Just this week I was called a feminist and I considered it a compliment. At a very early age, my brother who is 11 years older took me under his wing and taught me everything he knew.
I remember myself a girl of six years old romping with him, taking apart radios with him, learning to climb trees with him and being included in his many plots and subplots. Editor, my brother played a critical role in shaping my self confidence and my subsequent relationships with men, and my mother played an integral role in empowering me to go after any goal my mind could conceive. I was later nurtured by a male fraternity of my peers on the street where I grew up in North Ruimveldt.
This group taught me to play basketball well enough to earn a scholarship to Howard University and they included me without question in daily pickup basketball games. Editor, at that time, I was the only girl in my community, I would even venture to say the country that played on a boys’ basketball team and in fact was a member of the only women’s basketball team to represent Guyana and win the Caribbean basketball championship. And so having been nurtured on the milk of equal access and opportunity in sports in Guyana, it was not difficult for me to excel in the male dominated, and sometimes racially suffocating corporate management world of the United States. Editor, I am today happily married to my wonderful husband of 16 years with 4 wonderful children, and I don’t suffer fools gladly and I have even less patience for male fools. I consider my credentials on representing women’s rights strong.
It is from this vantage point that I wish to address the series of articles published by Stella Ramsaroop in her quest to sensationally introduce herself to Stabroek News readers. Editor, we are living in a country where women are beaten and killed every week by the men in their lives.
This is a country where many young girls are forced to trade sexual favours for economic considerations, where women are forced to strike sexual deals with powerful men for employment, promotions and salary increases, where women are deliberately left out of many decision-making meetings in the workplace, where a man feels he can slap a woman who refuses to dance with him at a party. A place where laws which should protect women are largely ignored by the wealthy’s subversion of the judicial system, where many prominent officials have much to answer about their extramarital affairs, their mental and physical abuse of their own wives and their historical abuse of women and women’s rights in the workplace.
We live in a country where the president’s wife is unceremoniously and publicly discarded without comment, and where the culture routinely ignores the subjugation of women. Editor, it is without ambivalence that I say that Ms Ramsaroop’s guns are pointed in the wrong direction.
First let me say that it is with a clear understanding that it is her work against domestic violence which mostly motivates her current series, that I pen this response. There can be no dispute that the work of the ‘four sisters’ (Stella’s group) is solid.
They have already made a significant impact on awakening Guyana’s society to the scourge of domestic violence, but these problems cannot be solved without the engagement of men and they certainly will not be solved by casting aspersions on those men who have volunteered to fight side by side with women in the quest to achieve that elusive goal of equality. Mr David Granger has volunteered for that mission. Editor, I work closely with Mr Granger daily and I bear witness to the fact that he is a man of integrity and good character who is squarely committed to equality for women.
His daily communication, actions and plans attest to that fact. By no stretch of the imagination or interpretation can his words or actions be construed to reflect a lack of respect or understanding of women’s issues. Ms Ramsaroop’s conclusion is just plain wrong.
I would offer to Stella the advice that she would be significantly more effective in advancing the cause of women’s rights in Guyana, a cause for which I stand beside her, if she focuses on identifying the true list of culprits and champions of women’s issues in Guyana.
I encourage her to find out which of the candidates has been married to the same accomplished woman for many years; which can speak positively and honestly about his respect and love for his wife; which can truly say that he has recruited confident and independent women to play lead roles in his campaign; which has publicly stated that he intends to run with a woman as a prime ministerial candidate; which plans to ensure that women have an equal seat at the decision-making table so that equality for women is ensured, and that women acquire the training and education to be financially independent so that they would not need not stay with an abusive spouse for economic reasons. I challenge her to determine which of the candidates intends to ensure that the police are adequately trained and equipped to process and manage cases of domestic violence.
Editor, as a Guyanese woman, and a woman who stands for equal access and rights for all women regardless of race, I can unequivocally say that Mr Granger would not have my support if I had any doubt regarding his commitment to improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of Guyanese women. Mr Granger is an advocate for women and his record is unchallenged. Editor, I implore my good friend Ms Ramsaroop to remove Mr Granger from the crosshairs of her rifle and refocus on the true enemies of equality for women in Guyana. The facts speak for themselves. After 18yrs of leadership she should ask the PPP/C government why too many women still die in childbirth, why twice as many children in the hinterland as on the coast die before the age of 5 yrs old, why too many children on the coast die before 5 yrs old, why too many women are physically and mentally abused by the men in their lives and why the judicial system does not fairly handle these issues. Ask them why too many women in Guyana still live in poverty.
Why still are too many issues of employment and advancement in the workplace encumbered by sexual favours? Why are our girls not safe from predators and why are there so many homeless children on the streets? The women of Guyana want solutions to these problems; they want leadership that will vow to ensure that Guyana becomes a better place for women. Editor, Mr Granger will bring that change; Mr Granger is that leader.