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!

Garrido-Lowe has worked as a school teacher, an insurance agent, a computer graphic designer and a contributor to Kaieteur News on health issues. For the past 15 years, she has managed her own business. She has also raised two children as a single mother and now has two grandchildren as well. She has been a member of TUF for 15 years.

When I met Garrido-Lowe at Unity House this past week, I just had to pick her brain to see what kind of woman would stand up to the political bulldogs of Guyana.

Here are some of the questions I asked Garrido-Lowe (portions of this interview have been edited for space):

Stella Ramsaroop [SR]:  I put a post on my Facebook page from a CNN report that said in part, “Today, 18-to-34-year-old men spend more time playing video games a day than 12-to-17-year-old boys. While women are graduating college and finding good jobs, too many men are not going to work, not getting married and not raising families. Women are beginning to take the place of men in many ways.”
You (Garrido-Lowe) responded to my status by saying, “That is why we need to support the lone woman running for President of Guyana (that’s me!) We can do this girls… we can transform Guyana, and when we are finished many who know it now would not recognise it.”
Tell me, why do you believe women should vote for a female candidate?

Valerie Garrido-Lowe [VGL]:  Women are going forward, educating themselves and getting involved and doing their part. We have [had] the two major parties in government; we had the PNC for 28 years and the PPP for 19 years now, and although there is progress, I don’t think the men are caring enough with things that should matter.
A simple thing is the city. Look at the city and how dirty it is. It is our capital city. Now as a woman, naturally, before I invite anybody into my house I would tidy up my place and then tell that guest, ‘Welcome to my home’. Those in government are saying we are going big into tourism, we are inviting people to come and look at our beautiful country and our country is so dirty. Look at the rubbish all around. And we are inviting tourists to come and see that? Granted, you are touting eco-tourism, great. But this is the capital city. It must look good.
The men are there and they do not care to clean up and they are busy going ahead with what they think should be done for the country and they are walking all over the piles of dirt.
 [SR]: What would you say to those who say women should not vote based on gender?

[VGL]:  Women should not necessarily vote for women, but… the circumstances we are in now…call for a woman. I feel so, and I think women should realize that they should come together now because look, the men have had their chance. A simple example is [what I have mentioned about] the city, and they are not coming up to scratch. I think we as women must not be afraid to take over and get things done.
It’s simple, just like in the home. A man is late with his salary or he gets fired or something and cannot provide, what will you as a woman do? [Will you not] go and try and find work? Or go and borrow [some money]? You do your part as a woman, taking over that part that is not being fulfilled by the man.
Right now I feel a lot of things need to be done and since the men are not doing it, the women have to do it.

[SR]:  This past Monday night, I was at the vigil in front of Sharma’s station and so were you. You spoke to those gathered there, as did Gerhard Ramsaroop from the AFC and Rupert Roopnaraine from the APNU. Yet, I noticed the next day in the newspapers, the others were mentioned and you were not. How does it make you feel when the media ignore you? Do you feel it is because you are a female candidate?

[VGL]:  Actually, we are still trying to figure out what really is their problem. [laughing] Some-times I think it is because I am a woman. Sometimes I think it is because I am an Amerindian. Those two go back and forth.
It feels a bit odd. It is like I have to fight for everything. My daughter was telling me, ‘You know, although you are going through all this as a new politician, I am proud of you. You are not getting it easy; therefore, you can go down in history as fighting for something.’ That was her perspective and I looked at it and thought, ‘OK. Alright. That is a good way of viewing it.’
It can be a bit disheartening at times, but it will take a lot to floor me because I expect a lot of things. If I didn’t expect a lot of things, maybe I wouldn’t be here up to now.

[SR]:  What would you like to tell the women of Guyana?

[VGL]:  I think women should realize that we are in a situation in Guyana right now that we need to recognize that we can do a lot more than stay on the sidelines. That we can come out and actually transform Guyana instead of waiting for our men to do it. Once we have the time and we feel we have the strength and the vision, let us go for it. Nothing is wrong with voting for a woman.

Compare us to the men right now. Compare yourself. Ask yourself, can you as a woman do better than what they are doing right now and if you can say yes, then vote for me.

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