Government’s Women’s Empowerment Agenda

first_imgBack in 2016, Guyana’s President David Granger announced a five-point plan to promote equal and modern opportunities for women, as he recommitted his administration towards empowering women folk to meet the challenges that lie ahead in the changing domestic and global environment.The announcement of the plan came on the heels of a UNDP report which stated that, over the past few years, Guyana has made very good progress towards promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women.Capitalizing on this, President Granger made it clear that one of the fundamental pillars of his government is equal opportunities for the whole population, with empowerment and protection of women and the eradication of poverty at the forefront of its efforts.His rationale coincides with the 17 global goals identified by the United Nations as essential for achieving sustainable development. Goal number five speaks to the notion of worldwide gender equality and women’s empowerment.Gender equality therefore, as the UN succinctly states, “is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.” Unhindered access for all people to education, healthcare, employment, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will underpin sustainable economies, and clearly benefit societies and humanity overall.With regard to international levels of employment, the latest statistics from the World Bank for ratio of female to male labour force participation – those for 2013 — show the Syrian Arab Republic having the lowest female participation, coming in 185th place at 19%, and Malawi being in the number one spot with 104%. The World Bank points out that, globally, women are less likely than men to participate in the labour market, i.e. less likely to be employed or actively looking for work; with only Rwanda, Burundi, Mozambique and Malawi being over the 100% mark. The UK and the US come in at 81% and 82% respectively. The World Bank explains that “female participation in employment is high, and the gender gap low, in many low-income countries where women are engaged in unpaid subsistence agriculture, although they are less involved in paid activities outside the household. Women also tend to be active in high-income countries, where over two-thirds of the female adult population participate in the labour market and the gender gap in labour force participation rates is less than 15 percent on average.”Guyana places 154th in the study, which also shows the country’s ratio increasing from 48.2% in 2003 to 52.9% in 2013. Although it is still lower than the average of 68.4% for Latin American and Caribbean (developed) countries, it is moving in the right direction.Mr Granger also stipulated that the Government would ensure more microcredit facilities are set up, and greater access is available to small business loans. He added that the Government was prepared to consider offering tax rebates to companies that establish day care facilities for working mothers. He also promised the introduction of proactive protective legislation and new training programmes.Indeed, the UNDP notes that educationally, “the targets of having gender parity in primary and secondary education have been achieved, since boys and girls are equally represented at these levels. At the university level, there are twice as many girls as there are boys enrolled.”Politically, according to UN figures, women now hold more than 30% of seats in the national parliament in at least one chamber in 46 countries. Among them is Guyana, where, since 2015, the proportion of seats held by women in its national parliament has reached 35%.The President’s ambitions come with the wholehearted backing of First Lady Sandra Granger, a determined and accomplished career woman and homemaker. Mrs Granger has pledged to champion various causes during her husband’s first term as president, particularly equality and the education and safety of children.The situation in Guyana has not changed drastically since 2016, despite the President’s commitment. More women are dying and becoming the victims of sexual abuse and violence inflicted by their male counterparts and intimate partners. The girl child is no safer than she was in 2016, and there has been no major policy shift towards the empowerment of women in rural communities.In fact, with the dismissal of thousands of male breadwinners along the sugar belt, the situation has worsened, and women who were traditionally housewives are now forced to work and earn incomes in order to sustain their families. The opportunities available to these women folk are few and far less than what many may see as befitting this class of people.A more serious approach has to be adopted in dealing with women’s issues if the President’s vision is to become reality. If his commitment is to be kept and worked into policy, then Government must redouble its effort at harmonizing the work of the Ministries and departments that fight for and advocate gender equality, women rights, and the family as an important unit. The President must lead and support wholeheartedly by funding and financing campaigns aimed at strengthening women to continue to make positive contributions to Guyana’s development, especially with the advent of the Oil and Gas industry.last_img

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