not my business. That would be for the law enforcement people.

Monday, August 29, 2011

What does your candidate think about 16-year-olds having sex?

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 20 August 2011)  

Question 10:  How do you feel about the current age of consent being 16?

APNU Candidate David Granger: 

My view is that it should be 18 because 18 is the age when you can join the armed forces, vote, own a firearm or drive a car. I think 18. By that time I think you are mature enough to make a decision about many things.

PPP/C Candidate Donald Ramotar

I think that society went through a lot of debate and that Parliament went through a lot of debate on that issue and it seems to have been the age that most people see fit. I do not think everybody agreed on it, but most people seemed to agree on it. I suspect that taking the reality into consideration, it is probably the best we could do.

My own view, however, is that [the age of consent] should not take away the responsibility of the society or the many institutions of society or the home from educating young women not to fall into the trap of having sex too early and having kids too early. Let them know how it can affect their lives. It is not necessarily a good thing to have such young people having children.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The candidates on women being forced to work soon after giving birth

 (Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 13 August 2011) 

Question 9:  There are many mothers who are forced by their employers to return to work soon after giving birth. Do you view this as discriminatory against female workers?

AFC Candidate Khemraj Ramjattan

Oh yeah, it is very much. What time are you talking about? I mean a week after they have to go and [work]? That is crazy.

My response: Less than the 13 weeks that are allowed to them.

That is a violation. That woman’s body may not be prepared yet for work again [so soon after]. But more than that, you want the woman to be comfortable in her zone so that she can then go back to work within that 12 or 13 weeks rather than to simply put her back after childbirth.

I think it is a serious violation of women’s rights and we should ensure that whatever the standards are [13 weeks after], that must be adhered to. I feel an Alliance For Change government will ensure an adherence by the private sector and [implement] serious penalties to employers who do not adhere to that.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The candidates on saving economically-trapped victims of domestic violence

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 06 August 2011)  

Question 8:  In interacting with domestic violence victims around the country, one issue that consistently rears its head is that victims with no education and no means of financial independence feel trapped in abusive relationships because they cannot support themselves or their children. This is one of the most difficult issues at hand in the fight to end domestic violence. As president, how would you address this problem?

PPP/C Candidate Donald Ramotar
(Edited for space)

As you said, it’s a very difficult case to confront. I don’t think, not necessarily as president, but I would say that right now the PPP/C has been grappling with those issues from the time we got into the government. If you look into the budget, you will see how much money we spend on education.

And what is good, too, is that we are spending on our students not only in the Coastland and in Georgetown, but in the interior areas. People are now appreciating the importance of education in the society.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

What will your candidate’s First Lady’s role be?

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 30 July 2011)

I must admit that I asked the following question of Guyana’s presidential candidates simply because the nation’s last ‘First Lady’ attempted to play a significant role in helping the people of Guyana, but her work was frowned on by the President. In asking this question, it was my desire to bring this issue to the forefront with the hope that the next First Lady can actually help the people of Guyana in her own way if she so desires.

Question 7:
Can we expect to see your wife participating more in your campaign as elections are now drawing near? What role will she play as First Lady?

APNU Candidate David Granger 

[Granger hands me a copy of an interview his wife did with the Guyana Times] That’s her role. Those are her words. I wasn’t present. She accompanied me on my visit to North America in late May and June. We went to four states, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey and New York – and Washington [DC], as well, and she was with me. When I went to the Barima/Waini region she was with me.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

What was learnt from the Neesa Gopaul case?

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 23 July 2011)

Question 6:
Tell me, what were your feelings when you first realised the full scope of the Neesa Gopaul case?

AFC candidate Khemraj Ramjattan
(Sections of this interview were edited)

It was shocking. I just couldn’t believe it. You get a sense of what our society has come to.
The proof now of one instance like this means that there are [others]. As to how many, I am hoping to God they are not very many. We have to ensure that they are [brought] to a halt.

And that is why community life must come back. I find that we have become individualistic now. Whereas in times before — like where I came from Number 47 Village, everybody knew everybody else’s business. Today nobody wants you to be prying into their affairs, but it is necessary. There needs to be a state of being where we are informed about what our neighbours are doing… .

[We need to] get that kind of culture back… . [There are issues] of privacy, rights and all of that, but I believe, know, that we have to get back to that culture whereby we are going to look after the children. It takes a village to raise a child and I would like to see that happening even in the city whereby the street will know what is happening to the child.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Would your candidate jail rapists? Maybe

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 16 July 2011)  

Question 5:
The laws of Guyana currently allow for perpetrators of rape to settle financially with the victim, thereby dodging the justice system and leaving a rapist on the streets to rape again. Would you be willing to champion a change in legislation that would enable the state to prosecute rapists based on the evidence regardless of whether there is a civil settlement?

PPP/C Presidential Candidate Donald Ramotar

Yes, that is a fair position. I don’t think the people should escape justice because they have money or because they can raise money and buy themselves out. Rape is a crime. Rape is a criminal offence. Just like how they say murder doesn’t have any statute of limitations, I think rape, too, should not have that limitation so people could be charged at any time – because I think it is a crime. It is a criminal activity. Yes, I think it could be done and it should be done.

AFC Presidential Candidate Khemraj Ramjattan
(Small portions of this interview were edited out for space)
I agree with civil settlements. I am in total agreement with civil settlements, but it must be accompanied with some criminal penalty. Because of the nature of Guyana’s economy, a girl being raped forcibly is going to be damaged, of course, and [there should be] recompense in the form a compensatory package or something that the man can afford, very many of them cannot afford it in Guyana, but once he can afford it, the girl should get it.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

How would your presidential candidate address domestic violence?

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 09 July 2011) 

Question 4:
What is your current plan for combatting domestic violence?
APNU Presidential Candidate David Granger
(Small portions of this interview were edited out for space)

My plan is to ensure that the education system is reformed to deal with this. It has to be done at the school level. It has to be done at home. It has to be done within the religious organisations – the churches, the mandirs and the mosques. I would certainly ensure that educational programmes are modified to ensure that there is respect for each other’s ethnicity, respect for each other’s gender and respect for each other’s property at the level of the school. This is something that has to be taught.

The second instance is at the institutional level, within organisations [like] the National Assembly, the magistracy, and within the institutions of the State, equality should be mandated. At the national level, at the level of enforcement particularly, the police force has to be retrained. Not just trained, it has to be retrained to deal the domestic violence because right now the police force is what its name says – force.

[The police force] is designed to enforce then to arrest and charge people. It is not designed to counsel people. It is not designed for problem solving. And domestic violence is something that requires sympathetic counsel. I think the police force has to be changed.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

What does your candidate think about gender equality in leadership?

 (Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 02 July 2011)

This next question was designed to help the reader better understand what to expect from each candidate regarding female leadership in government should that candidate get elected.

Question 3:
I believe gender equality in leadership positions – including political leadership – is vital to balanced development worldwide. What are your views on gender equality in leadership and how would we see your views translate into policies if you are elected to be president?

AFC Presidential Candidate Khemraj Ramjattan:

(Small portions of this interview were edited out for space.)

I agree with gender equality. It is a big principle in our programme. It was a big founding principle of the Alliance For Change. That is why in everything we do, we have indicated that we want women to be involved. In our leadership structures, in the rank and file doing the actual work on the ground, we want to see women, more or less, involved in even in the designing of our programmes and have had very many women being involved in that.

We support there being at least a percentage of our women going to Parliament, and in the Cabinet if we win the government – of course, not in any way derogating from the principle of meritocracy – we know that Guyana has bright women who can be involved in all of these.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Presidential candidates on those creepy old men

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 25 June 2011)

Here is the next question I posed to the three main presidential candidates on women’s issues. I view this question to be especially telling in how much we can expect the candidate to protect the young girls of the nation.

Question 2:
Tell me, what is your view of older men who seek out girls under the age of 18 for sexual relations?

PPP/C Presidential Candidate Donald Ramotar

First of all, I think it is extremely immoral. Extremely immoral. Most of these relationships are sometimes exploitative relationships. I am very much opposed to it. I know we have a law of consent at the age of 16, but I think it should be frowned upon in the society even if the person is above 16.

If you have much older men preying on women in this regard, I am sure this is something we should frown upon in our society. We should discourage and expose these issues. If the relationship is exploitative, then the law can take its course. My own view is that it is immoral.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

How does your candidate rate on women’s issues?

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 18 June 2011)
This past week I interviewed Guyana’s three major presidential candidates, PNCR Candidate David Granger, AFC Candidate Khemraj Ramjattan and PPPC Candidate Donald Ramotar. I ask them each twelve questions on women’s issues. In the next few weeks, I will be sharing those questions and the candidates’ answers in this column.
I will also be giving my response to those answers and rating the answers: a rating of 1 is the lowest rating, a rating of 2 is the middle rating and a rating of 3 will signify the best possible answer in my opinion.
At the end of the twelve questions and the candidates’ answers, the presidential candidate with the highest rating is the one who, in my opinion, should receive the votes of the women. I wish to remind the reader that I do not support any political party and base my reputation as a columnist on my objectivity.
Question One:
What do you feel are the three most important issues to the women of Guyana, and why?
APNU Candidate David Granger
The first issue, I believe, is that of economic or financial security. I think they want to be secure. And because of that I feel they are now more than ever interested in their own education and employment, because education and employment would give them a platform for independence. I think that is really paramount to them – they want to be independent.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I was overwhelmed at the Pegasus

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 12 June 2011)

I write my Sunday columns on Friday mornings as my deadline is at noon on this day. This Friday morning I am up early (another jam packed day today) after the world premiere of the “Break Out” Documentary by Sukree Boodram at the Pegasus on Thursday night.

The documentary is Sukree’s story of her brave and silent struggle to survive domestic abuse and alcoholism amidst strict cultural and religious traditions.

Let me start off by saying that the event at the Pegasus blew my mind. We initially asked the staff at the hotel to set up seats for 250 people. However, as time grew close to the event it was obvious that we would need at least 300 seats and the Pegasus staff was kind enough to oblige.

The event was to start with a non-alcoholic cocktail hour at 5:30 pm and the program itself was to start at 6:30 pm. Yet at 4:30 pm the people started to fill the halls as they waited for the doors to open. By the time 5:30 rolled around the crowd had grown so thick it was difficult to navigate through it.

When we opened the doors, the attendees were nice enough to oblige us by stopping quickly and getting some of the food and drinks we had prepared for them, but their primary goal was obviously to find seats quickly – and they did. By 6:00 pm the huge Savannah Suite at the Pegasus was packed and more people continued to come. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Are Guyana’s political parties afraid of gender equality?

The map shows the South American countries who have signed on to the Protocol in some degree or another. Guyana and Suriname stand out as obvious exceptions to the rest of the continent.
(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 10 June 2011)

There are times when I just do not understand the logic (or rather illogic) behind the actions of those who lead the country. This time it is concerning a piece I read in Stabroek News on the Women and Gender Equality Commission (WGEC) and whether the four major parties in Guyana intend to sign the United Nations (UN) Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

According to the June 8 article, the chairperson, Indranie Chandarpal said, “party officials spoke of, ‘wanting more time to study it’ despite the fact that the questions were sent in advance of the engagements.”

This reminds me of last September when a forum was held at the Office of the President with local religious leaders, a delegation of Faith-based leaders from the US and representatives of the government to discuss domestic violence and the role of the religious community.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Dramatic excerpts from Sukree Boodram’s life

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 08 June 2011)

Tomorrow evening at the Pegasus is the World Premiere of Sukree Boodram’s documentary, “Break Out,” which is about her brave and silent struggle to survive domestic abuse and alcoholism amidst strict cultural and religious traditions.

After that, the Break the Silence, Stop the Violence Team will be hosting screenings of the documentary at four other locations throughout the country in the next ten days, and encouraging open dialogue with the attendees. All events are free and everyone is welcome.

As such, I have decided to dedicate this column to excerpts from Sukree’s book by the same name, “Break Out.” The reason for this is two-fold; 1) I want to entice readers to come see the documentary, and 2) I feel Sukree’s experience with domestic violence mirrors that of most victims, and it is my hope that her words can help others who read them.

Sukree grew up in Black Bush Polder in a loving family. From her book’s chapter entitled, “Dreams of All Young Girls,” she said, “Being born last, I felt very sheltered growing up…Nevertheless, I was confident I was not going to end my education with secondary school.”

“At the same time, I wanted to ensure I maintained my traditional values of being a kind, loving, and caring individual. In addition, my cultural expectations of being an obedient daughter and loyal wife were not going to change. I had to preserve these values at all cost.”

Sunday, June 05, 2011

A victim’s story about surviving domestic violence

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 05 June 2011)

My friend and colleague Sukree Boodram handed me a signed copy of her book, “Break Out: Surviving Abuse and Alcoholism,” in March when it was fresh from the publisher and we were in New York for her book signing. My book from Sukree had a loving inscription inside and came wrapped and in a gift bag.

However, I set this precious gift aside, choosing not to read it until now, because I wanted to write this review to coincide with the World Premiere of her documentary that is set for this coming Thursday (June 9) at the Pegasus.

Sukree, being well aware that not all domestic violence victims are literate, invested even more of her own money and made a documentary that mirrored the feel of her book in hopes of helping still more women to understand that there is a way out of the abuse.

I am so proud of Sukree for breaking the silence about her abusive marriage.

Although I have both read the book and viewed an early copy of the documentary, I am going to write about the book today and hope it peaks the reader’s curiosity to come to the free showings of the documentary that will be playing in various locations throughout the country in the next two weeks.

Sukree’s book is about how she ended up as a victim of domestic violence and what she did to break free of it. The book starts in Black Bush Polder, where she grew up, and follows her life as she marries a young man from her area, migrates to the United States and spends 21 years in a marriage that from the very beginning was marked with abuse.

Friday, June 03, 2011

The issue of “stay-at-home” wives

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 03 June 2011)

I want to clear up a misunderstanding on how I feel about women who are deemed “stay-at-home” wives or moms. Last week I wrote about what the relatives of the brutally murdered Shewraney Doobay had to say regarding her marriage to Dr. Doobay, and I fear that I was not clear enough on my sentiments about women who – like Mrs. Doobay – care for the home.

As a reminder, the Doobay relatives told Kaieteur News, “‘She was his right hand; she spent all of her days at home while he spent most of his time at work…she did everything for him and he adored her.’
This newspaper was told that the couple had been married for more than 30 years.” I then pointed out that I had a problem with this statement because, “While traditional thought might insist this was a great marriage, for me and many other women, this would be hell on earth.”

This was the whole gist of my column – that there are many women who are no longer happy in the “traditional” role of being a stay-at-home wife.

Several times throughout the column I pondered whether Mrs. Doobay had a choice in being a stay-at-home wife. Among which I said, “I wonder if Mrs. Doobay chose this life for herself. I wonder if she even had a choice or if social expectations and spousal expectations chose this life for her.”

Acknowledging the oft stated choice factor in that column is key in understanding my point on this matter, because I believe that if a woman chooses to stay at home, that is her prerogative.
I have the utmost respect for women who choose to sacrifice a career to rear their children themselves. 

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Is homosexuality an abomination?

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 01 June 2011)

Last week I wrote on how homosexuals should be able to choose whom they have sex with (just like anyone else) without feeling adjudged by the rest of society. As expected, I received a couple of responses that steered me back to biblical scripture in an attempt to point out to me the “abomination” of homosexuality.

One person sent me an email that said, “Remember certain things God would forgive easily but certain things he said in an abomination. It is not forgiven that easily. Men sleeping with Men and Women Sleeping with Women are some of the abominables.” [Sic]

This ongoing debate concerning the morality of homosexuality carries the weight of validation for an entire segment of people. It is not as if they require the validation of society to exist, for they will exist regardless. However, if and when society finally accepts them, those who are homosexuals will finally be able to live their lives to the fullest without fear of reprisal for being who they are.

Let’s face it, society has at countless points in history sought to rid itself of varying segments of the population that it feared would change the status quo.

These offensive segments typically reflected factors such as race, gender, intellectual capability, financial status, physical health, mental health and political ideologies, etc. This list could go on forever.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Serving alcohol at Feminition is like asking a woman to kiss a cutlass

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 27 May 2011)

There has been debate amongst highly regarded women’s advocates concerning the Feminition Expo that will still be in full swing as most people read this column.

There are two main points at hand: the first point is whether Feminition should be serving alcohol and the second is whether the money spent on the Expo could have been better used in other ways to help women.

I will address the issue with alcohol first by saying that I fully agree with Vidyaratha Kissoon (Stabroek News, May 25 Letter to the Editor), S. Nageer (Kaieteur News, May 27 Letter to the Editor) and Andaiye (Stabroek News, May 27 Letter to the Editor) on this topic.

In fact, my colleagues and I in the “Break the Silence” group recently had the same conversation as Minister Priya Manickchand said she and her team had about whether to serve alcohol at an upcoming event. We decided against it.

We chose not to serve alcohol because of the message of duplicity it would send as we talked with our attendees about the role alcohol plays in domestic violence in Guyana. Although our group primarily focuses on bringing awareness to the issue of domestic violence, we have helped enough women to know that alcohol does indeed play a part in the ongoing violence toward women.

She did everything for him

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 27 May 2011)

This week has been yet another bloody one for the women of Guyana – and it is not even over yet. The violence and murders continue and the brutality escalates. One woman was slashed with a knife (luckily, she survived), another had her head bashed in and yet another was chopped to death with a cutlass – all in a matter of days.

There are witnesses to prove that two of the three attacks were carried out by the husbands. However, as yet there is no proof that Sharanie Doobay’s husband had anything to do with her brutal murder. As such, we will assume he is innocent until proven guilty.

Yet as I was reading the May 25 Kaieteur News report on the murder entitled, “Doctor’s wife found dead in pool of blood,” there was something that struck me. Here is what the article said, “Relatives also dispelled any suggestions that the woman and her husband had any problems…‘She was his right hand; she spent all of her days at home while he spent most of his time at work…she did everything for him and he adored her.’ This newspaper was told that the couple had been married for more than 30 years.”

Although the “relatives” did not see any problems, I see a big problem. In fact, I have a problem with that entire statement. The wife stayed at home all the time, the husband was at work all the time and she did everything for him – for more than 30 years.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The morality police are watching

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 25 May 2011)

I am often disappointed, and at times even offended, at the way homosexuals are viewed. Those who interact with me throughout the day will customarily refrain from their usual sexist verbiage so as not to offend my sensitivities on this topic.

However, I am also quite offended by homophobic speech because as a woman I understand all too well the plight of a group of people that is besmirched and degraded simply because of how they were born. This is not an easy life.

For example, imagine that you have decided to have sex with someone. Whether you are in love with this person or not is not the issue. Neither is whether you want to pursue a relationship with this person. The only issue is that you are going to have mutually consenting sex with a person of your choosing.

In Guyana, this choice could get you arrested if you are a man and the person with whom you choose to have sex is also a man. The enforcers of the law would not care if both people involved were mutually consenting adults. They would not care if the two were Christian, Hindu or Muslim. Nor would they care about the race of the “offenders.” The only thing that would matter to those with badges is that both people involved were men.

This type of despicable incident could take place in Guyana today, since laws against sodomy are still in the law books. In fact, unless the standing laws of the country change to be more tolerant of sexual preference, it seems the logical outcome could one day see paranoid heterosexuals narking on their homosexual neighbours to “clean up the neighbourhood.”

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Women must vote if they want to see change

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 22 May 2011)

In a world where the female population often outnumbers the male population, it is an immense travesty of the human race that “men rule the world.” In Guyana, where the female population has taken a nose dive in the last decade, the aforementioned travesty becomes a crime against women.

It is my opinion that as long as men alone roam the corridors of power, women will continue to live their lives as second rate citizens, as beating posts for the men and as the lower wage earners.

There are umpteen other demeaning and degrading roles that women are forced to play to entertain men and to feed the male ego, all of which relegate women to a subservient status. It is a disgrace. It is unjust. And it is because women do not vote.

For far too long, women had no voice in the home, in religion or in the matters of politics. The very fact that I am writing this column is proof that this is no longer the case. However, though women may have the opportunity to have a voice, it does us no good at all if we do not use that voice.

It is not good enough just to know that if we wanted to speak up, we could. We must speak up if we desire genuine change for our gender. We shake our heads when the neighbour beats his wife. We want to do something, but we are afraid of the same beating. We must vote if we want to see change.

Friday, May 20, 2011

When rats take over

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 20 May 2011)

Let’s be honest, it is time to address the rat problem. With trash piling up in mounds all over Georgetown, can we expect anything less than for them to start taking over and trying to get rid of the rest of us?

One rat decided to shut down the electricity and make life miserable for a lot of people this past Wednesday.

I have never heard of a rat shutting down an entire city before, but hey, this one did. It is becoming more and more obvious, these rats mean business.

Therefore, I maintain it is time that we know exactly what we are up against with these rats who want to take over. Rats come in many shapes and sizes.

For example, there is the rodent type, like the one that took out GPL this week. There are also the human rats.

We have all met human rats in our lives – they are those squirrelly people with beady eyes just waiting for the right minute when our backs are turned to nibble away at our precious goods. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

One woman’s struggle for a safe life

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 18 May 2011)
Last year in March, a young mother was chopped to death by her reputed husband and father of her children. As she was being attacked, her mother stepped in to try and keep her daughter alive and in the process was also chopped on both arms.

The mother, whom we shall call “Donna” to protect her from further harm, survived the attack. The perpetrator of this violent act then ran away leaving his two children without a mother or father. A murder charge was filed against him and a judge issued an arrest warrant.

At first, it is believed this man was hiding in the community, but he eventually left for a neighbouring country to dodge the law. However, he recently turned up again in the same community where he killed his wife and attacked his mother-in-law.

“Donna,” the mother-in-law, feared for her life, but decided to do the brave thing and tell the police that the perpetrator had returned. She first went to the local police station to make the report. However, she was sent to another police station. She went to that station, but they did not take a formal statement, just a verbal acknowledgment of what she said. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Why the reservation to name names?

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 15 May 2011)

There are times when in writing this column I have had an exchange of words with my editors concerning the naming of names concerning perpetrators of crimes.  I have to admit that I do not understand the concept of protecting criminals, but that seems to be the norm in Guyanese journalism.

I was taught that anything that was a matter of public record could and should be included in the news to keep the public informed.  The only times when there is an exception made to this rule is to protect victims (particularly in the case of sexual aggression) or a child under the age of 18. All other information belongs to the public.

For example, I wrote a column on December 08, 2010, about a Chief Medical Officer accused of domestic violence against his wife. The incident was a matter of public record as the police were involved in the report, but the man’s name was taken out of my column.

I respect my editors’ opinion on this issue, although I do not agree with the premise that everyone already knows the identity of the perpetrators. I also feel the public has a right to know the full story – not the edited one. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Amerindians provide land for Amaila Falls, but get no electricity in return

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 13 May 2011)

I attended the community meeting hosted by Sithe Global on the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project at the Tower Hotel on Wednesday night and was disappointed to find it was not the “town hall” structure I had expected, but more of an expo of project. It felt more like a launching than a place to “have your say,” as billed by their ad for the meeting.

I attended the meeting to get a better understanding of the project and I left with just that. Although the atmosphere was not what I expected, I did indeed have most of my questions answered, not all to my satisfaction, but an answer was attempted.

However, as I left I felt very disturbed about a piece of information I discovered during my visit. It seems that although there are several Amerindian villages throughout the nation that will be impacted by this project, none of them will reap the advantages of the electricity once it is finished. Not one village.

I did not know this information before. I did not know a lot before I attended the meeting, which is why I went in the first place – to educate myself on the project. Still, I am troubled by the omission of the Amerindian villages in their rightful share of the coming electricity from the hydropower project. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I bet doomsday will not come on May 21

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 11 May 2011)

I have often wondered with amusement about how many times in my short lifetime of 42 years that someone has prophesied that the end of the world would come on a specific date. It has happened many times – and each time the specified day comes and goes and nothing happens.

I remember when Ronald Reagan was elected president of the United States and there were some who preached that he was the anti-christ because his first, middle and last name all contained six letters – 666! Egads! I was 12 years old at the time and the whole fiasco was more than a bit scary.

There have been several judgment-day close calls for us humans in our past, yet we have somehow found the ability to remain unscathed by all of the doomsdays that have come and gone. I am not sure if it is our doomsday prowess that has saved us thus far, but we have obviously escaped the end of the world to this point.

The latest prophecy, which maintains that the end of the world will come on May 21 at exactly 6pm (sunset in Jerusalem) has preachers going all over the world to save us from judgment. I even saw some billboards on the Texas highway during a 15-hour drive last Saturday. Will the human race be able to escape this doomsday as well?

A Kaieteur News article on May 6 entitled, “Group preaches May 21 doomsday to Berbicians,” detailed the warnings of this group telling those in Berbice of the impending doom. The article said, “…the May 21 Judgment Day message they preach, originated from careful analysis and study of the Bible by General Manager and President of Family Radio, Harold Camping.” 

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Denying maternity leave is discrimination against women

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 08 May 2011) 

Today is Mother’s Day in the U.S. and my readers know I cannot allow any opportunity to slip by to honour women. However, I want to use this holiday to highlight an untenable situation recently brought to my attention that dishonours and discriminates against mothers rather than giving them the respect and esteem they deserve.

I am referring to the fact that there are employers that are not giving mothers their rightful maternity leave. The National Insurance Act allows for thirteen weeks maternity leave. The maternity benefits paid are equivalent to 70% of the average insurable income.

Further, female workers are also protected during pregnancy and after childbirth from discrimination, disciplinary action or dismissal for her pregnancy or reasons connected with her pregnancy by the Constitution, the Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act and the Prevention of Discrimination Act.

Thirteen weeks is not a very long time for a mother to have with her offspring, but it is better than what women in the U.S. receive, which is only 12 weeks. On the bright side, there are countries that obviously respect their women much more and care more about the family unit by providing substantial maternity leave.

Friday, May 06, 2011

State-sanctioned animal cruelty?

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 06 May 2011)

I was pleased to hear about the government’s move to start picking up stray animals from the streets. Anyone and everyone can attest to the hazard these animals create with their presence on the roadways – both to others and to themselves. However, I was not at all pleased to read the Kaieteur News article published on May 4 entitled, “Impounded animals dying in State care.”

The article said, “This newspaper was reliably informed that as a result, these animals have been locked up in police pounds for more than two weeks, in most cases, without water and proper food.
So far at least two animals have died at one of the pounds on the East Coast of Demerara, apparently as a result of dehydration and starvation. There are also reports, too, that the remaining animals there are in really bad condition.”

Later in that same article, Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee said he knew nothing of these conditions. He also said, “Before jumping to conclusions, one has to ascertain what condition the animal was brought.”

I can see how this could be the case given the condition of most of the strays seen on the streets.
However, it is highly unsettling for me to think that the unchecked animal cruelty in Guyana has now become State-sanctioned, with animals being starved to death in the custody of the State. If the reports of maltreatment of the strays picked up from the streets are true, this is a new low for the nation. 

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Keeping track of domestic violence offenders

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 04 May 2011)

There is a new idea being proposed that could have a significant impact in the struggle against domestic violence. According to an April 17 article entitled, “NY Legislators Propose Domestic Violence Registry” on, “Three New York legislators want the state to register domestic violence offenders just as sex crime offenders are publicly listed.”

One of the legislators, State Senator Eric Adams explained: “We would duplicate the same process and the same type of software, so we already have the wheel invented – we’re just adding a new spoke on the wheel.”

I do not believe Guyana has a way to track sex offenders yet, much less domestic violence offenders, but perhaps it is time to find a way to do both. For example, when I moved to the San Antonio, Texas area five years ago, I was able to type in my zip code on a registry Website for the area I live and find out if any sex offenders lived nearby.

Since I had a young daughter, this was vital information for me. Anyone who has been convicted of a sex crime must register with the local authorities. If the sex offender moves to another location, registration is required again in the new location. They must provide their address to the authorities and this information is made public for the protection of the community. 

Sunday, May 01, 2011

I will not sing John Paul’s praises

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 01 May 2011)

Although it was suggested that I should write on a significant global event that occurred this weekend and entitle it, “Royal Love, What women really want, fantasy and reality all at once,” I had already decided to write on the other significant global event to happen this weekend, the beatification of Pope John Paul II.

Today, John Paul will be the first Pope to be beatified by his immediate successor, which is Pope Benedict XVI, and it will be the quickest ascension on the path to sainthood in history.
One would expect such a person to be the epitome of goodness and justice.

While no one, not even this heathen, will deny the good that John Paul did in his life, it would be unbalanced and dishonest of us not to look at the other side of the coin as well.

On this day while many will praise John Paul for the things he did while alive, there are also some who will condemn him for what he did not do.

While I cannot stomach political corruption, it is corruption in the church that at once boggles my mind and boils my blood. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Verbal and mental abuse in the workplace

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 29 April 2011)

A person usually spends around 40 hours per week in the workplace. Some spend less, some spend more. Some spend much more than the typical 40 hours. At times, it can seem like one spends more time at work than at home. For this reason, it is vital for the work environment to be safe – both physically and mentally.

It has been brought to my attention that there are too many employers who are abusive to their employees. Abuse comes in many forms and the relationship between employer and employee can most certainly foster an unhealthy situation that undermines a productive work environment because of abuse.

Here is a fictional story from

“In a down economy where jobs were scarce, Toby was recently hired by a large IT firm. He was grateful for the opportunity to work.

Even though he had plenty of experience and confidence in himself, there were a lot of others vying for the same position. It wasn’t long before the boss, started talking down to him and treating him as if he didn’t know anything.

Toby wasn’t accustomed to being talked to in that manner, especially in front of his co-workers. He decided to watch and learn to see if this was a common practice for his boss to treat everyone like that or was he singled out. He put up with this workplace verbal abuse, and shook it off every day after work. After all, the job paid well and it was supporting himself and his family.”

Does this sound familiar? Or perhaps you have a boss that yells at the top of his/her lungs at you and the rest of your co-workers?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Attacking an elder is a crime against us all

 (Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 27 April 2011)

Those who prey on the weak are the personification of cowardice. To harm a child or an elderly person is to go against all virtue and honour that we as humans have established as the moral foundation for our species. Anyone who seeks out these weaker ones for no other reason than to inflict harm demonstrates the epitome of a depraved mind.

We are taught to have the utmost respect for our elders. In society, they are the ones with the wisdom. They are the ones with years of experience to share. They are living history. It is an honour to spend a day in the presence of an elderly person and to gain even an ounce of what she or he has to offer the world.

Yet the elderly in Guyana are now being targeted for robbery. To make this vile matter even more disgraceful, it is elderly women who are being attacked. An April 22 article in Kaieteur News entitled, “Murders of elderly ‘home alone’ women worry cops,” said, “Homicide ranks here are worried at what appears to be a pattern of brutal murders of elderly women who live alone. Of the nine women slain so far for the year, three of them were between the ages of 68 and 74.”

The article continued, “In each case the motive appeared to be robbery, but police said that two of the victims were sexually assaulted. Two were strangled and the throat of the third was slashed.”
I cannot even begin to imagine the type of person who would rob, sexually assault and violently murder a grandmother.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The perfect anthem for this election season

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 22 April 2011)

I heard a song this week that resonated with my core beliefs in a deep and meaningful way.
The song is entitled, “One Tribe” and it is sung by The Black Eyed Peas. From the first time I heard this song, I thought it would be a perfect anthem for this election year in Guyana.

The primary sentiment behind this song is about rejecting racial divisions and racial politics to work together toward a common goal for the good of all.

“One Tribe, one time, one planet, one race
It’s all one blood, don’t care about your face
The color of your eye or the tone of your skin
Don’t care where ya are
Don’t care where ya been
Cause where we gonna go
Is where we wanna be

The place where the little language is unity
And the continent is called Pangaea
And the main ideas are connected like a spear
No propaganda, They tried to upper hand us
Cause man I’m loving this peace
Man, man, I’m loving this peace
Man, man, I’m loving this peace”

I especially like the parts of the song that insist on rejecting leadership that promotes fear of others for selfish political agendas. The people of Guyana have to be smart enough to recognise the fear tactics of their leaders and adamantly reject those divisive schemes.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The future of this newspaper is at stake

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 22 April 2011)  

I spoke with the publisher of Kaieteur News (KN), Glenn Lall, several weeks ago about the fact that I believed there were forces that wanted to shut this newspaper down. After I spoke to him about this, I sent him an email containing several links to printed material that contained malicious statements about the newspaper.

Since then, there has been an escalation in this obvious campaign to discredit this newspaper all around the nation. There was even a flyer distributed in Berbice saying this newspaper was “anti-Guyana” and creating division in the nation.

This campaign against KN, Glenn Lall and Freddie Kissoon has been incessant for weeks now without letting up and includes verbal assaults. I believe the forces behind this assault on KN made a deliberate decision to do whatever it takes to bring this newspaper down once and for all.

However, the more they would tell people not to read this newspaper, the more people would read it to find out why they should not read it. Their plan was backfiring and they needed a more effective strategy to get rid of KN. It is my opinion that when these malicious forces realised their plan was not working, they then came up with an idea to divide and conquer – after all, this is one of the most effective ways to defeat an enemy.

It can be quite clear to anyone who reads this newspaper that division has been wrought in this otherwise harmonious newspaper.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Considering Cinderella

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 20 April 2011)

I love a good fairy tale. Who doesn’t? Especially when that tale entails a “rags to riches” story. I grew up in an abusive home where my mother physically, emotionally and verbally abused me for the entire time I lived in her house, so I often wished for a prince to come and save me from the tormented life I lived.

For a long time, I thought that prince would be my father whom I had never met. I would sit and daydream about the day he would come back and get me (on a white horse in a knight’s suit), to take me away from the abuse. Little did I know at such a young age that living with my alcoholic father would have been just as bad as living with my abusive mother.

Eventually, my prince did come in the form of a young Guyanese man who would one day be my husband. It is so nice when fairy tales end with a “happily ever after.” The truth, however, is that all those years of abuse did a number on my mind and my prince would have to help me through many years of mistrust and abandonment issues. Not so happy, eh?

I wish there had been some fairy tales that highlighted strong young women who fought for their rights instead of meek ones who accepted their plight until a man came along and saved them. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the fact that my prince loved me enough to help me through the hell I went through while growing up, but I so wish I had been taught to be strong enough to stand up for myself.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

No Women, No Vote

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 17 April 2011)

With the selection of Donald Ramotar as the PPP presidential candidate, the election season is now in full swing. As such, I feel it necessary to remind my readers that I never publicly endorse any particular candidate or political party. I take this strong stance because I feel it is difficult to view a columnist’s words as objective if that writer has already stated that she/he is not objective.

I have always felt the same about newspapers, as well. During the elections in the US, I take any political news with a grain of salt if it comes from a newspaper that endorses one particular candidate or political party. One cannot expect to receive unbiased reports from a columnist or newspaper that openly states that it is biased.

However, as usual, I will continue to give my opinion on events, strategies and the overall flow of the campaign season, which is the purpose of this column today. Anyone who reads this column regularly will know that I must speak about the remarks made by PNCR Presidential Candidate, David Granger, concerning the role of women in the upcoming election.

I have to admit that when Granger said he wanted a female prime ministerial candidate when he was first elected (as opposed to selected) by the PNCR as the party’s presidential candidate, I was sceptical that this voiced preference would stand the test of time in Guyana’s political atmosphere.
Yet it seems Granger is sticking to his guns and I am impressed that given the number of would-be male prime ministerial aspirants that he must be fielding, he seems to be adamant on having a female represented in this role. This action in itself is enough to speak volumes about what Guyana’s women could expect from a Granger administration.

However, last weekend Granger went one step further in his bid to secure the female votes in Guyana. In an April 11 Kaieteur News article, entitled, “Granger believes women will determine outcome of election,” the PNCR candidate reportedly said that women must be on equal footing as men.
The article continued, “He said that women make up more than 50 per cent of the population and are the mothers of the nation’s children. He stressed that women hold the nation’s future in their hands. Women should be enabled to play their full and equal role in the development of their families, communities and the nation as a whole.”

I have been waiting for years to see a political candidate enact this level of female inclusion in the political process. I always envisioned that it would be a female politician, but the three women who were/are in the forefront of this election season have not risen to my expectations on this matter.
Gail Teixeira, Faith Harding and Sheila Holder are all strong women with the capacity to call on women to take their rightful place in the political process, yet none have done so to even a small degree in light of what David Granger is doing.

Granger is campaigning on a very smart platform. He knows very well that Guyana’s women are coming out of the shadows and realising their worth to the nation. He can appreciate that they have found their voice – and he is listening to those feminine voices.

The inclusion of women in the political process is something that should have happened long before now. I have my own speculations as to why the PPP has not attempted to garner the female vote, and perhaps one day I will write on those speculations.

However, I will say that the obvious exclusion of females from the PPP campaign is just as telling as the deliberate inclusion of females in the PNCR campaign. Likewise, I do not see the AFC playing to the female half of Guyana’s population either. It is almost as if the PPP and AFC do not recognise the women as viable voters. This is a severe mistake.

When I vote as a woman, I always vote based on the issues that are important to me, but that is after I have sorted through the candidates and eliminated any who do not cater for the female vote. I would never, I repeat, never vote for a candidate who does not include women and women’s issues in her or his campaign.

For a woman to vote for a political party or a candidate who does not address women and women’s issues is like shooting yourself in the foot. The situation for women in Guyana is dire – and it will continue to be so until there is a leader in the country who respects women and refuses to allow the female constituents to be treated as anything less than equals.

The purpose of this column is not to encourage a vote for David Granger, though he has certainly won my respect in regard to his campaign approach toward women. Instead, it is my hope that other political parties will follow Granger’s exceptional lead to comprehend the importance of including women in their campaigns as well.

I will be watching carefully, as will the women in Guyana, to see if the other political parties see fit to cater to the female vote. It is my opinion that if a political party does not include women in its election campaign, that party does not deserve the vote from the women. No women, no vote.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Who Am I? (A poem by Stella)

 (Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 18 March 2011)

Do you have a little girl who likes to be rambunctious? Do you spend your day trying to reshape her personality to be less adventuresome and more retiring? If so, do you also impose those traits on your son – if you have one?

It is simply unfair for girls to be locked away and told to be quiet and submissive while the boys are allowed to get dirty and explore the world. When that girl grows up, she will then be told that she does not understand the real world. Of course she doesn’t. Her parents and society did not allow her to learn about the real world.

Moreover, those retiring traits that are too often instilled in little girls and subsequently taken into their adult lives, are often the same traits that put them at severe disadvantage when they enter into relationships, the workplace and leadership positions.

Some believe females are more given to a quiet and submissive life. I do not agree. I was never given to being submissive and if I am quiet, it is because it was beat into me as a child – not because it was my nature. I am not the exception, either. I know scores of women just like me.

Girls should be encouraged to be themselves, even if that includes climbing trees and getting dirty. Young women should be taught how to stand up for themselves in the real world. And young wives should be told that a marriage is an equal partnership in which her opinion matters as much as that of her husband.

The truth of the matter is that if young girls were raised in a world where equality is taught from birth – to both boys and girls – there would be far less friction between the two sexes. It is because boys are deferred to throughout their lives that they feel they are somehow superior and feel the need to put females “in their place.”

There is no superiority. Women and men should be able to navigate life on earth together without the superficial trivialities humans have created to rule over each other. Each gender has its strengths and weaknesses, but when they are put together the human race makes a powerful species.

I understand the frustrations of a little girl who is required to be something less than what she truly is inside. While I was in college in a Gender Communications class, the students were asked to explain where we saw ourselves on a gender line – masculine on one side of the line, feminine on the other and androgynous in the centre.

We were to complete this assignment any way we felt most comfortable, which for me, of course, was writing. The following is the poem I wrote for that assignment:

Who Am I?
Frills and lace are for the prissy
Give me some jeans instead.
Bikes and dirt were my toys
Barrettes never stayed on my head.

I was Momma’s only girl
Though she could never get me in a dress.
Although there was that one big fight
When she had someone to impress.

Me and my little brother
Our bikes answered the call of the city streets.
Boys gave me kisses and hugs
But knew better than to give me sweets.

Don’t ask me to share my feelings
I’d rather share what’s in my head.
Don’t open my door or pull out my seat
Until I’m in my casket, cold and dead.

Chivalry equals dependence
Don’t make me feel small today.
I won’t be kept and I won’t be bought.
No thank you, I can make my own way.

Women cower and cringe at my actions
They think me arrogant and bold.
Some men find me intriguing
Others find me quite cold.

I don’t conform to society
I am the master of my own values and goals.
I won’t allow myself to be used by others
It would equate to selling my soul.

Am I a tomboy? No, not really.
I just don’t fit your mould.
I have more energy and potential
Than a simple structure like that can hold.

So let’s talk, I promise not to bite.
Come on now – let me in.
I know my confident stride can be intimidating,
But I fit just fine in my own skin. 

When I write on the situation of women in society, I do so because my one great desire is to see women function in an equal capacity on every level – political, spiritual, educational, business – and in every other conceivable way. It is not because I want women to push men out. It is because I believe that when women and men begin working together – without the unfair disadvantages placed on women from birth – we will see a world that is far better than the one in which we currently live.

When I finally gave up trying to conform to society’s expectation of what a woman should be, when I finally allowed myself to be the real me, that is when I realised that I fit fine in my own skin.

I know who I am. Why not allow your daughter to know whom she really is deep inside, too. Better yet, why not allow her to be whom she really is deep inside.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Curiouser and Curiouser!

 (Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 16 March 2011)

Sometimes, in regard to writing on political and social issues in Guyana, I feel like I am watching the Disney movie, Alice in Wonderland. Alice said if she had a world of her own, “…everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”

This is the world of politics in Guyana. Nothing is what it is because everything is what it isn’t. I sometimes feel as if at any moment Alice will show up with the Mad Hatter and the March Hare. My column reflects the opinion of a person looking at Guyana from the outside, and sometimes I am honestly flabbergasted at the things I see.

For example, this was printed in the Guyana Chronicle yesterday, “Press and Publicity Officer of the Office of the President, Kwame McCoy, last evening reacted to a Prime News report which accused the Office of the President as being the owners and managers of the Live In Guyana blog. The report is absolutely erroneous since this blog site is not managed by the Office of the President, McCoy said.”

So far, this statement seems as if it is perfectly normal. There is nothing out of the ordinary in McCoy’s statement, until he says, “The report is mischievous since Prime News is aware that the site is owned and managed by Prime News and the Kaieteur News.” This is where I have to say everything is nonsense.

Why on earth would Prime News and Kaieteur News publish material on a blog that is injurious to members of its own staff – as the Live In Guyana has done? This blog has even posted personal information about those from Kaieteur News. This is what I mean when I say nothing is what it is because everything is what it isn’t. Pure nonsense.

Speaking of nonsense, it is sheer madness when one of the more brilliant minds in a nation – and the foremost columnist – uses infantile language like “King Kong” to refer to a president. Regardless of the lack of respect that columnist holds for the president, for those looking in from the outside, this use of childish antics is confusing at best and at worst, difficult to take seriously – because it is coming from an intellectual. Just madness.

My colleague, Freddie Kisssoon talks about the madness that has taken over the country, but when he lowers himself to the same childish behaviour as those he writes about, he becomes part of the problem and definitely not an example of what the solution should look like. Freddie is like Alice when the Catepillar asked her, “Who are YOU?” Alice replied, “I—I hardly know, sir, just at present— at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”

Freddie has warned me on several occasions not to allow my association with certain people to change me, but Freddie is allowing his crusade against “King Kong” to change him and he does not even see it.

Yes, madness abounds. Mark Benschop is arrested for trumped up charges of breaking Kwame McCoy’s door window while McCoy and his posse walk away after severely vandalising Benschop’s truck. Madness.

Madness abounds when the president of the country tells the people to not allow others to divide the nation while he himself uses highly inflammatory language that can have no other objective but to divide the nation. Curiouser and curiouser!

Guyana is beginning to look like Venice with waterways for streets. Perhaps someone should invest in some gondolas and use the ever-present floodwaters as a romantic jaunt for the tourists? What sense does it make to have streets anymore if they are always covered with water? No sense. Nonsense.

What sense is there in having any opposition parties when they oppose nothing? If they act like the subjects in the court of the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland and simply bow and say, “Yes, your majesty. Yes, your majesty. All ways are your ways, your majesty,” what sense is there in even having them around?

When the Queen of Hearts goes around intimidating her subjects demanding to know who is painting her roses red, not a single soul has the courage to stand up and tell her that roses are supposed to be red.
In Guyana, the opposition parties do not have the courage to take a stand against the tirades of those in power, either. They, too, cower in fear without the courage to take a stand for how things are supposed to be. More madness.

So where do I fit into this madness? Alice told the Cheshire Cat, “I don’t want to go among mad people.” To this the cat replied, “Oh, you can’t help that, we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.” Alice asked, “How do you know I’m mad?” The Cheshire Cat responded, “You must be or you wouldn’t have come here.” I guess this means I am in the same boat as everyone else in Guyana. Or should I say I am in the same gondola.

One cannot help but wonder if like Alice in Wonderland, this is all just a dream and we will wake up with a fabulous tale of a place where everything is nonsense and nothing is what it is because everything is what it isn’t. On the contrary, perhaps I can instead expect Freddie to one day ask me why a raven is like a writing desk.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

You, too, can be a rebellious woman

 (Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 13 March 2011)

One of Guyana’s greatest women has also been named as one of Time Magazine’s top rebellious women of all time. To say that I was elated to hear this news is an understatement. There is no doubt that Janet Jagan was a fighter in every sense of the word.

This newfound fame for a Guyanese woman caused me to assess the “rebel” factor of the Guyanese women at large. There is no doubt that Guyanese women have spunk, attitude and sass – all of which, I can readily relate.

Although I never had the pleasure of meeting Janet Jagan in person, I have a feeling she had to have plenty of spunk, attitude and sass as well. How could she not, given the amount of great things she accomplished in her life? A shrinking violet (a shy or retiring person) cannot storm a castle.

One of my three favourite phrases, which I have mentioned before, is “A well-behaved woman rarely makes history.” This is so true when one thinks of Janet Jagan. The woman is now infamous for her rebellion against so many aspects of societal expectations – and even political expectations (national and international).

Janet Jagan did not wait for a man to do what she knew she could do just as well – or better. She did not conform to what anyone else thought. She claimed her own thoughts and did what she wanted. She was a leader among leaders. This is my kind of woman.

It makes me glad when I see Guyanese women break out of that little box society has shoved them into. However, let’s be honest, there are also some Guyanese women who have been “put into their place” by the likes of men who do not appreciate a rebellious woman. Some have even been murdered for not “submitting” to their “masters.”

I had a good friend of mine once tell me, as he hit his breast with his fist, that he knows deep down inside that men are to be the head of the household. I can do better than that. I know with every ounce of my whole body, soul and mind that no man should be the master of another person – including a woman.

My friend believes what he does because that is what he has been taught since he was born – that a man is to rule over the home and over the woman. What else is he going to believe after being inundated with this sexist viewpoint for his whole life? I was taught those views too, but I always knew it was wrong from the time I was a young girl.

I know, I know – I am a rebellious woman, too. I gladly admit it and I am proud of it! I do not bow to the archaic ideas that I am a second-rate citizen because I am a female. I do not allow men to treat me as if I am anything but their equal and when I walk into a room I am recognised for my intellect – not as the one who cooked dinner.

And you, sister, can be a rebellious woman, too. Come on, you know how much you have been wanting to break those prison bars that have imprisoned you for your whole life. How many times have you longed to be free?

How many times have you thought about how unfair it is that you have to work all day and come home to cook dinner and clean all night? How many times have you wanted to lash out when the bossman grabs you on the rear? Take my word for it; there is no man but my husband who would dare to grab my rear (and my husband knows he has my permission).

I have another question, how long have you been working yourself to death hoping to be taken as seriously as a man? Girl, it is time to rebel. It is time to channel your inner Janet Jagan and let the real you come out in full force. By the time you are done, they will have no choice but to recognise you for the full potential you have as a person.

I am about to make a whole lot of religious people upset, but like I said – I am a rebel. Women, it is time for you to rebel, too. It is time to misbehave. It is time to make our own set of social standards. Stop finding excuses to conform to the patriarchal system and just be your own woman for a change.

Think about this, any woman who has ever made history has done so because they chose to defy the stifling system to which women are chained. Janet Jagan chose to be her own woman and she made history. Aung San Suu Kyi has been the foremost leader in the effort to democratize Burma, and after 15 years of house arrest, she was presented with the Nobel Peace Prize. She was also one of the top rebellious women in Time Magazine.

I am a writer and so my all-time favourite heroine is a writer. George Eliot, born Mary Anne Evans, created her male pen name to have her writings taken more seriously in the late 19th century.

According to Wikipedia, “Women writers were not uncommon at the time, but Evans’s role at the head of a literary enterprise was. The mere sight of an unmarried young woman mixing with the predominantly male society of London at that time was unusual, even scandalous to some.”

Eliot wrote my favourite book, “Middlemarch”. There are stories that she dressed like a man and she, in fact, had a long-term relationship without getting married.

She was a great rebel and set the groundwork for future female writers. When I grow up, I want to be a rebel just like her.

And just like Janet Jagan, you can be a rebellious woman, too.