Parliamentarians should listen to the budget as though they were women living on starvation incomes

Dear Editor,

We are writing this open letter to all Parliamentarians as they prepare for budget day on Friday, March 30, 2012. We are writing especially to all the women Parliamentarians who said that our claims of them not representing us, grassroots women, in Parliament are untrue.

We are grassroots women in Red Thread and in an informal network called Grassroots Women Across Race, and we write as unwaged mothers, other caregivers and subsistence farmers, low-waged security guards, domestic workers and shop assistants, and other low-income women including old age pensioners, mothers on public assistance and vendors. We are also in solidarity with public servants whose wages are higher than ours, but not good enough, especially nurses, teachers and police.

We urge you to listen to the budget as though you were one of us – one of the many women we wrote about in our statement of March 15 – women, who are forced to choose between feeding our children and sending them to school or feeding our children and paying the rent. A security guard who works a sixteen-hour shift leaving her children unprotected and unsupervised for just $105- $115 an hour. An old age pensioner who gets $242 per day. A mother on public assistance who gets $178 per day. Or even a shop assistant who gets $1000 per day or a domestic worker who gets $834 per day. Listen as if you were the mother we wrote about who goes to the neighbourhood shop to buy half an ounce of cheese, a dab of peanut butter or half or a quarter pound of milk to give to her children. Listen to the budget as though you were one of us who for so long have been speaking out about why we find it impossible to live on the starvation incomes we receive.

If you truly have the interest in improving the lives of grassroots people at heart as your manifestos say, your responsibility is to ensure that we are represented in the budget.

The government has an obligation to ensure that the needs of Guyanese are catered for. We have always said that government needs to look at the economy from the bottom up, meaning, starting from the households of the poorest families and moving up to the national level. A country’s approach to development should start with raising the standard of living for poor people. If the state of poor people remains the same or gets worse, then there is no healthy development.   People have a right to live and this should be across the board.  Poor families have a right to enjoy a proper standard of living and we are not accepting the excuse that “there is no money.”    There is money; it’s a question of what you make a priority for spending. We are holding the government accountable for finding the money and the opposition for ensuring that we get it.

Yours faithfully,
Joy Marcus
Joycelyn Bacchus
Norma Adrian
Susan Collymore
For Red Thread and
Grassroots Women Across Race

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