Women's Issues In Guyana


Through a woman’s eyes: And the battle continues

Posted in Commentary,Gender Equality by wiig on March 2, 2008
Tags: , ,

By Cheryl Springer
Stabroek News – March 2, 2008

It has been hundreds of years since women were burned at the stake after being “convicted” of witchcraft. Strides have been made in terms of equal opportunity in what is still a patriarchal world and in three years, the centenary year of International Women’s Day will be celebrated. But the battle continues.

That is, the fight to end the oppression of women. Perhaps it is not as fiercely fought as before or as it should be, but it continues nevertheless.On Saturday, women (and men) around the world will celebrate International Women’s Day with rallies, conferences, craft fairs, theatrical performances, fashion parades, pageants or any activity which they feel best suits the occasion.

In some countries, March 8 has taken on the significance of Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day among men, who buy presents for their mothers, wives, daughters, girlfriends and sometimes even for workmates. In other places, some people genuinely have no clue. Some men are not interested because they would prefer not to have a shift in the balance of power, and some younger women because they have never had to struggle for the right to do anything.

Incidentally, the power dynamic between men and women is the favourite theme of two friends of mine. One of them, who could be described as a closeted activist because she does not publicly air her views, has done endless research on the issue. She believes that way back when the world was new, it was matriarchal. In other words, women ruled, much like in the bee kingdom and the ant world.

Men were the workers, the hunters, the protectors (guess their role hasn’t changed much over the years). But, she says, they rebelled – out of jealousy and not necessarily because they were mistreated – grabbed power and have since remained the more powerful of the sexes through subterfuge, brainwashing and mental, physical and emotional oppression.

This sister believes that women have allowed this to happen and that there is need for a shift, not back to the worker/queen bee situation, but to a middle ground where men and women complement each other. The male and female make-up, she believes, dictates that one needs the other. If not, the world as we know it could cease to exist.

The other view, though more modernistic, is also that men are ultimately responsible for gender relations being skewed. This brother says men must shoulder most of the blame for much of what negatively affects women and the world at large, including wars, racism and pollution of the environment.He, too, believes that it is time women stood up and said “enough.” And while he remains convinced that a real father or lack thereof contributes tremendously to a woman’s dysfunction, he does not think that this totally absolves them of the responsibility of ensuring their own peaceful and blissful existence.

The thing is, women have been saying ‘enough’ for more than 100 years. History bears the scars and triumphs, which offer irrefutable evidence of this. There has been a response, but it has not been overwhelming, nor anywhere near the level necessary to even the scales.After 100 years of public acknowledgement of women’s advancements and continued vigilance and activism, the gains seem to have become stagnated.

Every so often, there’s a big hoopla about ‘the first woman to…’ and the usual speeches are made about women’s equality. Really? Even when she is just one in a million? What of her 999,999 sisters who are looking on and hoping and cheering from the sidelines nevertheless?

Yes, there is already a whole slew of women entrepreneurs, legislators, heads of boards and governments, among other things.

But there are millions more who are underpaid and overworked – shop girls, factory workers and minions – and unpaid housewives, not to mention the ‘multitasker,’ that working homemaker who literally does two jobs. The sad fact is, too, that in both categories there are women who are physically, mentally and emotionally beaten down in their homes.

Having said that, I must hasten to add that this is not meant to be a tirade against men or the world or to apportion blame. It is simply a reminder – a look at the cold hard facts in the light of the approach of another milestone in the battle.

We would do well to remember at this time too that even though it took a while, dinosaurs eventually became extinct, the ice age and the stone age passed, and the African slave trade was abolished.

And our brains are not as slow as they were 100 years ago – just look at the advances in medicine and technology that are being made every single day.

Women and men who continue to fight the good fight year round and not just on International Women’s Day, do so because they believe that a complete change, though slow in coming, will eventually come. These are the people who inspire the rest of us to do our bit in contributing to the change.

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