‘Shaping Progress – through Investing in Women and Girls’

The Women’s Progressive Organisation (WPO) calls on all Guyanese to commemorate International Women’s Day as a day of reflection and commitment – reflection on our achievements and challenges, and making a commitment to become an active part of the process for continued transformation, peace and social progress in Guyana.

As Guyana joins with the world in observing yet another March 8, we cannot help but recall the purpose of designating this day International Women’s Day. It is a day to draw attention to and raise awareness of the struggles for women’s rights and equality, and also to celebrate the achievements that have been gained to date. Many have used this platform to demonstrate their desire for improved living and working conditions and overall democratic transformations, as well as for international solidarity, peace and social progress.

The WPO, since its inception, has commemorated March 8 as a day to specifically focus on the plight and achievements of Guyanese women. Dr. Cheddi Jagan, late leader and co-founder of the PPP, and Cde. Janet Jagan, President of the WPO and also co-founder of the party, realised that there could not be democracy and development without the full and equal participation of women in every aspect of life – political, economic, social and cultural. This paradigm has since guided and inspired the WPO to work for the betterment of our people, and specifically our Guyanese women and children. We are also conscious of struggles and challenges of our sister organisations across the globe and to whom we extend our unconditional support and solidarity.

The recent massacres of Lusignan and Bartica have brought to the fore many new challenges, including the need to protect at all cost our women and children from further tragedies of this nature. The healing of the family survivors and overcoming the psychological trauma will probably be a lifelong process.

The WPO would like the grieving families and friends to know that our entire membership stand by them in this most trying time. We also wholeheartedly support the initiatives of the Ministry of Human Services in providing counselling and other forms of assistance to those affected.

As we commemorate International Women’s Day, we must also take cognisance of the advancements of Guyanese women over the years. According to 2002 statistics, over 50% of the Guyanese workforce are women; females made up 65% of UG graduates in 2002; 46% and 43% of our judges and magistrates respectively are women. Many more examples could be cited, including women holding high level positions in the legislature, judiciary and the executive arms of government.

Nevertheless, many challenges remain. The large percentage of female-headed households (29.5%) is alarming and brings to the fore many economic and social issues. So also are the issues of violence against women and the spread of HIV/AIDS. While the government programmes such as the national consultation “Stamp it out” and the National AIDS Programme Secretariat are doing commendable work, it is imperative that all Guyanese join in to rid our society from the scourge of disease and violence. Attitudinal change is the single most important factor which will bring success to any intervention.

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