Sexual harassment of women must be tackled – Women lawyers

IN KEEPING with the theme for this year, ‘Gender Equality by 2030’, the Guyana Association of Women Lawyers is encouraging Guyanese women to “keep their eye on the prize, and work together with all other women in the world to achieve this goal.”Noting that equality is not an elusive dream, the association encouraged women in a message to mark International Women’s Day “that we must insist that gender equality be observed in every facet of our lives.”

The body said it is still a ‘man’s world’, “even though we have made great strides in Guyana in having the law recognise our rights with respect to marriage, maintenance, division of property, and medical termination. There is still, regrettably, a disconnect in achieving equal pay for work of equal value in all areas of employment.”

The women lawyers said there is still discrimination in the workplaces, as evidenced by the discriminatory rules applied to female constabulary members and pregnancy, and the nurses at the Linden Hospital who were denied maternity leave privileges as the law allows.

And sexual harassment is a cause for great concern, and needs to be addressed frontally by legislation and workplace protocols.
Importantly, the association noted, housework is still not acknowledged by “all of us, especially our menfolk, as being work. Hence a woman who is a mother and wife or caregiver in the home is still regarded as a ‘housewife’ or ‘homemaker’, and not worthy of mutual respect; while women who work outside of the home are still regarded as working housewives. Thus, after a full day’s work, most, if not all women, (regardless of status), meet more than their fair share of chores, which ought to in fact be shared by all in the home, moreso because it is felt that the woman in the house will get it done regardless.”

According to the group, for some women, help with one major chore can go a far way to easing their never-ending burdens. “As recorded in an article by Melinda Gates about her live-in experience in Tanzania with a rural family, the assistance by the village menfolk with the fetching of water for two miles twice a day gave their wives breathing space to adequately nurse and care for the children, among other chores.” This, the association said, came about only after the wife of the family, Ms. Gates, who was staying with and other women in the village, threatened to strike because of the lack of support with this very important chore.

In this vein, it is noted that a recognition of the need for such assistance will allow women greater scope to contribute to their financial independence as they seek employment, establish businesses and strive to leadership positions in all spheres of activities including politics. “Thus, we call on all to ensure that women’s caring work is acknowledged and counted as being essential to the well-being of our families and communities and the development of our country.”
The GAWL said it is conscious of the fact that the cynics, mostly male, will scoff at their representations, and no doubt concur with the recent headline of a leading newspaper that we are “quarreling”, when in fact we are standing up for justice and equality. “We must, as women, speak up and represent ourselves, as no one else will do it for us. Remember, there is no such thing as men’s work and women’s work. We must insist on mutual respect as there are some things we each do better naturally, but it does not bar either gender from supporting each other for the betterment of ourselves individually, our families and the society as a whole. Best wishes for a proactive and productive International Women’s Day!”


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