Women's Issues In Guyana


Hope for female substance abusers

Posted in Health Issues by wiig on April 6, 2006
Tags: , , ,

Kaieteur News – April 16, 2006

Mention the word drug addict in Guyana, and the picture that invariably leaps into mind is that of a bedraggled man rummaging through a garbage bin.

But walk the streets of Georgetown at nights and you will see a different picture. It is a picture of women who are willing to do anything to get drugs.

Savitri Ramnarine is one of these women, a woman that most of society probably considers to be of little or no significance. This is her story.

Savitri, in her youthful years, was a sought after prostitute. “ Sheriff Street was my first home and where I lived, I ruled. I was the lady of the house and I ruled my home like no other prostitute. Every man I touched kept coming back for more and I always had a refill.”

She worked for men from all walks of life and was the envy of many women who walked the streets at nights.

Savitri had the look of a temptress, one with Mexican heritage and a head full of black hair cascading down her waist.

She has been out of prostitution for more than ten years, ever since she had been diagnosed with HIV\AIDS. She has become too ill to work and eventually lost the urge and customers.

The retired call girl has a multitude of regrets and even though she cannot turn many of them around, she wants to get rid of her drug abuse habit.

Savitri recalls how easy it was for her to become hooked on many of the substances she used.

“There were days when I worked from six in the evenings to six in the morning and then during the day. I had quite a few customers who came during the day and I could entertain them.”

“The daytime customers always paid more, and most times my service to them would require going out of town to a hotel or to a beach or sometimes parking in some lonely area out of town.

Anyway, after a while I could not keep up with the activities and the hours; at times my body would give up and I would sleep for two whole days.”

“I started losing clients and my reputation as top of the line was in serious trouble. My face started to look different and my eyes were almost always red.

One night after I had worked with a customer on the seawall, I did not go straight home. I went for a walk and to this day I do not remember why I took that walk.”

“While I was walking I met a man sitting on the wall and we started talking; he offered me money to work for him.

He said all I had to do was look pretty and satisfy his friends whenever they came to his club to gamble.”

“That offer was music to my ears, no more street walking, I was moving up the ladder.

Working for him was good, the pay was excellent, my popularity climbed and I was able to save a lot of money.”

Savitri said that over the first six months she saved $90,000 and was able to put that amount into the bank.

“It was hard work. When I worked with myself I took breaks in between but working with this man was not like that. I went from one customer to another until the wee hours in the morning. After a while my body started to react the same way it used to when I was working for myself.”

“My boss gave me some tablets to use after his friends started to complain, and he realised what was happening to me. He said that the tablets would give me more energy and improve my performance.”

“He was so right. After I used the tablets, I was my old self again with an added burst of energy and I could have taken on the world.”

This was the beginning of Savitri’s drug addiction.

From that day she went from tablets to marijuana to cocaine, until she lost her job and was out in the streets again.

Now, the once prosperous, sought-after lady of the night was just another common prostitute, doing anything to get a smoke.

Then, her life as a prostitute was over; men spat at her, kicked her and even tried to kill her. One night some years ago she was beaten badly and left to die on the street she once called home.

A passing motorist took her to the Georgetown Public Hospital; there she found out that she was HIV positive.

She thought that was the end of her life but despite everything she had gone through, God had spared her life and now all she asks is for help to kick the drug habit.

She does not consider herself a prostitute now, just a woman who will do anything to sustain a habit. Savitri accepts the fact that she is no longer at the place she used to be in life and wholeheartedly accepts her new lease on life.

Savitri understands now that with medication and counseling she can live a long and healthy life, but it cannot include drug use.

The determination to stop using drugs has led this woman to seek help but she was disappointed to learn that there is no rehabilitation programme specifically for women in Guyana.

The Salvation Army of Guyana has had for over ten years a well-organised rehabilitation programme for male substance abusers.

Major Voyans Morancy of the Salvation Army expressed his concern about the fact that there is no such facility for women in this country, but promises that one such facility will be opened in the very near future.

He said that at present the only alternative for women substance abusers is a clinic in Trinidad.

According to a counselor at the Salvation Army’s ‘Men’s Social Centre’, Mr. Ralph Turpin, the programme offered by the Army only caters for men.

He says that he would like to be able to offer the same type of service to women substance abusers in this country.

Morancy pointed out that the Salvation Army has already tabled a programme for female substance abusers.

The programme, according to him, has also been approved by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The only problem the Army faces at present is the lack of a building to house the females.

He said it is easier at present to house men.

One has to take into consideration that some of the women may have children and there are other health factors to consider.

“When you can push two or three men together it is very difficult to do that with women, they need privacy,” he pointed out.

Morancy said that the calls for a “Women’s Social Centre,” has increased recently. Although it is not what he expects, he feels that persons have not been calling frequently because they know that the facility for women is not available.

The Salvation Army is committed to providing a drug rehabilitation service for females in the very near future.

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