By Tamica Garnett
FIRST Lady, Sandra Granger, on Thursday, officially launched the ANIRA Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation geared at empowering vulnerable groups with a special focus on teenage mothers, young boys and men.
The launch was held at Cara Lodge. Though officially launched last Thursday, the organisation has been operating since 2017 and is engaged in a number of ongoing projects, including remedial education for primary school children on the East Coast; education assistance for teen mothers; ICT workshops for adolescents and out-of-school youth; small business workshops; a hinterland school shoes donation initiative; and partnerships with STEMGuyana.
The First Lady was motivated to create the Foundation given her passion for empowering youth and safeguarding the health and wellbeing of vulnerable women, areas she has used her platform as First Lady to advocate for over the past few years.
“I recognise that my role as First Lady is finite, I wanted to continue the work that I had begun to educate and empower vulnerable sectors of the population, women, girls, particularly teen moms and young people,” Mrs. Granger shared.
She added: “ANIRA goes beyond my work as First Lady to fulfil my lifelong dream of a Guyana where our young people have the knowledge to make healthy choices and can utilise their innate talents and skills to provide for their families. The aim is educating and empowering people. If we don’t educate people we would be giving them hand outs and they would remain in the same boat they’re in. So that’s where empowerment comes in.”
Granger heads the foundation’s 14-member board of directors which also includes founder of STEMGuyana, Karen Abrams; Sister of Mercy, Julie Andrews; revered educator, Ingrid Fung; Ministry of Education Chief Planning Officer, Evelyn Hamilton; and founder of the Lusignan-Good Hope Learning Centre, Sandra Shivdat, among others.
For its next project, “Pilots of the Caribbean”, which is scheduled to commence in early 2020, the Foundation will roll out a three-year venture focused on sexual reproductive health of young people, with an aim of reducing HIV and AIDS. The project is being funded by Gilead Science at a cost of US$251,000.
The project is under the umbrella of the Spouses of CARICOM Leaders Action Network (SCLAN), for which Granger is the vice-chair.
The initiative is anticipated to target a projected 500 adolescents – 100 males and 400 females – between the ages of 12 and 24, and will entail HIV and syphilis testing; and social interventions to keep young girls in school as well as linking men and boys to services to help end gender-based violence.
Granger stressed the need for more interventions focused on addressing the issues faced by men as a basis of curbing gender-based violence.
“We’ve had preliminary discussions with Minister [of Social Protection Amna] Ally on understanding the male perspective and how we deal with that. Our board met and one of the things we recognise [is that] we cannot focus only on women. We have to address the men and the issues that they face, so one of our discussions focused on how we address the issue of our men folk and our boys,” Mrs. Granger noted.
The project will be done in three phases commencing in Sophia, which has been identified as having a high incidence of teenage pregnancies. It will continue in the Barima-Waini and Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo Regions. The foundation will be collaborating with the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and the Ministry of Social Protection (MoSP) on this project.
With many of its projects being community-based, the foundation also works along with the Ministry of Communities (MoC). Present at the launch was Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan, who noted that his ministry looks forward to working along with the foundation, in developing communities.
“The aim is to help persons to help themselves and from time to time we will be called upon to play a facilitative role and the ministry is pleased and honoured to partner with the ANIRA Foundation in the realisation of its noble and lofty goals,” Bulkan noted.
The Foundation will be funded primarily through donations with Mrs. Granger emphasising transparency of the organisation.
“We are really striving to be open and transparent in all that we do,” she said.
Through donations from the Guyana United Youth Development Association of New York, the foundation earlier this year help fund the robot and kit for the STEMGuyana Team that participated at the FIRST Global Robotics Olympics. The team went on to place in the top 25 per cent of the 190 countries that participated and won the competition’s Albert Einstein Gold Medal.