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.