The vulnerability of women without formal education, which severely constrains their income generation/wealth creation capabilities, has been the primary causative factor of women remaining in abusive relationships, especially where providing requisite necessities of offspring is of major consideration.
Successive PPP/C governments have tried to ameliorate the social dislocations of families caused by such dysfunctional family constructs in multiple ways. The Women of Worth economic initiative, launched by then Social Services Minister Priya Manickchand, was established as a loan programme that provided low-interest and collateral-free loans to single-parent women from lower-income brackets who wished to start up or expand their businesses.
As former and current Minister of Education, Minister Priya Manickchand formulated systems in the academic arena that levelled the educational playing field and fructified in top students at all levels emerging from, not only the elite schools, but in schools countrywide.
On September 5, 2020, she launched the Workforce Recovery Initiative programme in Guyana that offered 4000 free online courses from reputable universities through Coursera, and the number of Guyanese that have registered for the Workforce Recovery Initiative offered by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) and Coursera to pursue free online courses on the Coursera platform continues to increase steadily, with over 53,371 Guyanese registered to pursue courses in various areas, and 43,305 certificates have been issued to 9473 persons. She was, unsurprisingly, selected as a mentor on the Commonwealth Wise Woman Mentoring Project.
Her continuous activism in formulating programmes and advocating for girls and women to recognise their value and achieve their full potential has the full support of her colleagues in Cabinet.
She first became a Member of Parliament in 2006, serving initially as Minister of Human Services and Social Security and she used the platform presented by that portfolio to address the disadvantages of the vulnerable in society, primarily the scourge of violence against women and children. She published a National Policy on Domestic Violence and piloted legislation that provides for protective and developmental landscapes for children to thrive and grow in safe environments.
For her proactive initiatives in educating/empowering the vulnerable in society, then Education Minister Manickchand was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate from the Lesley University in Boston Massachusetts, USA in 2014.
Women have natural skills that could generate income to enable comfortable, if not luxurious lifestyles for themselves and families. However, most women are incapable of translating these inherent skills into profitable business ventures, so they are often exploited because many female school drop-outs are often constrained, as a result of impoverished circumstances, to work as maids in households where they are most often exploited.
Kitchen gardens, properly landscaped and nurtured, could drastically cut food bills and even provide extra produce for sale. Stores would sell end materials cheaply, so if women in communities, either individually or in groups purchase these end materials in bulk and sew pillow-cases, hand-towels, etcetera and sell these, and even prepared foods on market days; also bring-and-buy sales on designated days, where hand-crafted items, such as crocheted and other handicrafts could be sold could fructify in sustained sources that provide income and simultaneously allow mothers to be stay-at-homes parents.
To foster empowerment and build skill sets for women and girls, especially school drop-outs, the Human Services Ministry launched a women empowerment programme May 7, 2021.
The Women’s Innovation and Investment Network (WIIN), which seeks to help women and girls become financially independent, will be piloted in Baramita, Region One (Barima-Waini). However, the programme, which offers free training in information and communication technology, décor and design, graphics, beauty and wellness, professional care, garment and hospitality, and administration, et al, to be delivered both in-person and online is open to women from all across Guyana.
Human Services and Social Security Minister, Dr Vindhya Persaud said, “She (recipient) will be empowered and able to provide for herself and children,” She iterated that a woman in an abusive relationship can be enabled through WIIN to choose either to remain in or to leave the relationship.
“If she does make such a choice, she would then be in a better position to care for her needs.”
Our Indigenous communities would be given special consideration, with plans to come on-stream, as a long-term goal, for the Ministry to arrange to translate the modules into the dialects of the Indigenous communities.
WIIN is an off-shoot of WE LIFT, an empowerment exercise for women that was held at the Guyana Conference Centre.
According to Minister Persaud, “People have to be able to see, seize and create opportunities in preparation of where our country is going and be very creative so that they have a competitive edge in promoting their skills,” Plans are also afoot for a series of technical vocational training programmes across the country. People can access these through online applications, hard copy applications at Ministry locations, and through community outreaches that have already commenced.
Education/skills training and development are primary factors in cultivating economic independence for vulnerable persons and, to further this the ministry is in the process of setting up a female-centric business incubator at the Guyana Women’s Leadership where WIIN and other programmes will be activated through primarily the Guyana Women’s Leadership Institute, with correlating centres throughout the country.
Mental health issues mainly stem from depression, primarily caused by helplessness and hopelessness. The empowerment/educational/skills training programmes may catalyze a surge of hope in lives long existing in physical subjugation, emotional despair and mental bondage.