“Don’t beat your wife, she is not your clothes, she is not a drum,” “Men and women must love and respect each other” and “Love and cherish your wives” were among the chants of a procession led by the Circle of Sisters through the Soesdyke community last Sunday, in observance of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Several taxi drivers and other men in the area joined the procession and AFC MP Valerie Garrido-Lowe, who was part of it, said the men proudly wore white ribbons on their sleeves and breast pockets, while the women wore white corsages decorated with light blue Forget-me-not flowers.
Circle of Sisters of Soes-dyke focuses on women’s empowerment and support for each other and its membership consists of mostly housewives and single parents. The group, according to Garrido-Lowe, aims to improve the skills of women in effort to help them to earn and become economically independent.
Classes will be held in the area by members of the Helpers Club, which consists of a team of skilled volunteers whose mission is to promote women’s empowerment through the introduction of skills training, seminars, workshops and the establishment of micro-business enterprises; end domestic and gender-based violence through the education of both genders; and protect children from abuse so that ultimately there will be an improvement in the standard of living of all the families in the various communities.
The first of the classes is a two month certificate course in sewing and embroidery.
Garrido-Lowe, who is the coordinator of the Helpers Club, said that women have to lead the way to restore the dignity of this nation. “They have the power to do so,” she told Stabroek News, adding that they have to get serious about it now. “The government cannot do it, they can only help,” she said.
The Soesdyke group has also appointed a welfare arm to look into the problem of children not attending school. In the Grant Sand Road area, especially, children, according to Garrido-Lowe, do not attend school for various reasons, including parental abandonment.
In one case, a mother moved out from her partner’s home and went to live with a new partner, who does not want her children. As a result, the children are being moved back and forth between the two parents and in the meantime they do not attend school.
Another case mentioned by Garrido-Lowe was that of a mother who neglects her children whenever she goes on drinking sprees, forcing her frustrated family to step in to care for them. There is also the case of an alcoholic man who continually threatens to kill the mother of his children, with whom he has split, and the children as well.
“The cases are many and poverty and neglect in the Grant Sand Road and Hill Foot areas are glaring,” Garrido-Lowe said.
The members of the group know it has a long and hard road ahead but are determined to help themselves and their fellow sisters in the community to acquire the necessary skills to earn a decent living. They have pledged to lend support to each other during bad patches in their lives. Interventions will be staged when necessary, such as if a sister is stumbling either by choice or otherwise.
Presently, the group is collecting signatures from residents so that they can lobby for better roads and improved access to water. They plan to take the signatures to the relevant authorities so that positive action can be taken early next year.