Having lived abroad for a good chunk of time, I had always cherished the thought of meeting Mrs Janet Jagan.
On my return to Guyana, I was blessed with the opportunity to sit with her at the Monday- morning meetings on the Mirror for several years. From the little I saw and experienced, Mrs Janet Jagan’s successful work career was a function of her resolute discipline. She also had tremendous courage for her convictions and always stood her ground. It was a great lesson to watch her in action at these meetings as she debated the issues of the day.
I always liked engaging her in discussing issues of the day because she always brought a novel perspective into play. These innovative perspectives in addressing and resolving developmental concerns are what would make a Guyana a better place. It was quite an illuminating time for me to see how Mrs Jagan extrapolated Guyana’s political and social history to objectively interpret contemporary problems.
We talked a lot about my writings. And one particularly distinctiveness on her part was her unstinting willingness to pen a note in my book, Ethnic Cleavage and Closure in the Caribbean Diaspora. She wrote: “The late President of the Republic of Guyana, Dr. Cheddi Jagan, from his earliest observations and studies on the race question in Guyana, always sought to examine the subject in relation to class. His strong belief was always that people of similar living standards, working conditions and relationships have so much in common that they are bound together by class and should not be divided by race or religion.”
Mrs Jagan has always been in the forefront of wanting to provide assistance to the vulnerable, especially women and children, clearly evidenced in her founding of the Women’s Progressive Organisation (WPO) and her numerous writings on children. She believed that Guyanese children need books which reflected their own realities and wrote several children’s books about Guyana’s struggle for independence.
Mrs Jagan was a symbol of the establishment of women in the forefront of Guyana’s development, since she was the first elected woman to the City Council, the first elected President, the first Prime Minister − clearly establishing her as a champion in representing and promoting women’s issues and concerns.
During her presidency, Janet Jagan was an advocate for the full emancipation of women in Latin America, including equal education, equal housing opportunities, equal pay for equal work and free maternity leave. She made fundamental contributions in politics, trade unionism, the women’s movement, the rights of the child, journalism, the arts and health, all essential for Guyana’s development.
Guyana should not lament her death, but celebrate her life and times: the woman for all Guyana.