Guyana broke the glass ceiling over half a century ago
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Carmen Jarvis
Carmen Jarvis

by Francis Quamina Farrier

THERE is this perennial debate since Adam and Eve, as to which gender is the stronger; male or female. Physically, the majority of men are stronger than the majority of women. However, that being agreed on, whenever the debate gets more complex, such as how would a man cope with delivering a baby; or two or three or four or five, and sometimes even six, at one pregnancy, men tend to become very silent.
Some of us know of women who have had the experience of multiple deliveries at one pregnancy. Here in Guyana, there are quite a number of twin births and a few triplets. For the mother, that is hard work; and what she goes through just before delivery is known as “Labour.” Super Mom Bridget, a vendorhas four sets of Twins.
International Women’s Day was observed all around the world last Wednesday. It has been observed on March 8 every year for just about a century. The theme this year was “Be Bold for Change.” In-as-much as Guyana is a small developing country, one has to admit that we have broken the glass ceiling with bravado, years ago, and we can be proud of that achievement.
Here in Guyana, women have served, and continue to serve in many senior influential positions, both in the Public and the Private Sectors. Guyanese women have been appointed as Head teachers for over a century. Over the decades women have been appointed to senior positions in many areas of the Public Service; the Judiciary, the Police, the Guyana Defense Force, the Post Office Corporation, the Police Band, among many others.
Women sit in Parliament on both sides of the House. Both of the two major political parties, the PPP and the PNC, have appointed women as their Chief Whips, which is a very important responsibility; to ensure that their parliamentarians get to Parliament, especially when there is to be a vote of grave importance.
I can recall being in the Public Service back in the mid-1970s when I functioned under three powerful women; a woman Minister in the person of Shirley Field-Riddley, a woman Permanent Secretary of the Ministry in the Person of Gwen Parris, and a woman Chairman of the Department of Culture, in the person of Lynette Dolphin.
As the Director of Drama at the Department of Culture, I was functioning under those three very powerful women in the country. Those three women all functioned in unity and professionally. Of course, Guyana has had a woman as our President in the person of America-born Janet Jagan.
Recently, just when Americans and the rest of the world thought that the United States of America, was finally going to have a woman president, there was a generally unexpected out-come to that November 2016 USA Presidential Election. The woman contender, a former First lady and former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, lost to her male challenger, billionaire businessman and television personality, Donald Trump.
That came as a shock to many in America and around the world. The generally expected election result just did not happen. America did not elect its first woman president. That brought much sadness to many women, and men for that matter, all around the world.
Meanwhile, sixty 60 countries around the world, have already had women either as their Prime Minister, Governor-General or President. India, Britain, Canada, Argentina, Israel, Australia, Trinidad & Tobago, Dominica, Jamaica and Brazil are among them. What very few people in the rest of the world, including Americans do not know is that little Guyana down in South America, already had a woman president. She was born in the city of Chicago, Illinois, in the USA. The irony is that the perceived front-runner in that 2016 American Presidential Elections, a woman, in the person of Hillary Clinton, like the late President Janet Jagan of Guyana, was also born in the city of Chicago in the USA!
If only at this time there was a President Hillary Clinton, who like the late President Janet Jagan, was born in Chicago! What if a woman was the most powerful person in the world, as we celebrated International Women’s Day, 2017! But that is now just gushing water of tears under the bridge of America’s democracy; the Electoral College. Hillary Clinton garnered almost three million more votes than Donald Trump. But the popular vote does not ensure success for the USA presidency.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day was: “Be Bold for Change.” So how well are we doing as a country with our professional women in 2017? Is there room for more change? Is there more upward mobility for our professional women in 2017? What about our younger women; especially those who desire to establish their very own businesses?
How much of a financial hands-up do they receive in the form of loans from the commercial banks, in order to be as successful as they could be? And have we done all that we could do in ensuring that Guyanese women and girls are safe from sexual assaults from any lustful boss? Here is an example; a male senior in one of the Public Service entities, invites a female junior into his office, he turns on the video player which shows some extremely hot X-rated material, and invites the woman to, “Let’s try that.”
Are our women and girls being given every opportunity to soar like a Harpy eagle, to the summit of the Kanaku Mountain range; eagles soaring to their highest potential, and making sterling contributions to their own development, and that of their families and the country of their birth.
With a woman having been elected president (even though she was born in Chicago, USA), Guyana can still say that we should be regarded as being a country in which women can reach the very top. Guyana as a small nation has long ago broken the glass ceiling. Many top positions both in the Public and Private sectors are headed by women and that has been so from the time of Independence, 50 years ago.
Last year, history was made when Superintendent Charmaine Stuart and Inspector Karen Todd were appointed Band Master and Deputy Band Master respectively, of the previously male-dominated Guyana Police Band. Three years ago a woman was appointed Postmaster General of the Guyana Post Office Corporation. More recently Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire, SC, was appointed Acting Chief Justice, and Justice Yonnett Edwards-Cummings, was appointed Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary. Obviously, there is no glass ceiling in our little country, Guyana, and we can be proud of the progress made by many Guyanese women.

Among my top 10 Guyanese Women High Achievers is retired Headmistress of the Bishops’ High School, Carmen Jarvis. Now enjoying her golden years of retirement, Carmen Jarvis was a brilliant veteran Educator, Girls Guides Leader, International Public Servant and author. Her book on the History of the Bishops’ High School was published 12 years ago. Another great Guyanese woman educator is Edna Cadogan. She has taught and groomed many of her successful students over her many years as a teacher. Guyana is so fortunate to have such dedicated and wonderful women as citizens of this Magnificent Provence.

However, we have to be cognizant of the many women and girls who are victims of Trafficking in Persons, Domestic Violence, Sex slavery and other degrading evils right now in Guyana. There is still a lot of work to be done in our country for our women and girls to fully enjoy “The Good Life.” We must, of course, recognize the wonderful work which the very brave Simona Brooms has put in, and continue to put in, to help stop Trafficking in Persons in our country.
Ten years ago in 2007, the theme of International Women’s Day was: “Ending Impunity for Violence Against Women and Girls”. Sadly, during the past 10 years, dozens of Guyanese women and girls have been maimed and murdered here in Guyana and also in foreign countries; in some cases, by other women and girls. There is still so much more to be done to make our women and girls safe, and enjoy the promised “Good Life.” There is an international call to “make every day International Women’s Day.” Let’s make every effort to make that motto a reality. And in saying so, we must recognize those decent gentlemen in our society, who have made the women in their lives happy.
By-the-way, just in case you are unaware of it, and you would like to know…yes, there is an International Men’s Day, which is usually celebrated on November 19.

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