Earlier this week, the Miss Guyana World pageant intelligence segment was held, during which the contestants spoke on their various platforms before a panel of judges: Deputy Army Chief Bruce Lovell, Second Runner-up in the Miss Renaissance 2009 pageant Deborah King, Attorney-at-law George Thomas and Attorney-at-law Amanda Walton-Desir, who was the chief judge.
The segment was not open to the public or the media and the organisers later provided copies of the contestants’ speeches. From the information provided to The Scene it was clear that the front runners at the end of the intelligence segment were Seistra Allen and Celeste Dolphin.
It was noticed that there were only 6 when 7 girls had been introduced as contestants. When questioned about this, Franchise holder and Organizer Nicosia Holland revealed that the youngest contestant, 17-year-old Shanessa James had opted out for “personal reasons”. The Scene attempted to contact Shanessa, but was told that she had no comment to make at this time.
In her speech, contestant number 1 Arti Cameron, whose platform is ‘Empowering Abused Women’, noted that seeking to empower abused women is a complex task given the complexity of domestic violence itself. She pointed to the impediments and hurdles in the “attitudes by law enforcement officials, leniency in the courts towards abusers, and persistent traditional attitudes that prevail”. While she insisted that there are ways to empower women, she did not share any that she would use to promote her platform.
Her empathic statement at the end: “Guyana must find success in saving our women from domestic abuse. All Guyanese women must consider themselves safe only if every mother, every sister, and every daughter is safe” though true, fell flat.
Contestant number 2 Soyini Fraser, whose platform is ‘Empowering Guyanese Women Through Positive Spirituality’, appeared to have spoken in the abstract. She made reference to women enduring “adverse conditions” because they felt powerless; and of them “accepting such conditions even when facing possible death”. However, she chose not to state exactly what those conditions are, leaving persons to assume that she may be referring to domestic violence. No one could disagree with her statement that: “It is vitally important for women to understand that they are entitled to be treated with respect and dignity at all times.” But she too did not say how women could be empowered through spirituality; though she was knowledgeable about all of the outcomes of empowerment.
Contestant number 3 Ruqayyah Boyer’s platform is ‘Breaking Barriers: The Journey From Homemakers to CEOs/Decision Makers’. Her speech was even more convoluted than the first two. She stated that women are at a disadvantage because of a lack of economic empowerment and that the top companies in this country and in the world still displayed gender inequality. Nothing she said, however, was new. She said her purpose was to highlight how women “have evolved their journey, their transition and how valuable their contribution to the growth of our economy has been.” And then what? She too referred to ‘empowering women’ but did not say exactly how this could be accomplished, except for referring vaguely to education.
Contestant number 4, Utieka John’s platform is ‘The Importance of Educating Girls and Women in Society’. Utieka’s speech was much too short, but she did make her point. She noted the link between poverty, gender inequality and (a lack of) economic growth, pointing out that it was the reason why “girls’ education is a smart investment for any country”. She noted that educated women tended to “be healthier, participate more in the formal labour market, earn more income, have fewer children, and provide better health care and education to their children, all of which eventually improve the well-being of all individuals and lift households out of poverty. These benefits also transmit across generations, as well as to their communities at large.” All of it was correct of course, but none of it was original.
Contestant number 5, Seistra Allen’s speech was a breath of fresh air. She was not only fully knowledgeable about her platform: ‘Changing the Roles of Teenage Girls’, she was the first contestant to actually address how this could be accomplished. She addressed mothers, asking that they teach their children to be “independent and self-assured when they’re still little. Give them opportunities to work out their problems, which includes allowing them to fail occasionally so that they can figure out for themselves how to succeed. It takes courage to let your kids individuate away from you—but trust me, they’ll benefit, and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment as well.”
She spoke of the pressures young girls face “from the media, our peers and even ourselves”. She insisted that girls needed to take responsibility for their lives and to stop accepting the status of ‘baby mama’. Seistra said she has a personal mission to raise self awareness and self esteem in young girls. Her speech was spot on.
The final contestant, Celeste Dolphin’s platform is ‘Share the Light – Empowering Young Guyanese Women who are Affected by Mental Illnesses’. Celeste did attempt to share the light, as she pointed to misconceptions about mental illness; the way the mentally ill are perceived and treated and the fact that many of the country’s mentally ill are young women. She spoke of the need to move away from solely treating mental disorders to addressing “mental health holistically, including mental illnesses and general wellbeing”. She recommended that a mental health centre be developed for young Guyanese women. Celeste, like Seistra, really addressed her platform.