(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 09 January 2011)
My male colleagues have made their choices for those they admired in 2010. Peeping Tom chose Glenn Lall as Man of the Year and Freddie wrote of a list of people from 2010 that he admires. Therefore, I would be remiss if I did not name my own selection for a female who deserves to be recognised.
I have met so many wonderful Guyanese women this year – women who have persevered through the most difficult of circumstances, women who are still struggling and doing it with valour and women who dedicate their lives to helping others. Each one of these women has made a significant impact on me.
That being said, my choice for Woman of the Year 2010 is Varshnie Singh. When I met Varshnie in September of 2010, we met at my hotel and her easy-going demeanour put me at ease from the very start. To be sure, we were both probably a bit wary of the other since she came from a life of politics and me being a journalist. The first thing she did was ask the taxi driver (she did not have a car to drive at this point) to drive me around town as she showed me sights that no one had yet taken the time to show me.
Then we picked up some lunch – cook-up for me and a veggie dish for her. We ate in the Promenade Gardens and talked for a good long while. My wariness was put to rest when I saw how willing she was to be honest about the questions I asked. I was not interviewing her for a column, but I was curious about her life. She was kind enough to appease my curiosity.
However, what really struck me was that she greeted every single person who crossed her path. The greetings were genuine and given with a smile. In a country where class lines are still so very prevalent and where those with power and money treat the average person with contempt, it was refreshing to see the Former First Lady greet each person. I would end up spending a lot of time with Varshnie and those greetings to strangers on the street never stopped.
The traits I have spoken of to this point are interesting, but do not make one a Woman of the Year. What makes Varshnie stand out is her selfless and tireless work for others. Day in and day out, she is helping others. She helps those who are sick and cannot afford medical treatment. She helps women who are victims of domestic violence. She helps anyone who asks, and does so with a smile on her face.
After Varshnie and Dianne Madray (another great candidate for woman of the year) successfully pulled off the “Break the Silence, Stop the Violence” rally and subsequent workshops, it would make sense that she (Varshnie) would stop and take a breather, but instead she organised a senior citizens Christmas luncheon, where each attendee received a new shirt if they were a man and a piece of material to make a dress if they were a woman, a hamper of goodies and a great lunch.
It did not stop there, she then organised an event for kids to get a photo with Santa and a present from him. There were around 900 children who came to the event. Varshnie could have been recouping from the months of planning that she and Dianne spent on organising the rally. Instead, she continued to give and to give some more.
The information I am giving of what Varshnie is doing for the people of Guyana only encompasses the last three months of the year – from the time I met her in September – and does not include the many other good deeds she does like finding doctors who will help the poor who are sick, getting medication for those who cannot afford it and so many other little things that mean the world to those she helps.
Varshnie is the type of leader that I would follow. She is humble and smart; she is kind-hearted and willing to help others. She does not use her position in life to hold others down; she uses it to lift others up. She does not look down her nose at anyone because she sees each person as having value. I have seen this with my own eyes on numerous occasions.
I have even watched her closely (being the journalist that I am) when she was exhausted and hungry because our schedule would not allow us to sleep or eat, and she still saw those who other leaders would look right through as if they did not exist. This tells me that her generosity toward others is authentic, it is how she believes she should live – and she does live it every day.
I have been so very inspired by this woman who could easily go to London, get a nice paying job that correlates with her education and live a comfortable life. She does not have to do spend her time helping her fellow Guyanese, she is doing it because she truly wants to do it.
I am going to be honest, I used to be like Varshnie years ago when I was younger, but I lost my way when confronted by ingratitude, suspicion (no good deed goes unpunished) and lack of perseverance. Varshnie is a better woman than I because she does not give up, even when faced with all of the same obstacles I encountered. I have seen it with my own eyes.
One cannot be around Varshnie for very long without being inspired. She has triumphantly worked through the hurt and emotional turmoil life has doled out, and the beautiful woman she is today is a testament to how strong and loving she is inside.
For all the good she symbolises in Guyana, this why I have chosen Varshnie Singh as Guyana’s Woman of the Year.