Women themselves must secure gender equality
Kaieteur News – March 10, 2006
An incident occurred on the eve of International Women’s Day 2006 that put into sharp focus the plight of Guyanese women as they struggle to achieve meaningful gender equality.
On Tuesday a 14-year-old boy stabbed Queens ‘ College teacher Ms. Chandra Bhoj four times in the back, causing her to be admitted to hospital in a serious condition. This adult female victim is a well-educated, veteran Mathematics tutor, yet she was virtually defenseless against an attack by an abusive male. She could not prevent her most basic human right – protection against violence – from being violated by a male attacker who is a mere boy.
Most women in Guyana can easily empathise with Ms. Bhoj’s defenselessness. They understand exactly how violated and helpless she must have felt because, in a figurative sense, Guyanese women have been getting stabbed in the back for a long, long time. They are acutely aware that there is a sickeningly high incidence of violent abuse and other types of degradation of females by males in this country, and countless cases are never exposed in public.
This situation leads to the disconcerting realisation that, despite the strides they have made academically and otherwise, women in Guyana are very far away from achieving true gender equality. Furthermore, if women examine the situation dispassionately, they would come to an even more deeply disturbing conclusion: women themselves have to shoulder a lot of the blame for this. To put it bluntly, women have not done enough to alleviate the situation themselves.
Guyanese women’s predicament with regard to gender equality is a multi-faceted problem. Therefore the solution requires a proactive, dynamic, multi-dimensional approach by women, utilising every iota of their resources and influence. The issue must be addressed by women themselves in every sphere of their existence and in doing so they must exercise all the professional, social and private leverage they possess, especially in their all-important roles as men’s mothers, wives and sisters.
Women must deal with the issue on the social front, by doing their parts as individuals as well as collectively to dismantle progressively the cult of machismo that is prevalent in Guyana with attendant abuse and domination of women. They must deal with the problem on the economic front by becoming more financially independent, taking control of their personal finances, and saving and investing to build up women’s collective economic worth in Guyana.
Also, women must deal with the problem on the political front by getting into politics in greater numbers, playing more assertive roles in their political parties, ensuring that more of their political representatives are women, and insisting that women’s issues are always on the front-burner in the political arena. Most importantly, they must deal with the problem on the religious front by questioning male-generated religious dogma and interpretations of holy texts that relegate women to a disadvantaged role in society.
Unfortunately, women seldom make good use of their most important weapon against domination and abuse by males. This weapon is the influence they exert over very young children as the primary care-givers in the first five formative years of a child’s life. At that time children’s ideas and values are in the embryonic stages and can be influenced for the better. Women should use this opportunity to guide young children towards true gender equality by teaching them wholesome ideas and values. Instead, too many women raise males to be abusers of females and condition females to tolerate such abuse.
Women cannot achieve true gender equality in Guyana or anywhere else unless they first emancipate themselves from self-imposed bonds. Then they would be able to make full use of their influential roles in society to improve their lot.