Mahdia, Guyana – (October 08, 2017) Indigenous Guyanese were encouraged to become advocates for social cohesion on Saturday by the Reigning Miss Indigenous Heritage Queen, Ms. SherryAnna Balkaran at the Mahdia Social Cohesion Sensitisation Session. Speaking at the session organised by the Ministry of Social Cohesion, held at the Campbelltown Benab in Potaro-Siparuni (Region Eight), Ms. Balkaran, encouraged those who had been hurt by discrimination or those who had perpetuated such acts to seek out unity with their fellow Guyanese.

“As persons residing in Indigenous communities, villages, and even towns, like Mahdia… we are often scorned and discriminated [against], and looked upon as persons from a lower class and sometimes we ourselves have discriminated [against] others. But I would like to implore you to be advocates… [and to] be as be as socially cohesive as [you] possibly can… If we are united and we stand strong together we can counter, curb, and maybe annihilate problems that affect us all,” she said.

The session was hosted by the Coordinator for the Ministry of Social Cohesion, Ms. Sharon Patterson and was aimed at providing the residents of Mahdia and the nearby villages with an outline of the role of the Ministry, as well as to share the progress they have made in the implementation of their five-year strategic plan.

Ms. Patterson opened her presentation by explaining that the Ministry has a multi-layered approach to the promotion of social cohesion. “Many people think [that] it’s just about race; [and that] it’s just about ethnicity. I want you to leave this afternoon understanding that… [social cohesion] is about everything that makes us different as individuals. That could be our culture. That could be religion. That could be our age… It could be gender,” she said.

Regional Executive Officer, Mr. Gavin Gounga, offered his gratitude and support to the Ministry of Social Cohesion for bringing the initiative to Region Eight. “I strongly believe in the policies of the Ministry of Social Cohesion. Because of our diverse make up here, of people of different [cultural, religious, and ethnic] backgrounds, the intervention from [The Ministry of] Social Cohesion will help us to appreciate and understand our cultural differences… so [that] we can work together to develop our region and [our] country by extension,” he said.

Ms. Patterson then opened the floor to the attendees, giving them the opportunity to voice their concerns and reveal the areas in which they may need help from the Ministry of Social Cohesion. Ms. Joycelyn Ambrose identified the education gap between some parents and their children, who are currently in school as a problem that needs to be addressed in the Region. “We need to educate the parents, especially the mothers… We [can] form a community [to] teach. Even if you [only] know how to sew, knit, stitch… We can [learn to] read, write, count, [and] spell within the same [programme],”she said.

Former Registration Clerk at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Mr. Emanuell Gilkes commended the Ministry their work nationwide and for organising of the session in Region Eight.

“It is necessary,” he said, “generally speaking, we are divided. It won’t be obvious at first glance, but subliminally you can see that certain things… are not good,” he said. Mr. Gilkes also asked the Ministry to target young men in the area who don’t often come in contact with good role models. “I think a more cohesive group of men would [make things] better… We have no real guidance… With [the support of] a Ministry that looks into our cooperation and peaceful existence, I don’t think there is more [we] can ask for,” he said.

The sensitisation session was attended by Micobie Toshao, Mr. John Andre, Region Eight Councillor, Mr. Wilkie Prince, Officers from the Guyana Police Force and local miners, farmers, religious leaders, and residents from Mahdia, El Paso, Paramakatoi, Campbelltown, Princeville, and other surrounding villages.

Ms. Sharon Patterson also paid a courtesy call to the Chairman of Region Eight, Mr. Bonaventure Fredericks. Ms. Patterson expressed the Ministry’s commitment to closely working with local leaders in order to further the Ministry’s work in Region Eight. Mr. Fredericks then offered his support, “wherever and however,” the Ministry sees fit.

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