(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.
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.
Unless we start respecting the womenfolk, we feel that we are going to perpetuate our society being gender divided and that is not right. We feel we have to bring them up and support them and help them. And I am certain once you get the women supported by the men, your entire society prospers because there is a certain magic about a woman that helps society and especially if they are treated well.
So we believe our society will be better off with women being respected and being given those opportunities for equality – and in everything else. The salary structures for women, the ones who do the same amount of work as men, pay them equal salaries. They are qualified like the man. Pay them the equal salary that man is getting. The quicker we do that and the more exemplars we find in political parties who are cultivating that attitude, we feel that is going to create – faster – for us in this society, more equality for the women.
APNU Presidential Candidate David Granger:
The answer is very simple, equality means equality. Five equals five. Ten equals ten. It’s like I say – not trying to be vulgar – equality is like virginity, it is absolute. You cannot be partial. You cannot be partially equal. In 1976, our party [the PNC], which was then the government, introduced a white paper on the equality of women – and that was 35 years ago. We were the party to describe, or to lay down the guidelines, for women’s equality and I believe it must be fulfilled to the letter.
I believe women must be given equal status, not semi-equal status. Equal/equal. Fifty/fifty. Right now, our party [the PNC] is the only party in the National Assembly that has exact equality in the members. I am committed to equality for women. And as I said, equality means equality.
PPP/C Presidential Candidate Donald Ramotar:
I have grown up in a political party in this country that actually started the fight for women’s equality. We have done a lot of advocating for equality for women. So that is part of my own make up – as a PPP member, as a PPP leader – I developed it within the party. So, surely I will try to ensure that we have the various balances that exist within our society.
Yes, I would like to promote women in various institutions. Right now, it is also getting easier because if you look at our institutions, particularly the University of Guyana, you will see a lot more women graduating than men. Clearly I would like to see people in positions where they can make a contribution and they are not discriminated against, on the basis of sex. I would like to see – as far as that is possible – that it should be in our society as a whole, particularly in public institutions.
I must say that I was quite amused that both Granger and Ramotar claimed their respective parties to be the champion of gender equality in Guyana. What makes their responses concerning their parties even more fascinating is that since the PNCR and the PPP/C have basically been the only ones to govern the country since independence, these two parties must also take responsibility for the very sad state of gender inequality in Guyana.
With that out of the way, Granger’s response appeared genuine and heartfelt, and that is what matters in this consideration of gender equality in leadership. Granger also mentioned the fact that his party is the only party with half of its representatives in National Assembly being female.
This is true and it is a fact that resonates with the part of me that wants to see the best for women. Actions speak so much louder than words and a genuine desire to see gender equality is what counts most of all.
Ramotar’s answer was frail and seemed forced. I was not at all convinced that should he be elected president, gender equality in leadership would be of import to him.
In the end, Ramjattan once again provided us with a substantial answer. I like the idea of a man saying that society should be helping and supporting women to become independent. Ramjattan puts forth a persona of a man who truly respects women and sees them as equals. Moreover, he appears to sees the value and importance of having a gender equal society.
After my last column, I was accused of being biased toward Ramjattan by a PNC member. This is not true. In fact, I have written many columns about the follies of the AFC (as well as the PPP and the PNC) in the past. I stand by my objective opinion. Moreover, anyone can read the words of these men themselves and make their own honest assessment of which best answered the questions.
The purpose of these interviews is to inform the public on how the candidates think about women’s issues. People are then able to make up their own minds as to who they think will best represent women.
Here are my ratings for this week’s answers: Ramjattan – 3; Granger – 2; Ramotar – 1.