Recently there was a discussion on Facebook about the Stabroek News columnists and their relevance to those who read the newspaper. The discussion began with a lengthy critique by Imran Khan, which included graphics defining the columnists by age, ethnicity and gender.

The point of Khan’s critique of what he referred to as “the nation’s newspaper of record,” was to demonstrate the lack of voice given to the younger generation within the Stabroek News column pages. Although this is typical within most newspapers around the world, 20130914stellaas columnists tend to be older, some of the new and upcoming online newspapers certainly have star columnists that are younger. First and foremost, The Huffington Post comes to mind. They have a brilliant line up of diverse columnists and it is a real treat to read the thoughts of the younger generation.

However, Khan pointed out in his Facebook note; “Not a single woman, young person domiciled in Guyana, Indo-Guyanese domiciled in Guyana or young Afro-Guyanese is afforded dedicated weekly column inches in SN to add to national discussion on the wide range of topical issues from their representative perspective.”

I completely agree with Khan’s opinion and would like to speak on it in regards to this column. I write on women’s issues in Guyana and I do my best to speak to the issues that are relevant to what is happening for the women of Guyana at the time I write my columns. However, I do not live in Guyana. Though I visit as often as my health will let me, the fact that I do not live in Guyana puts me at a severe disadvantage to be able to write about the day-to-day struggles of Guyana’s women.

I tend to focus my columns on the larger issues that impact women of the nation overall, which is important, but there is so much more that needs to be said – and I cannot say it. When I left Kaieteur News a couple years back, I asked them to please find another woman to replace my column in that newspaper in hopes there would be yet other women consistently writing about the situation of the women in Guyana. Kaieteur News did not hire another woman to replace me.

Guyana Times hired a young woman to write on women’s issues a couple years ago and I found her pieces to be refreshing – like healthy blood pumping into the bloodstream. I was so excited to see 1) Another woman writing on political and social issues as they relate to women in Guyana, and 2) To know this was a young woman with fresh ideas. Alas, as soon as she spoke her mind, she was gone all too soon.

I have long told friends and family that I only intend to write this column until Guyanese women rise up and take my place. At that time, I will gladly step aside for them to take their rightful place. In fact, it is not just my intention, but my longstanding hope to see this happen – and I know it will happen.

I can easily name several women, both young and not so young, who could step up and write on women’s issues in Guyana. I am not quite sure what holds them back, but I know they have the writing capacity, intelligence and passion to do such a job. Yes, it can be demanding to write every week and it takes commitment, but the results are extraordinary. Even if it is a rotating column with several women writing it, I believe it is necessary.

I suppose the question should also be asked as to why the newspapers in Guyana have not hired women columnists to write on political, business and social issues. There are so very many men and their opinions, but where are the opinions of the women? And while I appreciate the opportunity to be able to write on women’s issues for years now, which is obviously a passionate topic for me, my opinion is hindered by the fact that I do not live in Guyana.

Where are the Guyanese women who are writing about the political and social issues in Guyana? What about women writing in the business pages? There are so many bright women in Guyana who have so much to say – and deserve to have a voice in the national dialogue of the nation’s column pages. The fact that these voices have been silent (or silenced) for so long is a travesty.

This is not the Dark Ages. This is 2013 and women’s voices not only matter now, but are also changing the way we see the world, interact with each other and govern ourselves. In fact, the lack of feminine voices on vital topics in Guyana severely hampers the nation’s potential. It is time for women to be heard.

Sisters, it is time to stop curtsying to traditional thought that only men can write about political, social and business issues in the column pages simply because that is how it has always been. If the world will not change, make it change.

Stop waiting for an invitation to do what you should have been able to do all along. How on earth did we ever allow this world to get to a point where women – half of the world’s population – have no voice? This world is messed up right now because we have been beaten into silence and have allowed that violence to rule.

It is time for change. When women take their rightful place in the world, it changes for the good. Sisters, we can make the world a much better place. In fact, it is our responsibility to do so. Stop shrinking from your responsibility. Let your voice be heard.

In closing, I am hoping to get scolding emails from my newspaper editor friends that they are swamped with curriculum vitae from women who are ready to make their voices heard on vital issues in the country. How great would it be to see more women writing in the nation’s column pages? That would indeed be a dream come true for me.

 

Contact Stella Ramsaroop at [email protected]

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