GPSU raises sweeper/ cleaners’ plight
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Minister of Social Protection Amna Ally and GPSU President Patrick Yarde, raising their candles during the opening ceremony of the Women’s Day workshop as they encourage women to continue to be the light (Samuel Maughn photo)
Minister of Social Protection Amna Ally and GPSU President Patrick Yarde, raising their candles during the opening ceremony of the Women’s Day workshop as they encourage women to continue to be the light (Samuel Maughn photo)

— presses gov’t to address problem, issues facing women at the workplace

DOMESTIC violence, sexual harassment in the workplace, the meagre wages paid to public school sweeper/cleaners and the deplorable conditions under which many women work were among issues the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) implored government to address as it joined the world in celebrating International Women’s Day on Thursday.

The GPSU made the call for action through its President Patrick Yarde, when it hosted a workshop on Thursday in observance of International Women’s Day under the theme “Press for Progress”.

Social Protection Minister Amna Ally was among officials who attended the workshop held at the GPSU Headquarters in Georgetown.
Since before 2013, the GPSU has been pleading with the government to regularise the emoluments paid to sweeper/cleaners.

Participants of GPSU’s Women’s Day workshop (Samuel Maughn photo)

“Close to the heart of the GPSU at this time is the protracted and unconscionable refusal on the part of the Government of Guyana to make good its obligation to address to finality the issue of the remuneration of our sweeper/cleaners, whose persistent poverty and enduring denial of their right under the law to a living wage amount to a national embarrassment, no less,” Yarde told those press.

While acknowledging the bold steps being taken by Minister Ally to address this longstanding issue by compiling a comprehensive Cabinet paper on the matter, Yarde said it is time government switches gear, and accelerate the process.

“On the occasion of International Women’s Day, the GPSU calls on the Government of Guyana to manifestly demonstrate its practical commitment to the rights and entitlements of our women by immediately affording all sweeper/cleaners the living wage and other related conditions of service they rightly deserve, that they desperately need and unequivocally merit,” the GPSU President said.

In addition to issues affecting sweeper/cleaners, Yarde pointed out that there are various categories of women workers whose conditions of service are deserving of remedial attention.

According to him, these existing problems provide an opportunity for government to demonstrate its commitment to the rights of women in a manner that transcends rhetoric.
“We renew our call to government to give higher priority to the process of significantly upgrading what in many instances are the deplorable conditions of work in institutions — including hospitals — where women serve. We also call on the government to accelerate the provision of safe and well equipped child care centres providing mothers with the comfort level and confidence to leave their children to pursue all forms of personal and professional development beneficial to them, their families and nation building,” Yarde further implored.

The issue of sexual harassment did not evade the attention of the GPSU with the President stating that its prevalence, particularly in workplaces, remains a working concern, in addition to domestic violence.

While Yarde wasted no time in saluting mothers, wives, home-makers, professionals, public servants and ordinary women workers for dedication and commitment to their families and society as whole, he said all must work together to foster greater equality among men and women.
Minister Ally, like Yarde, did not fall short in addressing the plethora of issues facing women.

In delivering the keynote address, the social protection minister said although the empowerment of women and girls have always been a national priority for the country with considerable progress in developing women, there remains some barriers that ought to be removed.

“Over the years, Guyana has made considerable progress towards empowering women through improved access to quality education and training, improved participation in high-level decision-making, facilitating the growth of small and medium enterprises, expanding health care and services for women and girls, and through poverty-reduction programmes, among many other initiatives.

“However, throughout Guyana and around the world, women still face many barriers towards progression in the world of work as a result of multiple structural institutional and cultural barriers that continue to hinder the achievement of gender equality in Guyana. There continues to be significant inequalities between women and men, including at all levels of formal participation, in the labour market, income, entrepreneurship and access to credit,” Minister Ally explained.

She added that the country as a collective people must work together to address the social inequalities that hinder women’s advancement and prevent them from being engaged in the decision-making process.
To break down the barriers stymieing women’s progress, Minister Ally announced that the government through the Social Protection Ministry has developed a National Gender and Social Inclusion Policy, which will be implemented this year to address many of the named problems.

The policy is designed to mainstream gender issues to all sectors with the aim of eliminating all negative economic, social and cultural practices that impede equality and equity.

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