The one thing that was not made clear was its definition.
The theme, “Equal Rights for All – Be Good to People”, inadvertently ambiguous, has left many asking what the Gender Equality Conference was about.
Because the term has its origin in the United Nation’s Development programme, it is important to note that the term is used exclusively with reference to females and is an initiative that is intended to promote women and girls past stereotypes in social expectations due, in many instances, to ethnicity and culture. The fundamental premise of this programme is empowering women to fully realize their rights in all areas of life, which will, in turn, advance human development.
So, in the context of UNDP, ‘Gender Equality’ is a nomenclature that refers to the female gender for the purpose of improving their opportunities to receive education and job training that will make them an integral part of the advancement of humanity.
Now let’s get down to basics.
The purpose of a meeting, a convention no less, would be to gather all of the necessary personnel to coordinate, collaborate, garner support, solve problems as a unit, accomplish what should not be done on a unilateral basis, if it is to have universal appeal.
This gathering fell short on several fronts, here, beginning with its theme which needed to be more tailored to convey specific import to target demographic.
Equal Rights for All is quite a noble call and be Good to People certainly sounds like a component of the Golden Rule but they relate to Gender Equality, as defined by the UNDP, only tangentially. So that, with the cloned format of all things government – holy men praying to their respective deities and the insertion of cultural performances, both of which we appreciate but prefer to enjoy in their respective venues – left us panting for more substance than proforma.
It may have helped if this UNDP initiative, which stresses the education of women and girls, would have had Education Minister, Dr. Rupert Roopnarine, give us some insight as to how he foresees curricula development for the target group, particularly the staggering numbers of employable women who are either unemployed, under employed and are nurturing children.
And though we are sure that the absence of the Oppostion was deliberate, the organizers should have anticipated this and made an open call to their constituents , in order to demonstrate balance.
The President’s five point plan is comprehensive enough but seems as if it has fallen squarely on the shoulders of the Ministry of Social Protection; a suspect administrator of such a critical mandate, judging from its organization of the conference as a social protection issue instead of one that is grounded in educating females, with the express intent of meeting some of the prescribed outcomes of the UNDP strategic plan – eradication of poverty, equal participation of women in country activities, country led measures to advance the economic empowerment of women, being amongst them.
In the end, we got a two day meeting that showcased the plight of unwed mothers, battered women, teenage moms – with strongly worded intentions to hold men accountable, interjections from UNDP Representative Khadija Musa telling the government to put its money where its mouth is and a speech by Dr. Jean Ricot Dormeus, Country Representative of the Organisation of American States, who gave credit to the advancement of Guyana’s gender equality initiative to the previous Administration.
We, also, got an opportunity to visit the website of the Ministry of Social Protection, click on Speeches and read a message from Jennifer Webster, Minister of Human Services and Social Security, not one from the current Minister of Social Protection, Volda Lawrence.
A few days later, there was a Social Cohesion Conference – another UNDP initiative aimed at helping to ‘Strengthen Public Participation and Trust and Confidence in National Governance Institutions’. This time the theme was “Social Cohesion for Lasting Unity and Peace” .
The Opposition didn’t show up for this one either and though improved healthcare, education and socioeconomic polices were identified by the UNDP representative, Ms. Musa, as issues that could impact social cohesion positively, we heard from neither the Minister of Health nor Minister of Education.
Overtones of past being prologue, here, are giving us political claustrophobia.