Saturday, December 03, 2011

What does each party’s manifesto pledge to do for Guyana’s women?

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 26 November 2011)  

The elections are upon us and this year has seen more focus on women’s issues on the political platforms than ever before. This is how it should be and even more so until women are safe and hold equal status in all spheres of life. As such, I combed through the manifestos of each party to see what Guyana’s leaders had to offer the women.

This column highlights what each party has stated it will specifically do for the women of the nation in the next term. Key issues pertaining to women will be addressed with the coordinating response from the parties according to their manifestos. If there is no answer provided for the issue, it will be noted.

(Note: Each party’s manifesto response is listed alphabetically by the party’s acronym.)

Domestic violence:
AFC – Establish legal aid support for women who are victims of domestic violence systems and a rescue support fund during rehabilitation. Increase the number of shelters and care centres available to women in trauma. Establish and implement a Family Court to address the specific needs of women. Enact a Family Law Act to deal with common law unions, child support and the custody of children, spouse maintenance and the resolution of property disputes. Establish systems to ensure earlier intervention by social services in disputes and the collection of data to determine causes of domestic violence, identification and implementation of solutions. (Page 31) Train and empower the police to respond more effectively to domestic violence. (Page 17) 

APNU – APNU endorses and commits to the implementation of the National Domestic Violence Policy (NDVP) developed in a consultative process between civil society and government, and as an essential part of ending domestic and sexual abuse, will promote a sustained campaign to uproot the cultural acceptance of violence against the less powerful. (Page 16) Reduce crime and fear of crime especially the high rate of… domestic violence by improving policing and maintaining police teams that spend more time on the beat to deter, detect, prevent or investigate crime. There will be zero tolerance on…violence against elders, children women and other vulnerable members of society. (Page 30)

PPP – Expand the work of the Women’s Affairs Bureau, the Men’s Affairs Bureau and the Child Protection Agency. Increase support for programmes to prevent domestic violence and against molestation of our children. (Page 36)

TUF – TUF considers domestic violence as a most reprehensible anti-social and criminal behaviour in our society… As an organization that believes in a social and legal coherent society, TUF will seek to amend the relevant legislation to increase the severity of the penalty that may be imposed on those found guilty of this cowardly act. TUF argues that early intervention and the offer of financial and other assistance by the relevant authorities can serve as motivating factors for victims to pursue their complaints. Victims must be encouraged to pursue their complaints and should not directly or indirectly be discouraged from so doing. TUF would recommend that all complaints of domestic violence filed with the police be treated with due urgency by the police and that immediate and prudent steps be taken to minimize risk of further injury to the victim. (Pages 15-16)  Note: TUF further addresses this issue on page 16 of its manifesto, but I cannot include the entire section in this column for lack of space.

Gender equality:

AFC - Ensure adequate representation of women on all statutory boards, gender sensitive politics in government and champion the rights of women. (Page 31)  The AFC recognises that greater gender equality and empowerment are essential to eradicating poverty in Guyana since significant inequality in gender responsibility, opportunity and influence still exist. Therefore, the AFC intends to introduce policies to encourage the rebuilding of Guyana’s family structure, the sharing of caring tasks between mothers and fathers as well as mentoring and financially supporting Guyana’s children. In this regard the AFC plans to reintroduce allowances into the income tax system for dependents.

Further, it sees gender equality in the context of enhancing democracy, developing peaceful communities, eradicating poverty and violence against women. In advancing this objective, the AFC considers education for all, improving maternal health, reducing child mortality and combating HIV/AIDS crucial elements as well. (Page 10)

APNU – APNU will work to effect genuine 50:50 equality in Parliament, and as a proactive step in this direction commits to the global standard for the balance between women and men in governing bodies which is 40/60 – that is, neither sex should have less than 40% or more than 60% representation. (Page 16)

PPP – Nothing has been provided on this issue.

TUF – The United Force…will provide conditions to facilitate gender integration in policies, plans and programmes for sustainable development of all women and the furthering of gender equality and equity. Our areas of focus will be: Restructuring and upgrading of the gender equity mechanism via discussions with relevant groups based on regional and international commitments; capacity building within the ministries, statutory bodies, local government and across the sector to perform integration tasks; working towards the removal of obstacles, legislative and cultural, which hinder gender equality and equity; conducting gender analysis and planning training with public, private and non-governmental organisation sectors, with more emphasis on public sectors, so as to equip women and men from different sectors, to participate effectively in the integration process; Ensure the further involvement of women in power sharing and decision making at national level. (Pages 21-22)


AFC - Build starter homes for single parents and other vulnerable persons in society in every housing scheme being developed. (Page 22) Establish micro-financing opportunities at banks and other financial institutions for women and other vulnerable groups. Review collateral requirements at financial institutions to address historical imbalances, which can exclude women from qualifying for loans. Increase levels of child support payment and implement effective systems for ensuring funds are paid such as court orders garnisheeing wages of parents who have defaulted. Implement special tax benefits for single women with school age children. Expand school feeding programmes to assist single parents with the cost of living and improve attendance. Free land for housing to people below poverty line. Establish retirement villages and subsidised rentals. Allocate house lots to…female heads of households. (Page 31)  Note: The AFC further addresses economics in regards to women in its “Poverty Eradication Plan” on Page 14.

APNU – Examine and take steps to correct the negative impact of economic policies and working conditions on women’s unwaged work and on children (boys and girls) and families. Ensure equal pay for work of equal value. Immediately ratify and implement the ILO Convention #189, which recognises domestic workers as workers. (Page 16)

PPP – Expanding the benefits available to…single parents. Examine options for making the tax system more family friendly, including through personal income tax relief conditional on the number of dependent children. (Page 36) Distribution of another 30,000 new house lots, including…special programmes for young professionals and single persons. (Page 30)

TUF -  Designing and implementing, with full involvement of organizations of employers and workers concerned, awareness campaigns to promote…entrepreneurial role models and award schemes, taking due account of the specific needs of women… (Page 6)


AFC – Expand maternity benefits and introduce parental leave for males and females. Employ a full time counsellor at every technical, community and high school given the social challenges of the day. Establish a national health fund under the auspices of the Ministry of Health. (Page 31)

APNU – Improving maternal and child health services, refusing complacency about the level of maternal mortality. Sustained popular education on the prevention of hypertension, diabetes, breast and cervical cancer and fibroids, in particular. (Page 16)

PPP – Establish family counselling centres in all counties. (Page 36) Continue to take the necessary steps to reduce infant and maternal mortality. (Page 28)

TUF - The implementation of a practical health programme specifically designed for AIDS awareness and teenage pregnancies. (Page 23)

Education/Career Building:
AFC – Establish training and development centres for women that will provide support through career guidance programmes, job placements and apprenticeships. Identify funds for scholarships, grants and loans to train women in non-traditional sectors, information technology, capacity building and other areas. Improve truancy monitoring and support services to assist women with managing their children. Establish day care facilities to assist working women, especially in government offices. (Page 31)

APNU – Encourage more family-friendly working environments, for example, child/family care facilities; alternative hours of waged work, where possible, for women and men caring for young children or elders, chronically sick or severely disabled relatives; and maternity and paternity leave. Combating gender and other stereotyping in educational choices. Providing second-chance educational opportunities for…girls who leave the system early due to pregnancy. (Page 16)

PPP – Nothing has been provided on this issue.

TUF – Facilitating the retention of young mothers in the classroom. (Page 22) TUF urges that the selection process be competitive in nature and that qualified male and female members of the force holding the rank of assistant commissioner and above be given equal consideration for the position of commissioner. For too long, female members of the force have been overlooked or by-passed during promotion to ranks above assistant commissioner. As such we must re-examine the eligibility, selection, and appointment processes by encouraging those qualified members to apply and compete for positions in the upper echelon of the force. (Pages 8-9)

Trafficking in Persons:

AFC  – Nothing has been provided on this issue.

APNU - Nothing has been provided on this issue.

PPP - Nothing has been provided on this issue.

TUF – Our programme is intended to prevent the exploitation of our people who are routinely uprooted from the sanctity of their communities with false promises of employment by unscrupulous characters who then use them as sex slaves at mining sites and other locations. TUF intends to conduct community awareness programs warning members of the risks involved, such as: being used as a prostitute; being used as sex slaves; working more than 20 hours a day and receiving little or compensation; being the victim of sexual and physical abuse; and becoming a victim of HIV/AIDS. TUF will seek to have this information disseminated through churches and other community based programmes. (Page 16)

Columnist note:  What would I have liked to see addressed in the manifestos that was not? A plan to tackle the issue of sexual violence against women (rape), a proposal to look at improving the condition of the women’s prisons, ideas to further female leadership in agricultural careers and a strategy to fund and support the nation’s female athletes. But these fights I will save for another day.

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