Santa Rosa Village in Region One (Barima/Waini), the largest Indi-genous community in the country, has elected its first woman toshao in businesswoman Whanita Phillips.
This makes Phillips the third woman to be elected to head a village council during the current round of national elections of toshaos, and more who have put themselves forward as candidates could be elected to head their villages before the current round of voting ends on June 15th.
Phillips will also join at the National Toshaos Council (NTC) primary school teacher Beverley Clenkian, who was on Monday elected the first woman toshao of Pakuri Village on the Linden-Soesdyke Highway, and Sharmain Rambajue, who was elected on May 16th, as the first woman to lead Baramita Village.
“I am very happy with the victory knowing that I was empowered by other women and older women who gave me the encouragement to take up the challenge,” Phillips told Sunday Stabroek in a brief comment following her election.
She was taking up the mantle of toshao, she said, “as a humble servant.”
Her priority is to make her presence felt in all the satellite communities, which, she said, do not see their toshaos after the elections are held. She intends to ensure that people who are affected by lack of a water supply during the dry seasons, in particular, are provided with wells or pipe-borne water.
Also a matter of priority, she noted, is the settlement of a number of land disputes in the community.
Like other newly-elected toshaos, Sunday Stabroek has spoken with, Phillips said she will continue the lobby for the extension of the boundaries of her village. This issue, she said, is longstanding.
Phillips ousted toshao Sherwin Abrams in a keen contest and also bettered another woman candidate and a former toshao. She gathered 543 votes, while her nearest rival, Abrams, obtained 399.
Phillips’ newly-elected counterpart in Pakuri Village, Clenkian, told this newspaper after her election, “I took an oath to serve, and serve I will to the best of my ability”
Clenkian, who won from a field of eight candidates, including three women, told Sunday Stabroek that her main priorities are social issues.
She will be supported in her work by 12 councillors, including five who will be serving a second term.
While continuing the work started by her predecessor, Lenox Shuman, she said her priority is in improving education and encouraging sports and culture to fight against drug abuse and alcoholism, which are social ills in her community.
Similar plans were recently announced by her counterpart in Baramita, Rambajue, who was recently elected toshao of that Carib community.
Among the work left by Clenkian’s predecessor is the completion of a cabin for housing visitors to the community. The village also needs an extension of its boundaries, which Clenkian also intends to continue to pursue.
Some of the other main issues which the council will have to deal with, she said, are the construction of a display centre to promote the community’s rich arts and crafts tradition as an economic avenue, rebuilding the village’s main road and securing a more reliable electricity supply.
Clenkian, a final year management and administration student at the University of Guyana, said she will take a break from studies this year to serve the people of her community.
She was seconded to a school on the East Coast of Demerara and will return to her substantive school, but she expects she will be released to perform her functions as toshao.
There is a possibility that Phillips, Clenkian, and Rambajue could be joined by more women on the NTC. The three now equal the number of women on the outgoing NTC.
On June 12th, Mainstay will also be voting for a toshao as its current leader and chairman of the NTC, Joel Fredericks, is not eligible for re-election. His mother, People’s Progressive Party/Civic parliamentarian and a former toshao Yvonne Pearson, is one of two candidates vying for the post. The other candidate is Milton Fredericks.
Meanwhile, Aishalton yesterday also voted for a new toshao. Michael Thomas, 31 years, copped 331 votes to remove outgoing toshao Douglas Casimero who secured 81.
Batavia Village in the Cuyuni, which held its elections on Monday, also elected Orin Williams its new toshao. He received 102 votes, while his nearest rival secured 63.