The issue of women and their role in development has always been a topic of interest, not only in Guyana, but in countries around the world. The debates have focused on the challenges women face in accessing the same opportunities as men, and, in general, programs and policies that could be implemented to secure their economic and social progress.
Women have, over the years, made tremendous progress, not only in their own progress, but in playing a key role in the development of their own communities, and through extension, allowing opportunities for other women to develop themselves. However, many challenges remain, and these must be addressed to ensure that women have access to the opportunities and resources needed to allow them to lead more productive and fulfilling lives.
We believe that when women are allowed to develop their full potential, it is not just women who win, but society as a whole. Women make huge contributions to economies, whether in businesses, on farms, as entrepreneurs or workers, or by doing unpaid care work at home.
According to the United Nations, investing in women’s economic empowerment paves the way for gender equality, poverty eradication, and inclusive economic growth.
Here, in Guyana, women have made tremendous progress at all levels of society, and enjoy rights equal to that enjoyed by their male counterparts. This country deserves praise for the advances it has made in ensuring that, as well as women being protected by law, they also have relevant opportunities for their personal and professional progress.
However, there is still a long way to go before we can safely say that women have access to the resources and opportunities they need to fully develop themselves. For example, our single parent mothers have found it very difficult to make ends meet over the years. Many of them have found themselves in a position where they work on a month-to-month basis and the financial hardship they are experiencing seems to have no end.
In some cases, they do not have the necessary skills or qualifications to get suitable and well-paid jobs, so that they can earn enough to provide for themselves and their children.
For some, who would like to venture out to set up their own small business etc., the stringent criteria set by banks and other lending institutions make it difficult to access the necessary loans. There are a few grant giving organizations and other forms of support, but that is on a limited scale, most of which are based in Georgetown, which makes it difficult for rural women to access easy access.
There is also the issue of the high level of domestic violence affecting countless families, with women often at the receiving end of violence. There have been a number of dialogues, with the involvement of relevant stakeholders, to address the issue, but the number of cases of women being abused or killed is increasing.
We believe that policy makers should revisit the issue and come up with practical solutions to tackle this scandal in a holistic way, with more focus being given to the root causes of the problem.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated the situation, as it continues to have serious socio-economic repercussions on women’s lives. As a result of the partial lock-up, significant sections of the working female population are now unemployed or lower paid, and these include single parents.
Many small women-owned businesses are no longer active, and women in the private care industry have lost their jobs because they can no longer work in their employers’ homes, for fear of COVID-19 transfer.
The Ministry of Human Services and Social Security had announced that it would soon fund projects for women-led industries, so that they could secure their livelihoods.
Certainly, the economic and social progress of all women, including those in rural and rural communities, should continue to be a priority for this Government.

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