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Georgetown, Guyana – (October 7, 2016) As part of the advancement of the mandate of the Ministry of Social Cohesion a Diversity Education and Inclusion Workshop Training of Trainers workshop was launched, today, at the Racquet Centre on Woolford Avenue, where 15 persons will be trained as part of a core team, which will work in the ten administrative regions to train over 700 citizens in to become social cohesion advocates within their communities.

Today’s session was part of a two-day orientation to provide the core trainers with materials and other information for their task ahead. Those trained were selected by the Ministry of Social Cohesion based on past performance in training and facilitating sessions and included some participants of the United Nations Development Programme 2000-2003 Social Cohesion Programme.

Minister of Social Cohesion, Ms. Amna Ally, said that this programme, which comes even as the the ongoing Consultations are winding down, will ensure that the mandate of social cohesion is filtered from a national level to a community level. “Social Cohesion comes from a collaborative effort… it does not just deal with the Minister or the Ministry, and so your response to this training session is an indication that you are on board and are willing to make your contribution to make social cohesion work in Guyana,” the Minister said. Touching on the importance of social cohesion, Minister Ally added that in forging national unity is paramount to strengthening society. “If we have a strong society we will do better in Guyana. We will have more development and self-satisfaction. We will be living in safer spaces,” she said.

Some of the participants, who will be part of the core trainers team for the upcoming Workshops

Noting that the idea of social cohesion is not a new one, the Minister added that it is important for all sections of the community to be included, as every person in society has a significant contribution to make. She added that the core idea is to understand that the people of Guyana must come together to achieve a common goal. “We have had challenges but we have got to be strong and persistent to make sure that whatever we do, we do not stop midstream because challenges are close to us. We have got to overcome the challenges and move forward with our programme. With your help I have no doubt that we will make headway,” she said.

Minister Ally said, however, that even with all the work of the Ministry, the building a more cohesive society is a gradual and ongoing process, as it involves behavioural changes.

Lead Trainer of the workshops, Ms. Kala Seegopaul, explained that the topics, which will be covered in the training sessions include values, behaviours, trust building, communication and the need for inclusivity. But the sessions are also aimed at identifying traditional ways in which communities maintain relationships in order to build on those methods to strengthen social cohesion.

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Programme Coordinator of the Ministry of Social Cohesion, Ms. Sharon Patterson provides the participants with an overview of the vision and mission of the Mnistry

“For too long, when we talk about diversity we only look at racial and political factors and we need to look beyond that to other differences. So these workshops are really to broaden the view of persons and they will also help to bring the biases out to our consciousness, because once we are aware of it we can do something about it,” she said. She said that while the importance of diversity is usually recognised, it is the power of the diversity that needs to be explored. “We have to bring the power of diversity into communities because if we don’t, we are depriving ourselves of something special,” she said.

The community based training sessions are expected to begin on October 22. The core trainers will be divided among the regions and work with community members from Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Parent Teachers’ Associations, Neighbourhood and Regional Democratic Councils and other influential groups within the communities. A total of 25 workshops of 30 persons each are expected to be conducted countrywide by year-end. Coming out of these workshops, the participants will be able to draft a work plan and come up with and conduct activities and initiatives that help to foster social cohesion within their communities.

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