The Ministry of Amerindian Affairs says despite the challenges it will continue to foster partnerships with local indigenous communities for their economic advancement, as indigenous peoples worldwide celebrate their 17th International Day.
In a press release the ministry said Guyana is home to about 70, 000 indigenous people – about 10% of its total population – who contribute to its education, economic, social and cultural development. It noted that because indigenous communities have a unique way of life, government continues to formulate policies and programmes aimed at alleviating poverty and Amerindian integration into mainstream society without compromising their culture.
According to the ministry, Amerindians today have better access to education through the construction of schools in villages and the availability of local and international scholarships for secondary and tertiary education.
They also have improved access to health care services through the construction of health centres in several villages, trained Community Health Workers, doctors and other medical personnel.
In addition, better road linkages and investments in income generating projects such as Presidential Grants, National Hinterland Secure Livelihood Programmes, Land Demarcation and Titling exercises, Hinterland Solar Electrification projects, road, water and school uniform programmes have boosted livelihoods. The ministry noted that ongoing efforts to provide for indigenous peoples will soon benefit from Community Development Plans and a Hinterland Housing Pilot Project.
Further, the recently concluded National Toshaos Conference is evidence of government’s commitment to advancing indigenous peoples rights to self determination. Government has also established a constitutional Indigenous Peoples Commission as it believes “in partnership with our people for development through community outreaches and dialogue at the highest level of decision making.”
The ministry said even as it celebrates the privileges and opportunities local indigenous peoples currently enjoy, it joins the struggles of those in the wider world as they continue to fight for their lands, languages and cultural identity.