March for Girls to commemorate International Women’s Day

Guyanese women will join countless others around the Caribbean who will be marching in recognition of the historic achievements women have made worldwide, and to continue the struggle for equality.

Hosted under the title, ‘A March for Girls,’ the march will begin at 3:00pm at Stabroek Market Square on Saturday, March 11, and will proceed east along Brickdam towards the Square of the Revolution.

Upon the conclusion of the march, survivors of sexual abuse and violence will be given an opportunity to share their stories; it is also expected that persons will be able to participate in a brief self-defence session.

Akola Thompson, President and co-founder of the Student Society against Human Rights Violations (SAHRV), one of the organizations responsible for the event, explained that the activity will be held as part of the local observance of International Women’s Day, March 8, 2017, and will coincide with others scheduled to take place across the region.

Said to be a sister March of one that will be facilitated by the Barbadian #Lifeinleggings Movement, the local activity intends to bring attention to the scourge of sexual abuse and violence against women and children. It will also serve as a platform for survivors to share their stories and offer suggestions that could possibly dent the number of persons abused yearly.

Amongst the topics to be highlighted during the march are, ending the Violence against Women and Children; the need for free, safe and easily accessible Reproductive Healthcare for all; comprehensive Sex Education in Public Schools; equal Rights for the LGBTQ population, and the legalization of Sex Work.

According to Thompson, inspiration was drawn from the #Lifeinleggings Movement that was started in Barbados by Ronella King, who brought the issue of street harassment of women into the spotlight and demonstrated that there is an audience for fighting back, given the spread of the hash tag from Barbados to other nations throughout CARICOM.

“Throughout Guyana’s 50 years as an independent nation, women have been playing a tremendous role in shaping the direction of our country. Too often however, women’s roles are only considered in their relationship to certain great men. Patricia Rodney in relation to Walter Rodney and Janet Jagan in relation to Cheddi Jagan, for example. The reality is that women across the world, despite being burdened with unpaid domestic labour, violence against our bodies and lack of access to reproductive health care, have contributed to the struggle for a better world. International Women’s Day is a celebration of all these contributions and an opportunity for us to refocus on the struggle for our rights,” she added.

SAHRV said that while the politicians are invited to participate in the march, it will remain a non-political activity.

“While politicians are invited to march with us, they will not be speakers. SAHRV does not see itself at a women’s march with politicians. We believe such platforms should be used for the stories of victims’ survivors and (non-political) allies. Our reason for this is that too often politicians support women’s rights in an attempt to get away with other things e.g., in our last budget, Ministers claimed that it was a budget for women as they removed VAT from some items, but all the items were things like baby and household,” the co-founder posited.

Giving some background on the SAHRV as a body, Thompson said the group was started late last year, due to the lack of advocacy groups emanating from the University of Guyana.

“…Universities are usually the places in which activism thrives and we wanted to help grow that. It was also started due to our desire to do more “groundings” type activism rather than the boardrooms and small meetings we have become accustomed to. We find that people are more open to the ideas you bring to them, when you actually seek them out and talk to them one on one. We are a small group of student volunteers,” she added.

Acknowledgement was also given to Diana Cruickshank and Alessandra Hereman, and the Socialist Workers Alliance Guyana, which is co-founded and run by Robert Jones and Kevin Brice-Lall, for partnering with the SAHRV to plan and organize the event.

Other contributing entities to the event include Guyanese Girls Rock, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA) and Childlink.

“We encourage all Guyanese women and allies in the struggle for equality to attend the march and bring your ideas for building a sustained movement for Women’s Rights. While our individual voices are needed in the movement, there is power in collective dissent,” Thompson noted.

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