Georgetown, Guyana – (August 27, 2015) Gender equality will be a top priority of this administration, over the next five years. President David Granger, while  delivering the feature address at the first ever National Conference on the Gender and Development Policy today, said the government will be working to bring about true gender equality, which he said is needed to create opportunities, promote empowerment and provide protection for women.
The Conference, which is being hosted by the Ministry of Social Protection, is a two day event and is being held at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre, under the theme, “Equal rights for all-Be good to People”.
The Head of State told the attendees that increasing economic opportunities, tackling domestic violence and education the nation’s women are among the key priorities of his administration.  One of the measures the President announced is a plan to consider tax rebates for companies that are prepared to offer day care facilities to working mothers.  
Further, the President pointed out that the issues of violence against women to be addressed forthwith as the National policy is being crafted.
Given the fact that domestic violence has penetrated every corner of society, President Granger said the national policy therefore must take into consideration the causes of violence and focus should be placed on the transformation of attitudes.
The President said equality for women is essential if everyone is to benefit from Guyana’s bountiful resources. “Women have made significant strides over the past four decades, and there is now greater awareness of women’s rights. There is, however, still a long way to go for women to achieve full equality. The gap in economic, political and social achievements remains wide,” he said.
President Granger said that despite the episodic initiatives to promote women’s rights and to offer greater opportunities, inequality persists. It is with this in mind, he said, the new administration will be working to craft a comprehensive long term gender policy.
“The proposed National Gender Policy should aim to eradicate discrimination against women, to safeguard the emotional and mental integrity and physical safety of women. It should result in women having a greater say in decision making at all levels of society,” the President said.  
President Granger pointed out that Guyana’s legislation clearly provides for the promotion of women’s rights and the country’s commitment to gender equality has always been reflected in its adhesion to several international conventions and agreements.
“Your government will work more assiduously with Women organisations to ensure that there is greater compliance. We must do more to ensure greater equality, to eradicate poverty, to enforce the law and enable everyone to be treated as equal, under the law,” President Granger stated.

Further, the President stated that another major obstacle, which stands in the way of gender equality, is extreme poverty. “Poverty reduction ought to be an important means to lift the living standards of women and children in the communities. This aspect of government policy, however, has not had its intended effect.”
In an effort to address this issue, President Granger said the solution would be to reduce poverty rather than increase the number of institutions that cater to vulnerable groups, such as drop in centres, night shelters and correctional facilities. Some measures to be implemented are; encouraging greater entrepreneurship, the establishment of micro credit schemes and creating access to small business loans.  
On the issue of enhancing employment opportunities for women, President Granger said the reality is that many women cannot find satisfactory jobs, but over the next five years, efforts will be made to bring an end to this issue. The government will be working towards setting up employment schemes in every administrative region, which will provide women with an opportunity to seek job opportunities closer to their homes.
As it relates to improved access to education for women and young girls, the President said there is still a huge gap to be filled between what is available to females on the coastland and those in the hinterland regions. In the years to come, moves will be made to create remedial programmes for young girls who have fallen prey to teenage pregnancy and other social ills. Specific emphasis will also be placed on promoting technical studies for young girls and women, in an effort to prepare them for technical jobs.
Also on the occasion, Minister of Social Protection Ms. Volda Lawrence expressed her pleasure at being able to host the event, as the aim is to promote behavioural changes, and send a strong signal to all Guyanese that gender equality is important.
As the conference continues on Friday, issues including gender in governance, gender in productive resources and employment, gender based violence, gender in security, gender in information and communication technology among others will be discussed. Also coming out of this forum will be the launching of the University of Guyana’s Gender Studies Unit.
Meanwhile, Guyana’s effort to strive for gender equality was applauded by United Nations Country Representative Ms. Khadija Musa. She said UNDP remains committed to aiding Guyana in its effort going forward.
Noting the timeliness of the forum, she too pointed out the need for a policy framework to address the issue, which she said does not only affect women.
Similar sentiments were expressed by Mr. Jean Ricot Dormeus, Country Representative of the Organisation of American States, who stated that the event is a historic one. “This initiative speaks volumes about the importance the government of Guyana attaches to equitable participation to every walk of society, and to the equal treatment to all Guyanese,” Dr. Dormeus said.
Further, Dr. Dormeus said the conference echoes one of the OAS pillars; the promotion and protection of human rights for people of the Americas. He too pledged the continuous support of the OAS towards Guyana’s move to achieve gender equality. The aim of the conference is to craft effective and efficient developmental policies that will promote gender equality.

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