Georgetown, Guyana – (March 10, 2018) First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Granger, today, reflected on the success of her work with young women across Guyana through her workshops, trainings and other initiatives while delivering the feature address at a concert and exposition organised through a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Social Protection and the Canadian High Commission and hosted in the Promenade Gardens today in celebration of the 107th observance of International Women’s Day last Thursday.
Speaking to the large crowd gathered, the First Lady expressed pride in the impact the work of her office has had on women across Guyana. Referencing the hugely successful Self Reliance and Success in Business Workshop, which has already reached nearly 900 women from all 10 Administrative Regions, Mrs. Granger said that these women are now able to apply the knowledge they have gained to help strengthen their own communities.
“I have seen the women, who have completed the Self Reliance and Success in Business workshop, which has been conducted by Interweave Solutions, in collaboration with my office, prepare their business plans and apply for loans and grants from micro-enterprise organisations. The certificate they receive at the end of the workshop is recognised by the Small Business Unit of the Ministry of Business and by micro-finance organisations. I have seen one of our workshop participants less than a year after completing that workshop submit her business plan at the national GUYEXPO competition and place third… These women returned to their communities, having established their own network and are fired up to share their knowledge,” the First Lady said
Mrs. Granger went on to highlight her work with teenage mothers and commended the Women Across Differences (WAD) organisation, for which she is patron, for their role in educating and empowering teen mothers. Through her collaboration with WAD, workshops and training programmes including remedial education, cosmetology, child care and care for the elderly the young women in the programme have been given a second chance to achieve their goals and be able to meaningfully contribute to society.
“We have teen mothers completing their secondary education, writing their CXC [Caribbean Examinations Council] exams and voicing their dreams of reading for Degrees or Diplomas in Social Work, Computer Science and Law at the University of Guyana. I have seen teen mothers train to be cosmetologists and hairdressers. Some of them have completed the child care and elderly care workshops, organised by my office and facilitated by experts in their respective fields. Both these workshops include a rigorous component in First Aid and CPR [Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation] conducted by the Guyana Red Cross Society… Some of the teen mothers, who have completed the yearlong empowerment program conducted by WAD and sponsored first by UNFPA and now by Republic Bank, have established their own group [called] ‘Young Mothers for Change’. These young women engage in sessions with other young people to discuss their sexual and reproductive health and urge them to avoid repeat pregnancies,” she shared.
Recognising the imperative of ensuring that our young people can compete meaningfully in the modern economic environment, Mrs. Granger explained that her office is also involved in executing Information and Communication workshops for adolescence and out of school youths where, upon completion, participants receive a certificate recognised by the Board of Industrial Training. “Some of these young people have gained employment in the private sector and at the National Data Management authority,” she said.
A champion of President David Granger’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) policy initiative, the First Lady concluded her speech by commending the work done by STEM Guyana, a group that prepares young people to use their creativity to create technology based solutions for issues in their community. “STEM Guyana has collaborated with the Ministry of Education in the development and launch of apps for the four subjects offered in our National Grade Six Assessment and with the Ministry of Telecommunications in the launch of electronic leads in scratch programming, robotics and mathematics,” she said, adding that the hard work and dedication of Co-Founder, Ms. Karen Abrams along with support from the Ministry of the Presidency, Ministries of Education and Public Telecommunication, was the foundation of the organisation’s success.
Minister of Social Protection, Ms. Amna Ally, during her remarks, indicated that gender equality and the empowerment of women across Guyana is deemed as a national priority for the Government of Guyana. The Minister explained that her Ministry, in recognising the importance of creating an enabling environment for the advancement of gender equality, has been taking steps to formulate policy and build capacity in that regard.
“The Ministry of Social Protection has formulated a National Gender and Social Inclusion Policy, which will be implemented this year. This policy aims to mainstream gender issues into all sectors in order to eliminate all negative economic, social and cultural practices that impede equality and equity. It is intended to strengthen links between Government, non-governmental organisations and the private sector in mainstreaming of gender in the respective sectors and develop, maintain and provide gender sensitive information and gender disaggregated data for use in planning and project implementation at all levels and in all sectors,” she said.
Minister Ally also highlighted the programs offered by her Ministry, which are aimed primarily empowering women. “The Ministry of Social Protection has been assisting and will continue to facilitate women to become economically independent through our numerous programmes such as the Sustainable Entrepreneurial Livelihood Programme. Under this programme the Ministry established 20 projects in 2017 in various regions and these projects vary from pig farming, poultry rearing, manufacturing, and shade house cultivation among others, where 1,170 persons were beneficiaries… In addition to that the Ministry has continuously been implementing the Women of Worth Programme… Numerous loans continue to be issued for varying efforts… Single parent women can access small grants under the Ministry’s Difficult Circumstances Unit to start a business if they desire,” she said, adding that numerous training programmes were also offered under the Board of Industrial Training, which are designed to ensure that women attain the relevant skill-set that is required for the job market.
Meanwhile, Canadian High Commissioner, Ms. Lilian Chatterjee, who is the second woman to hold that post in Guyana, opined that the battle to achieve gender equality is a continuous one.
“International women’s day is an occasion to remember the struggles of women throughout history. We do this because it is important to know where we’ve come from but also because we must never be complacent when it comes to Human Rights. They were not just handed to us. We had to fight for them. We had to fight for right for the vote, we had to fight to receive equal access to education, we had to fight to be able to leave the home and work, we had to fight for control of our own bodies, we had to fight to have a seat at the decision making tables and the fight is not over,” she said.
She also commended the Government for their hands on involvement in celebrating women and girls. “I was so pleased when Prime Minister Nagamootoo accepted my challenge to match Prime Minister [of Canada H.E. Justin] Trudeau’s initiative to give up his seat for a day to a girl and His Excellency President David Granger and the entire Cabinet joined us in celebrating the day of the girl. How many other Governments have done the same? So there is so much to celebrate here in Guyana,” she said.
Chief Executive Officer of Caribbean Containers Incorporated, Ms. Patricia Bacchus, shared with the audience ideas for empowering women in business in hopes of Guyana moving closer to gender parity. “Businesses, whether on their own accord or via the provision of legally enforceable positions must put policies in place that support gender parity and remove conditions of bias,” she said.
The event saw a massive turn out of women from all walks of life and featured cultural performances such as dance, drumming, dramatic and musical pieces. The exposition consisted of boots both from the private and public sector.
Also present at the event were Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Carl Greenidge, who is performing the duties of President, Minister of Public Communications, Ms. Catherine Hughes, and Minister within the Ministry of Amerindian Peoples’ Affairs, Ms. Valerie Garrido-Lowe.