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.

You have to tell them how the corruption is affecting their lives because this is what I find you have to say to the electorate and women, your lives are bad because of the misspending, the corruption and the thievery that is happening in upper governmental levels so that the money is not there to make your lives better.

APNU Candidate David Granger
(This answer has been edited for space)

As a member of the People’s National Congress Reform I recognise that women constitute more than half of our party.

They may be half of the national population, but they are more than half of our party. Our women’s arm was founded on the same day the party was founded, on the 5th of October, 1957. Right now it is called the National Congress of Women.

Since the campaign started, we have participated in what is called a Women’s Convention. Again, you can see from our literature that women are very prominent in all of my visits. When I went to the Rupununi recently during the floods, I was met by a large number of women. Men were noticeably few in number. Women – housewives and some very vocal women because they were critical of the government’s response to the disaster – those women came out.

Wherever I go, the women come forward before the men. The men might come and give advice later, but the women are always very concerned because I believe most of the issues that affect the Guyanese population today hurt the women first.

PPP/C Candidate Donald Ramotar

I stand on the PPP/C’s record on that issue. We can point to several things that we have done to make life better for women and to remove women from being disadvantaged. I can list a long list of things that Priya Manickchand’s Ministry has been doing and laws that we have passed. Generally, I think everyone in this country knows the philosophy of the PPP – that we have always been an organisation [that is] open and friendly and encouraging to women to participate in the political life in our society.

So, I don’t think I have to promise anything special, I would just say that we have a proud record, that we stand on many achievements and we will continue to work with women, women’s organisation, women in the party and women in the country generally to work together to improve their own conditions.

I would say that in promoting and developing their own conditions, I am sure we would be promoting the development of our country as a whole.

My response:
Let’s be quite honest here: All three answers from Guyana’s major presidential candidates are basically saying that they are actively doing nothing to cater to the female vote.
How ironic that both the AFC and the APNU admitted that everywhere they go around the country, women are more interested in their meetings than men, yet aside from the PNC’s women’s convention, there seems to be no focus whatsoever on securing the female vote!

Ramotar does not even feel he has to “promise anything special,” as if it would be meaningless to cater to female voters. Further, Ramjattan said, “At this stage in the campaign, there’s nothing else you can do but ask them for their trust in you….”

I could not disagree more. When these interviews were done in June, there was a whole world of things that could have been done to cater to the female vote. Even now, at the start of September, the parties should be out in hot pursuit of the female vote. I feel these political leaders are lazy.

Moreover, Ramjattan’s statement feels condescending when he said, “What is required from a politician is to ensure that the womenfolk will understand you” and “that you are not in any way trying to confuse them….” This feels as if women are so dunce that we cannot possibly understand the political playing field or the ins and outs of government. Again, how ironic given the state of the country today at the hands of men.

I asked what these candidates were actively doing to secure the votes of women and both Granger and Ramotar treated me with history lessons. I did not want to hear of what the party is doing or what the party has done. I asked what each candidate was doing to persuade the women to vote for him.
There is one thing that the APNU is doing – or rather not doing – right now to keep the female vote for as long as it can.

It is not naming a prime ministerial candidate. You see, Mr. Granger said early on as a candidate in the PNC primary race that he would like a female prime minister. With Faith Harding in the race, this announcement was a good way to sway the female voters away from Harding.

However, although the entire country knows Rupert Roopnaraine will likely be the APNU’s prime ministerial candidate, the announcement has not taken place even at this late stage. Could it be that the coalition fears the loss of female votes if Granger backs down on his declaration of wanting a female prime minister?

Even the PPP/C has yet to choose a prime minister for Ramotar. Names of qualified female candidates have been tossed about here and there, but let’s face it – this election will sadly be another meeting of the boys club with Sheila Holder as the sole female.

Ah, but there is another female. The United Force (TUF) has a female presidential candidate, Valerie Garrido-Lowe, and she is looking better by the minute. I am so sorry that I did not get to interview her for these columns because it is looking more and more like the best man for this job is a woman.

Ratings:  Ramjattan – 2; Granger – 1; Ramotar – 0

Note:  Next week, I will tally the 12-week ratings and write on who, in my opinion, would most likely work for the women of Guyana as president.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:10 pm

    Disappointing responses...are these the candidates that hope to lead Guyanese and specifically female Guyanese in the 21 st. century?? Sad indeed....


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