Scores of students and civil society members turned out yesterday to support a campaign to encourage Guyanese girls to complete their schooling.
The stand #UpForSchool” event, held along the Main Street avenue, was organised by the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA) and was supported by several organisations, including CUSO, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Youth Media Guyana (YMG), the Society against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), Help and Shelter Guyana and Come Alive Network Inc (CANI). Each organisation contributed information about their services as well as the state of female education in Guyana and the world.
Asraf Dabi, a member of the GRPA Youth Advocacy Movement, told Stabroek News that the activity was two-pronged. The first effort was aimed at encouraging politicians and other public officials to use their public voice to motivate the girls and young women, who look up to them, to complete their schooling. The second effort was directed at the girls themselves, who often needed lots of encouragement and support to take advantage of opportunities for education.
The assembled persons completed 100 postcards for girls as part of a bid to advocate for the education of girls and the implementation of the Caricom Framework for Addressing Adolescent Pregnancies. This framework, which was first unveiled in 2013, aims at reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in the region.
In the preamble of the document, Executive Director of the UNFPA Dr Babatunde Osotimehin notes that “Adolescent pregnancy is intertwined with issues of human rights.
A pregnant girl who is pressured or forced to leave school, for example, is denied her right to an education. “Conversely, a girl who is able to enjoy her right to education and stays in school is less likely to become pregnant than her counterpart who drops out or is forced out. The enjoyment of one right thus puts her in a better position to enjoy others.”
Kevin Massiah, of Help and Shelter, said that even if there are no policies in place preventing girls from returning to school after giving birth, Guyana is a very “culturally sensitive society where many often believe that if a certain practice is allowed or tolerated, it can give rise to more instances of the same.”
This view, he said, can lead some to believe that if teenage mothers are returned to the school system then there will be an increase in teenage pregnancies. For him Guyanese need to recognise that access to education is a basic human right and no one should be denied an education, especially not a teenage mother who could be facing challenges caused by many other factors, including sexual abuse.
President of the University of Guyana Student Society Joshua Griffith urged that persons remember that “educating a women can improve the education of successive generations, so any cause which is concerned about education must support women’s education as often it is women who are at the core of any change in society.”
However, one of the best endorsements of yesterday’s activity came from Grade 2 student Italy, who told Stabroek News that if she couldn’t go to school she would be sad so she decorated her postcard with a pretty rainbow and encouraged everyone to join her in school to “learn something new.”