Disadvantaged groups get Business Minister’s support for help in creating small businesses

Arising out of a meeting between Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin and a group comprising representatives of the Guyana Equality Forum (GEF), the Deaf Associa-tion of Guyana (DAG), Help and Shelter and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), on Wednesday April 5 to discuss some of the collective challenges facing their constituents, an understanding was reached on the issue of creating a more constructive relationship between the aforementioned organizations and the ministry.

DAG’s Sabine McIntosh informed the meeting that her organization’s constituents consist of students and early school leavers. She drew attention to DAG’s partnership with the Board of Industrial Training (BIT) and the successes of a number of their skills-training initiatives with deaf persons. Several such persons have been trained in sewing, cosmetology, auto-body work, among other areas. However, many of these persons continue to face challenges in securing employment and accessing capital for their own business ventures. McIntosh advocated the need for youth-friendly systems to ensure that young persons are able to access capital for business creation. With regard to employment, she called for more private sector companies to employ more deaf persons. McIntosh also called for more start-up capital to be made available to facilitate young, disabled persons seeking to develop start-up businesses.

Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin and his guests at last Wednesday’s meeting

Participants in the discourse raised a range of other issues including the challenges facing (NGOs) arising out of reduced funding. As a consequence, many NGOs are seeking to pursue business ventures as a means of securing funding to continue to deliver services.

The group sought the minister’s support for NGOs to develop income-generating capabilities in order to support their sustainability. The meeting also advocated enhanced support for the work of Help and Shelter in pursuit of its work with abused women, particularly in the context of assisting them to become more independent.

Discussion also centred around the discrimination-related challenges confronting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) workers against the backdrop of the absence of specific prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender.

In responding to the concerns raised by the group issues Minister Gaskin described the scope and work of the Small Business Bureau and its role as a micro-financing entity. He underscored the importance of ensuring that employment opportunities are available for these groups, which opportunities, he said, assist in the development of the country’s economy. Additionally, the minister committed his ministry to creating more tailored programmes for NGOs in order to help them develop income-generating strategies and enhance their self-sufficiency.

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