As part of the celebration of International Women’s Day, several organisations involved in promoting women’s rights hosted a march against street harassment and other forms of violence last Saturday.
Members of Non-Governmental Organisa-tions (NGOs) Red Thread, Help and Shelter, the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association and the Student Society Against Human Right Violations (SSAHRV) marched along Brickdam from Stabroek Market square to the Square of the Revolution to bring attention to the sexual harassment and violence woman in Guyana face every day.
The march was part of a regional attempt to advocate for respect of female agency and similar activities have been held in Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, The Bahamas, and Jamaica.
The movement, which began with Barbadian women chronicling instances of street harassment under the hashtag “lifeinleggings” has over several months exposed various instances of sexism and sexual harassment faced by Caribbean women. Special attention has been paid to discouraging comments which blame the behaviour and clothing of women for sexual attacks.
Akola Thompson, who coordinated the March, told Stabroek News that she and her organisation, SSAHRV, “chose to march because too often people do not recognise or understand the magnitude of the problem when it comes to gender-based violence and sexual abuse.”
She was quick to acknowledge that a march does not in itself elicit change but noted that it “does bring attention to the issue and offers an opportunity to connect and share experiences and set the groundwork for change.”
Even as the women marched along Brickdam declaring that women’s rights are human rights, several men on the streets and in minibuses were shouting derogatory comments at some participants and making sexually suggestive invitations.
One security guard at the corner of Camp and Brickdam called for one of the participants to leave the march and join him, while one conductor put his head out of a 40 minibuses to shout obscenities at several transgendered women who participated in the event.