Women's Issues In Guyana


For women like her, today do have some relevance

By Shirley Thomas
Guyana Chronicle – March 10, 2008

WHILE some may dismiss dedicating a special day to prayer and women as rhetorical and an arrant waste of time, for 34-year-old Bonita Leitch such observances do have some merit in her eyes and are of profound significance.

For this Tain Corentyne housewife truly knows the meaning of pain and suffering, as she’d been left by the roadside to bleed to death by the man she thought she knew and loved after he’d taken a cutlass to just about every inch of her body.

To make matters worse, he’d stood guard over her as she lay there lost to the world, his blood-drenched cutlass at the ready, daring anyone, even her children, to come to her assistance.

Then when the enormity of what he’d done really sank in and he realized that the police were hot on his trail, he decided to end it all by taking his own life. They found his lifeless body hanging from a tree on the Corentyne foreshore.

Ironically, even after enduring such agony and humiliation at the hands of this fiend, yet still she had feelings for him, and from her hospital bed sent him a message saying that she still loved him and was willing to forgive him. But by then he was already dead.

When finally the news of his passing was broken to her, Bonita was so devastated she found herself in a state of deep inner conflict, ultimately blaming herself. Hence, even as she struggled to recover from her own illness, his death took a great toll on her.

The hapless incident occurred on April 21, 2007. Bonita would spend Mother’s Day in hospital, and for more than four months remained there, confined to bed and unable to do anything for herself. Her left arm was nearly all gone; her legs were broken in several places; and she had two ugly scars on her back to remind of that near fatal day. It was a miracle that she was still alive. She was eventually discharged from the institution in July 2007.

Then, two weeks ago, she developed complications in what was left of her arm and had to be readmitted to the hospital for surgical intervention.

One of her most memorable moments following the incident, Bonita said, was unquestionably her reunion with her four sons, to which she looked forward throughout her time in hospital. She recalled writing them a letter from her hospital bed on Mother’s Day telling them how much she loved and cared for them in spite of what had befallen her. “My sons,” she wrote, “I love you very much, and that will never change. And no matter what I may look like now, I am still your mother, and want you to accept me that way…”

Her greatest challenge since losing her arm, she said, was having to face the stark reality that she could no longer work, and by extension was unable to adequately provide for her children.

“Before this happened to me, I worked and earned a salary, so I was able to take care of the needs of my children. But now, all that has changed.”

Initially, she said, her mother helped take care of the children, but now that her condition has improved somewhat, she has again assumed her responsibilities. “With the help of the boys, I now do most things in the home,” Bonita said. Once they cut up the meat and vegetables, she said, she is able to manage the cooking. “I like the team spirit. It’s great to be able to work together as a family,” she said. Christmas was especially good, she said, as her mother and sisters did all her baking for her.

In her desire to be able to function as a mother should in a home, and to be there for her children, Bonita has embarked upon a small-scale enterprise — rearing meat birds which she sells in the neighbourhood.

“By doing that,” she said, “I can hopefully earn an income and at the same time take care of the nutritional needs of my family.” Granted, there are other projects that can yield much greater dividends, but it will require a bigger capital which is something she cannot afford at this point in time.

For her, dignity and self sufficiency in the lives of women like her start with getting involved in activities that empower them to lead productive lives. It is for this very reason that Bonita feels that International Women’s Day can be meaningful, if only the powers that be can, in their deliberations, see the need to implement programmes which will either introduce loan schemes to benefit women disabled through domestic violence, or otherwise empower women and girls who are battered and want to assert their independence.

United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon in an address on Friday, to mark International Women’s Day, called upon both the public and private sectors to step up investment in programmes that empower women.

“Investing in women is not only the right thing to do,” he said, adding: “I am deeply convinced that in women, the world has at its disposal the most significant and yet largely untapped potential for development and peace.”

Should women be given access to finances, credit, technology and markets, he said, “they are likely to expand their businesses and contribute effectively to sustained economic growth and development.”

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