As Guyana joins the rest of the world today in celebrating International Women’s Day, discussions are led around this year’s theme, “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.” However, here in Guyana, there is much public discussion about domestic violence and empowerment of women.
In his message for IWD 2023, Prime Minister Brigadier (retired) Mark Phillips alluded to the fact that while, globally, women have made and continue to make monumental contributions in the digital sphere, there yet remains a gender gap concerning women’s access to technology worldwide, thereby creating significant economic and social inequalities.
But importantly, he said, “…women and girls remain more likely to be victims of cyberbullying and other forms of harassment online, requiring a greater need to protect the rights of women and girls in those spaces.”
This bullying in Guyana includes domestic violence and other forms of harassment women face. Just before the eve of International Women’s Day 2023, young Aneeza Ishmael was killed by her fisherman partner as she attempted to end her relationship with him. This is just one of the many women who have died at the hands of their partners, and who have not lived to see IWD 2023.
It is no secret that women worldwide, including those in Guyana, continue to face unacceptable levels of violence in various forms. The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that one in three women worldwide has experienced physical and/or sexual violence, mostly from an intimate partner.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further contributed to increasing risks of violence, particularly domestic violence, against women.
As a matter of fact, Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag), Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, some time ago, emphasised that Guyana, like many other countries, has seen a rise in domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, while adding that domestic abuse, intimate partner violence, and psychosocial abuse have been part of the ills in society, and must not go untackled.
Violence against women and children has tremendous costs to communities, and can remain with women and children for a lifetime. If not dealt with effectively, it can also pass from one generation to another. Over the years, the UN has been pushing countries towards implementing proactive measures to combat domestic violence. These measures have included criminalising gender-based violence; holding massive public awareness campaigns; providing training to equip both men and women to act as first responders; and supporting victims of the scourge at the community level.
As a matter of fact, the Human Services and Social Security Ministry in Guyana some time ago launched a campaign, #enoughwiththeviolence.
However, not many women admit to being victims of violence.
Everyone must work in every home, school, office, community in every part of our country to expose violence against women where it exists; support the women; work with the perpetrators; create safe spaces; educate persons, and share solutions.
To remedy the situation facing women around the world, the UN Chief, in his 2022 IWD message, called for guaranteed quality education for every girl, massive investments in women’s training and decent work, effective action to end gender-based violence, and universal health care. Other measures recommended by the UN Chief include gender quotas, that could result in the world benefitting from more women leaders. We endorse this message.
For 2023, we echo the call by Guyana’s Prime Minister that “…as we consider the major achievements that women have made thus far today, let us also consider the improvements that need to be made for even more progress with regard to achieving gender equality. I urge governments and all stakeholders to work together towards making the commitments and implementing the actions that will create a more inclusive and balanced society for our women and girls.”
Happy International Women’s Day!