ERC Multi-stakeholder Forum: Women seek change to Domestic Violence Act
Kaieteur News – October 30, 2006
The Ethnic Relations Commission recently hosted its National Women’s Conversation at the National Cultural Centre as part of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum project.
Chief Executive Officer, Christine King, explained that the project includes bringing together women from various parts of the country to benefit from each other’s experiences and forging a sense of sisterhood.
The Conversation was held with the support of the UNDP Social Cohesion Programme.
King said the session was aimed at examining personal transformation with a pledge as to what women could do to improve their own lives and ultimately the quality of all life in Guyana .
UK Commission for Racial Equality Director of Strategy and Communication, Colleen Harris, addressed the gathering of 361 women representing women from varying socio-religious and economic backgrounds.
In her presentation, Harris posited that inequality was the greatest single obstacle to a unified society and noted that reconciling estranged groups was not easy.
She said the challenge in Guyana was to make its ethnic mix play a positive role in realising social cohesion.
Harris added that there should be a vertical link between people and the government to ensure justice and respect for all.
She expressed the view that women are particularly adept at building relationships, and they are usually not behind anger and violence.
The Director said women prefer to work at finding solutions outside the box.
“Women are expert at crossing conflict lines and they play an important role in cohesion, getting warring groups together,” she said.
Harris advised that politicians ensure that more women are involved in key positions in the decision-making process.
“And we cannot afford to wait for these measures to be put in place,” she said.
Harris exhorted that women participate in the election process, move against any racial hostility and press for change to make politicians responsible.
Addressing poverty, ERC said women have desire to be gainfully employed but many lack the qualification and skills required for limited employment opportunities.
Many employed women find that their salaries are insufficient to sustain their livelihoods.
Women have primary responsibility for managing households often including members with disabilities, the elderly and children.
The women are petitioning for increased wages, adequate social assistance, reduced taxes, equitable land distribution system and affordable daycare centre.
In the realm of decision-making, the women agreed that they are neglected despite their significant role in carrying the political campaigns.
It was also noted that women are voting on the basis of race and not on issues affecting them resulting in their concerns being ignored by the major political parties.
Women in Parliament and in other leadership positions have failed to address issues of concern to their peers.
Women have also been shown blatant disrespect by elected leaders who practise nepotism, poor judgment and self-interest.
Recent events show a complete lack of accountability by the government and wanting moral behaviour of Ministers and senior officers.
In this regard the women are calling for the prioritisation of women’s concern, political accountability and ministerial code of conduct.
They are also asking for education and training to be more accessible especially to hinterland women, the enactment of Sexual Offences Act, adult education courses and information availability.
As it relates to violence, the women recognise that violence takes many forms with women and children being the most vulnerable.
“We recognise that we ourselves are perpetrators, particularly with respect to child abuse. We realise that the institutions that are responsible for addressing the safety and security of women are not working effectively,” one contributor said.
In order to address these issues, the women petitioned for the revision of the Domestic Violence Act, an improved judiciary/police force, well-equipped Family Court and increased services for victims of abuse including sexual offenders register, hotlines, police patrols, safe havens and counseling.