Who is winning the women vote?

Have you heard the rumours? The talk on the street is that snap elections may happen early next year. Of course, these rumours have been churning in the rumour mill for months now, so one is hard pressed to know what to believe anymore.

Still, it has been a year since the general elections, which is more than enough time to review the campaign promises of the various parties in regards to women’s issues. After all, what each party has done for its female constituents matters greatly if another election does pop up in the near future. It should be noted that these promises were made with the hope that the party making the promise would take power and, therefore, have the resources to enact its promises.

I will not go over all of the campaign promises for women, as it would take several columns to do so. Instead, I will highlight a couple of the more important promises to the women of the nation.

However, if you would like to see a detailed list of those promises, it can be found in my column entitled, “What does each party’s manifesto pledge to do for Guyana’s women?” published on November 26 of last year. Please note that these campaign promises are taken straight from each party’s 2011 manifesto.

The APNU broke one of its most important promises to women from the time it appointed its Parliamentarians. It’s manifesto said on page 16, “APNU will work to effect genuine 50:50 equality in Parliament, and as a proactive step in this direction commits to the global standard for the balance between women and men in governing bodies which is 40/60 – that is, neither sex should have less than 40% or more than 60% representation.”

In fact, the APNU has fewer women in the National Assembly this term than in the last one. One has to wonder if this was pure gobbledygook from the time it was put into writing. I truly have a hard time believing the boys club actually intended to put so many women into power. This failed promise is very disappointing. Guess that boys club just couldn’t spare the seats, eh?

On page 36 of their manifesto, the PPP promised to, “Expand the work of the Women’s Affairs Bureau, the Men’s Affairs Bureau and the Child Protection Agency. Increase support for programmes to prevent domestic violence and against molestation of our children.” Let’s be honest, it is truly difficult to determine whether this promise has been kept or not as it is just business as usual.

What can be clearly established is that domestic violence is still rampant and the government still seems impotent in dealing with it. In fact, it seems they cannot even prevent those in their own party from shamefully beating up on women. Yet still, the PPP did not promise to stop domestic violence – it only promised to “increase support for programmes.” On what may be the most important issue concerning women in Guyana, the devil is in the details, folks.

The truth is that no matter how much money is funnelled into “programmes,” until the law enforcement system stops victimising the victims and starts acting like domestic violence is a crime (because it is), women will continue to die. Hmm, wonder which Minister is in charge of this law enforcement system that has over and over (ad nauseam) failed the women of the nation?

I sure do wish victims of domestic violence could get the same type of undying support the Guyana Police Force (GPF) has publicly given to a certain minister. Silly me – that would be assuming the GPF works for the people and not a minister.

If the AFC had won the election, they promised to, “Build starter homes for single parents and other vulnerable persons in society in every housing scheme being developed. (Page 22) Establish micro-financing opportunities at banks and other financial institutions for women and other vulnerable groups. Review collateral requirements at financial institutions to address historical imbalances, which can exclude women from qualifying for loans. Increase levels of child support payment and implement effective systems for ensuring funds are paid such as court orders garnisheeing wages of parents who have defaulted. Implement special tax benefits for single women with school age children. Expand school feeding programmes to assist single parents with the cost of living and improve attendance. Free land for housing to people below poverty line. Establish retirement villages and subsidised rentals. (Page 31)”

Now I know that it is unreasonable to expect the AFC to fulfil this campaign promise since they did not win the election and therefore do not have the resources to implement the promises, but seriously, how cool would it have been to see some of this really happen?

The truth of the matter is that some of these great ideas could have been proposed in tripartite meetings or in parliament and – having come to an agreement that it would benefit the women of the nation greatly (and thereby the entire nation) – the whole of the political network could have chose to do what’s best for the nation and implemented some of these great ideas.

Okay, okay, you can stop laughing now. We all know that what happened instead is that those elected to govern the nation from all three parties have wasted this entire year playing games rather than working in a manner that would best serve the people of Guyana. It has simply been exasperating to watch this circus while women are being raped and murdered and are dying in the hospital while having babies.

If snap elections were to happen soon, my personal feeling is that none of the political parties deserve to be considered fit to run the nation. They are so focused on their petty disputes that they cannot find the time to do the work of the people. Maybe if there really were 50 per cent of women in Parliament, things would be different.

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