There is a paucity of women on the state boards

Dear Editor,

I continue to wish the government well, in part because the PPP/C-led government was so thoroughly corrupt. In spite of this, however, and although I am unwilling to give Mr Rohee ammunition he can use in his so far ridiculous PR campaign against the coalition, I feel compelled to speak out.

The GHRA’s excellent statement of Wednesday July 29 has drawn widespread attention to the paucity of women on the newly-announced state boards in the finance sector; only three out of 32 new chairs of these boards are women, and only 22 out of 125 board members nominated so far are women. Four commissions have no women at all; eight have only one; and seven have only two while one board has three. Women are not a majority on any of the boards. On the Guyana Rice Development Board whose membership was also announced, one out of 13 members is a woman.

It seems fair to say that the boards are constituted by mainly men, who are mainly older, mainly middle class and mainly African-Guyanese. Is this what the President and Prime Minister want?

As far as the near-absence of women is concerned, no one can truthfully argue that there are not enough women with the skills and experience to contribute to these boards. There are women who have the kind of community, national, regional and international experience that it is often claimed we lack. And then, of course, women, especially working class women raising families, have another kind of relevant experience and expertise as the major direct consumers of a spectrum of goods and services.

I understand that the system being followed for arriving at membership of boards and other appointments is that individual parties which form part of the APNU+AFC coalition put up names. But I am not interested in whether this party or that party is to blame for the present outrage. The composition of the boards is shocking and many women will oppose it. So too might other sectors.

Do the President and Prime Minister have any idea how tired women are of the patronage with which too many men in all parties speak of women as their “womenfolk”, the “backbone” of their parties/communities/religious bodies, the reliable “foot soldiers” of their election campaigns? But almost never the brains.

There are other issues that women are up in arms about, including the very believable allegations against a male minister that he is continuing the sexual predation for which he was well-known long before he became a minister. That, too, will be condemned publicly by women, including, we hope, by women in his own political party. It is the one area in which a handful of women in the PPP came good by publicly criticising men in their party leadership who abused women. True, their willingness to criticise was not consistent and was never aimed against top leaders, but it was a start. Because all of us women know that if the male leaders of our political parties ignore women as a constituency it is because too often we do not act as a constituency but instead, always put race and party before gender. Younger women may not be aware that there were times in our history when we organised across our divides. We can do it again.

For the part of the President and Prime Minister, it would be a useful change in our political culture if their government developed a habit which the last government did not nurture in its ranks – the habit of really listening to criticism and where necessary, apologising for and reversing actions taken. I really hope they find the strength to do this.

Yours faithfully,

Taken from Stabroek News.


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