One of the best ways by which individuals can be empowered is by an appropriate education and creation of empowerment programmes to enable equitable opportunities for upward mobility for every citizen. Yet, disadvantaged women and youths proliferate, not only in Guyana, but the Caribbean and further afield as well.
Societies in general are veering away from male domination in work places, and Government and the Private Sector are determined to provide equal opportunities for employees, regardless of gender.
The issue of women and their role in development has always been a topic of interest, and debates have centred around the challenges women face in getting access to the same opportunities as men; and, in a general sense, programmes and policies that could be implemented to ensure their economic and social advancement.
Women, over the years, have made tremendous progress, not only in terms of their own advancement, but by playing key roles in the development of their own communities, and, by extension, allowing other women opportunities to develop themselves. However, many challenges remain, and these must be tackled to ensure that women have access to the opportunities and resources needed to allow them to lead more productive and fulfilling lives.
However, women – the child-bearers and primary child-carers – are disadvantaged by domestic responsibilities, and many men abdicate their responsibilities in parenting and being equal partners in the home.
There is a dire need for men to create behavioural change in their domestic and child-rearing engagements. The accrued benefits to the entire family would be manifold, and the satisfaction and happiness of family togetherness would redound to the wellbeing of everyone, not least the children. If they grow up in an environment of caring and sharing, most likely they would become rounded adults, and incidents of juvenile delinquency would be reduced. Most of the ills in society are caused by delinquent fathers and spouses.
Despite many attempts by successive Governments to empower/educate women and youths in diverse ways, there are still great numbers of women with leadership skills and business acumen who are constrained by diverse circumstances from optimising their potential for wealth and job creation.
Some years ago, under the administration of former President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, the Social Protection Ministry, in collaboration with the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI), launched the “Women of Worth” (WOW) loan programme, which helped single-parent women start and/or expand their businesses. This initiative was driven by then subject Minister Priya Manickchand.
Through initiatives like Women of Worth, Government, in partnership with institutions like GBTI, has proven that providing enabling mechanisms can make a tangible impact on the lives of vulnerable women, and consequently their children. By removing financial obstacles, the partnership with GBTI helped women realise their true potential through building businesses. Through the WoW initiative, women used their acumen to grow local communities, build wealth, and ultimately contribute to making Guyana better as a whole.
Before their advent into politics in then British Guiana, local women were treated as being of less worth by the colonial overlords. Women could not work in the Public Service after marriage, and they certainly could not vote, among a multiplicity of human/women’s rights constraints.
Over the years, intrepid women fought for equality, and after much struggle and countless engagements at various fora, women were permitted greater freedoms in the socio-political dynamics of the nation. Today, women proliferate in leadership roles in every sphere of activity in the nation.
One of the most pressing needs for working mothers is the provision of safe childcare facilities in communities and workplaces. There are innumerable retired nurses and teachers who would certainly happily accept employment in such facilities.
The President Irfaan Ali Administration has been off to a great start in addressing pressing social issues, and hopefully, projects slated to empower women in the society are yet to unfold.