Georgetown, Guyana – (August 20, 2018) President David Granger, today, called for a concerted effort to be taken to combat the scourge of violence against women; noting that failure to take action will result in the persistence of inequality in society. The Head of State said that one of the main thrust and responsibility of the National Congress of Women should be to remove any inequality and to ensure that as far as humanly possible, every woman in Guyana, whether on the coast or the hinterland, has equal access to the resources of the State and is empowered to become the best version of themselves.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 20th Biennial Convention of the National Congress of Women (NCW), the President said that domestic violence, particularly against women, has become a grievous aspect of women’s existence in the country.
“Unless we take concerted action to eliminate violence against women, we will never remove the scourge of inequality. People will not find it even necessary to consider providing equal access for girl children to go to school. We need to deal with this problem of violence against girls and women. It is not easy. It is not just sexual violence. It is physical violence as well. It is chopping and killing, murder…It is the daily subjugation and suppression of women…Comrades the question of violence against women, I don’t want to call it an epidemic, but no humane society, no women’s organisation should fail to take action to suppress or eliminate violence against women and children, particularly children who are women… there are some horrendous rapes…,” the Head of State said.
He said however, that he is particularly pleased to see more convictions of these crimes, noting that it could be related to the fact that the Chief Justice and Chancellor are women and therefore understand the challenges that women endure.
“By the grace of God…it seems that the transformation of the Magistracy and the Judiciary where you have a Chancellor who is a woman, a Chief Justice who is a woman, and a large amount of Magistrates who are women. Somehow, it is leading to a large number of convictions. I think after a while, men are going to get the message. You don’t be violent against women and then go to a woman Magistrate and expect a simple thing,” he said.
However, the President noted that persons should never wait for a matter to reach the steps of the Courthouse before it is brought to an end. Rather, he said that efforts to fight social ills such as domestic violence, must begin in the homes and communities.
“We must be able to stop it in the home and prevent young men and uncles and boyfriends from exploiting the girl children in the home. This is too widespread and just as we have been able to bring about the elimination of smoking in public places, we have been able to take collective action on other social issues; this is an issue that we must take action on. We must set up hotlines and we must be able to detect and isolate persons who are violent to their partners and spouses…When you treat women humanely, they will realise that they, not only expect humane treatment, they will treat their children humanely too. Gradually, I think, Guyana will become a gentler and kinder place,” President Granger noted.
The President noted that the gateway to equality is not legislation alone but it is also through education and empowerment. Education, he said, is one of the most important means of bringing about equality.
“The subordination of women, which still exists in so many societies has been responsible for depriving countries of the contribution that women can make to national development, to their families and to making societies more humane. We are moving to remove any element of discrimination, not only gender discrimination but also access to schools, healthcare, transportation. So we have to start by understanding the importance of equality and removing every trace of inequality in our country so that our women are not inhibited or restrained from doing their best. If they do not get the opportunity, it will affect their children and their families. So I charge the National Congress of Women to continue the work of their leaders like Winifred Gaskin, Shirley Field-Ridley, Jane Phillips-Gaye and other decades ago, to continue removing inequalities…,” he said.
President Granger also urged the women’s group to explore the possibilities of agro-processing, manufacturing and other employment opportunities, which will not only create employment but also empower women.
“Let us look at enterprises, which could employ women. Let us look at optimising our production and NCW is in a position to take the lead because you know that there are unemployed women, but you know that they are skilled women who, if given the equipment, given the opportunity and given the capital, could enrich themselves to build the economy,” President Granger noted.
Along the same lines of empowerment, the President charged the members of the group to take up the challenge of ensuring that every woman is educated on the process of Local Government elections so that they can utilise their powers to bring change in their communities.
Similar sentiments were echoed by First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Granger, who charged the newly elected members of the NCW to ensure than every Guyanese is targeted in their programmes and the ‘good life’ is assured to all.
“You have the power within you to change the world. I urge you to use that power to help this great country and all of its citizens, wherever they may be, achieve the good life that we all deserve,” the First Lady said.
The First Lady also told the elected members to be worthy of the positions for which they were elected. “Your [organisation] believes in the… spiritual, social, and economic development of every citizen, regardless of race, religion, or gender. Your organisation believes that every single one of us deserves a good life. I urge your new executives to justify the faith you have placed in them to grow and strengthen the NCW,” she said.
Earlier in the day, the First Lady hosted a luncheon for the international delegates of the NCW and Government officials from Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago to allow for them to meet with members from Women Across Differences (WAD), an organisation of which she is patron. The gathering also served as opportunity for members of WAD to share the scope of their work with the special invitees.