The Guyana Women Miners Organisation (GWMO) is ready to work with all sections of society and especially the government to fight human trafficking, the organisation’s president Simona Broomes said yesterday.
Broomes noted that the GWMO has not shifted its attention from representing the interests and rights of women who work in the male-dominated mining sector, but added that Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and child labour are activities that need urgent attention and the group is well-placed to help fight them in the interior.
Last week, the US State Department released its annual report on TIP and Guyana was placed on the Tier 2 Watch List, which indicates that government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.
Broomes, who was honoured by US Secretary of State John Kerry last week as an anti-TIP hero for the work she and GWMO have been doing, participated in a one-week International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) exchange in the US and she told a press conference yesterday that human trafficking is a global problem and Guyana is not alone in the struggle. For its part, the GWMO wants to work with government, opposition, churches, civil society groups and all other interested parties to fight human trafficking, Broomes said, while adding that the organisation will be make a special effort to reach out to government entities, and particularly the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security for them to join forces.
Although it has not always been smooth sailing between the GWMO and the government, Broomes emphasised that her organisation is a ready and willing partner and whenever called upon it would respond. She noted that the members are volunteers and she wanted it to be made public that they want to work with the government, even if it takes going to the administration.
At the same time, Broomes did criticise the large companies—both foreign and local—that operate in the mining sector and have been ignoring the GWMO, failing to even acknowledge its correspondence. Nevertheless, she hoped that this would change and they can join together to fight against human trafficking.
She pointed out that Guyana does not have to remain on the Tier 2 watch list as once all are serious about facing human trafficking head on, come next year the country would have a better ranking.
She added that while on the leadership programme, a US official named Guyana among others as one of the countries that should face sanctions for reportedly trading in blood diamonds.
In December last year, Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Persaud said he was making internal inquiries on the status of Guyana diamond trade with regard to compliance with the Kimberley Protocol which had again placed Guyana’s diamond trading under scrutiny.
The minister said he preferred to wait until he would have completed compiling the relevant information before giving a comprehensive comment on an article published in the Stabroek News of December 7, 2012 and headlined ‘Diamond smuggling from Venezuela into Guyana mocks international pact’.
The Reuters article detailed the actions of diamond buyers as they made their way through the bushes of Venezuela to seek out and buy diamonds. It demonstrated that Venezuelan diamonds pass through Guyana and receive falsified certificates after which they most likely end up in places such as Tel Aviv, Antwerp, London and New York.
Broomes said following the call by the official for sanctions, she immediately got to her feet and represented the country, stating that with the knowledge she gained she will return to Guyana with the certainty that there will be a more vigorous fight in the area of TIP.
She said that while the US admitted that it has problems with human trafficking, she was impressed with the role of its various police departments in dealing with the situation. The same cannot be said for Guyana, she added, noting that the GWMO does not get the support needed from the lawmen.
Broomes recalled the verbal and physical assault she endured in the Puruni Backdam when she and other GWMO members removed four girls that were being trafficked. She said the police was given all the information, including the photographs of the couple who assaulted her and who were allegedly trafficking the girls, but to date no wanted bulletins have been issued for them. She also called for more persons to be prosecuted.
Broomes said it was not the work of the organisation that has placed Guyana on the Tier 2 watch list, since the country was already on the list before the GWMO came into existence.
However, she noted that the recognition of its work by the US is the first breakthrough it has received since it was launched a year ago and it hopes to build on this.
The GWMO is here to stay, she said, while adding that it will not end its fight against human trafficking but will become more vigorous. While some might want to say the organization is out of its league and should concentrate on other issues, Broomes said it would not be deterred and that the country should count the GWMO as a blessing as its members are taking up the mantle and helping victims in need using their own resources. She said while they face the challenges of lack of access to some areas, transportation and lack of security, among others, they would not be deterred.
However, Broomes also made it clear that the GWMO has not shifted from its objectives since it continues to represent women in mining and also has several units that represent the various issues affecting women. She said human trafficking and child labour are just two issues but the GWMO has been having meetings with the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) to talk about the many issues affecting women in mining.