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Patriarchy MUST be dismantled if sexual violence is to be eradicated

I have been lucky thus far in my lifetime; I’ve never experienced any sexual violence. Yet. It could still happen in the future. That might be a grim perspective, but it’s the reality for many women, children, and some men in Guyana and around the world. Sexual violence is an epidemic, both globally and locally. Rape, incest, and sexual assault are the most blatant violations. Harassment on the street and in the workplace, unwanted touching and attention- these are less invasive but extremely commonplace, affecting vast numbers of people. Statistics from the World Health Organization indicate that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. Other international studies reveal that approximately 20% of women and 5–10% of men were victims of sexual violence as children. However the real scale of the problem remains unknown since many victims do not report their experience.

Sexual violence seriously affects one’s physical and mental health. HIV, other infections, and unwanted pregnancies can be acquired, as well as sleeping and eating disorders and substance abuse. Victims can also experience post-traumatic stress, depression and suicidal thoughts, and their work, family, education, and social lives disrupted. Traumatized children who do not get adequate care and counseling can be further victimized and/or become perpetrators themselves later on in life. In short, sexual violence takes a severe toll on individuals and communities, on multiple levels.

Here in Guyana, sexual violence is rampant. Almost everyone has a story to tell, either about themselves, or a friend, family member, or acquaintance. Much has been said and done about this issue over the years, with many workshops, trainings, public awareness sessions, etc. But sexual violence remains widespread. One reason that these attempts have mostly not succeeded, I believe, is because they fail to address the root of the problem. While one can be taught to better manage their anger, to improve their coping and communication skills, and to stop abusing alcohol and other substances- the sociocultural belief that women are subordinate to men- remains largely untouched by most anti sexual violence initiatives.

Patriarchy is the system that enshrines the belief that men are the superior gender in daily life and structures governing society. In Guyana and worldwide, patriarchy has been wrecking havoc for generations. Under patriarchy, the oppression of women and children becomes automatic, engrained, and unquestioned- in other words: normal. Under patriarchy, sexual violence flourishes as a way for men to continually assert their dominance and authority over women, children, and men they view as subordinate. When one believes that men are the superior gender, born to dominate, it becomes easy for them to get away with violence, especially when the law enforcement and judicial systems are run by other men.

In patriarchal societies like Guyana, rape victims are blamed for provoking their rape by wearing revealing clothing. Under patriarchy, the perpetrators of sexual violence walk free (in Guyana, less than 2% of all rapists are convicted). In patriarchal societies, sexual violence is allowed because stopping it would mean confronting the ignorance and bad behavior of other men, which would disrupt the balance of power. Instead of doing this, band aid non-solutions and insincere, meaningless ‘apologies’ are applied while the status quo remains unchanged, offenders are protected, and harmful stereotypes continue to be perpetuated.

In patriarchal societies, men with wealth and in positions of power get away with abusing their wives, girlfriends (and sometimes boyfriends), and other people, sending a message to the rest of society that such crimes aren’t really serious, that wealth trumps justice, and that the systems that are supposed to protect and enforce the laws do so on paper only.

A patriarchal society is a sick society. Patriarchy perpetuates ignorance and stereotypes about gender that limit individuals’ ability to freely express themselves, to achieve all their life goals, and to have equal access to goods, services, and opportunities. Patriarchy encourages discrimination and violence against those who are different from the majority. Nonsensical beliefs such as it being unmanly to show emotions, that there’s something called ‘women’s work’, that transgender individuals and other people who breach the gender ‘norms’ are lesser beings and not deserving of the same rights and protection as others, that appearance is what matters most, that the man is the head of the household- these patriarchal beliefs do more harm than good and contribute to inequity, stigma, and violence. To repeat, a patriarchal society is a deeply unhealthy one. Even men, who are the beneficiaries of patriarchy, suffer under such a system by having to conform to rigid gender codes and not being able to fully explore and embrace their complexities.

Tackling patriarchy is no easy task. It means confronting deeply ingrained stereotypes that many people have adopted as cultural and religious beliefs over generations. It means pushing for systemic, fundamental change, not just superficial tokens. It means more than talk about rights and empowerment. It means confronting power and acting to change ‘norms’ in ways which may not always be popular.

There are also multiple spheres of oppression, with gender-based persecution being just one type. Inequity based on race/ethnicity as well as class/income, as well as discrimination on the grounds of age, educational level, physical characteristics, and sexual orientation- to name a few others, have been in existence as long as men have been oppressing women. Complicating things is the fact that a person can be both a victim and an oppressor, at different times, and in different ways. Also, having women in positions of authority is not enough to dismantle patriarchy. Many women who have been socialized under patriarchy come to believe its tenets, to self-subjugate, and continue to uphold sexist ways of thinking.

As such, attention must be paid to the intersections of identities and the struggle must be on multiple fronts. The good news is that people, beliefs, and cultures are constantly changing; indeed, change is fundamental to our survival. Dismantling patriarchy will not only eradicate sexual violence but create a healthier society overall.

Sherlina can be contacted at ssnageer@yahoo.com


Things were a bit disturbing at the drop in center today, more so than usual. Lot of shouting at children by matron, for what I’m not sure. Filthy, also as usual, made worse by the rain. Not as many children coming to reading, which makes me sad. Got a new girl last Tues tho, which was good. She’s a tall 13, with a reading ability far below where she should be for her age. She’s a quick learner tho, and good natured. Got a new boy today as well- 10yrs old, and an excellent reader. We did some maths at the end, to exercise a different part of the brain. I was by myself, which wasn’t a problem, since there weren’t many kids. I was able to do one-on-one, as well as group reading with them. They asked about the sirs, and the nice lady, wanting to know when they’re going to come back. And then the usual wrapping of themselves all over me when it’s time for me to leave, begging me not to go, to stay a little longer…

kids enjoying Rastamouse. One little boy read it over and over, loudly shouting out "IRIE!" at the end each time. lol
kids enjoying Rastamouse. One little boy read it over and over, loudly shouting out “IRIE!” at the end each time. lol


Monday , 17 November 2014
INews Guyana

Home » Crime » Hicken warns against women dressing provocatively; 50 rape cases reported for 2014
Hicken warns against women dressing provocatively; 50 rape cases reported for 2014

November 17, 2014 1:41 pm Category: Crime A+ / A-

By Kurt Campbell

[www.inewsguyana.com] – Some 50 females have been brutally raped already for 2014, according to ‘A’ Division Commander, Clifton Hicken, who has cautioned women not to dress in a manner that encourages this illegal act that has claimed the lives of a few victims.

Hicken told reporters this morning, Monday, November 17 that there has been a spiraling increase in rape for this year when compared to last year [2013] where 38 cases were recorded.

Last month alone, 11 persons were raped; representing a 31% increase when compared to the statistics for 2013.

The ‘A’ Division Commander says the issue is now on the “front burner” of issues to be addressed in his division.

He said the police are currently working with the Ministry of Education and Human Services along with other Non – Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to ensure that these cases are not only solved but prevented from happening.

On the note of prevention, the Commander urged women and girls to always dress in a manner that is “morally acceptable.”

“While we try to prevent somebody from committing the offence we must ensure that we do not create an atmosphere for it to happen,” he said; adding that “and that is why we advocate for young females within a certain age group who are vulnerable, between 13 – 18, to always embrace an attire that is accepted morally.”

He said women and girls must ensure they do not dress in any manner that “plays into the agenda” of a rapist.

However, the issue of the way women dress is not a new one and there have been many arguments against it by several experts who share the view that men do not have the right to rape someone just by the way they are dressed.

Only last month, Opposition Leader David Granger expressed alarm at the rising rate of violent crimes in Guyana; observing that data in relation to rape and other deaths are not usually made available.

He criticized the Guyana Police Force (GPF) in this regard. The GPF has been consistent in disseminating monthly reports on serious and other crimes and traffic offenses in the country but have failed to reveal statistics in relation to suicide and rape.

The Opposition Leader believes journalists must also apply pressure on the Force to ensure that such information is fed to the populace.


On Diarrhoea and Accountability

On diarrhoea and accountability
Posted By Staff Writer On November 14, 2014 In Daily,Features

As someone who loves street food and eats about the place all the time, and who grew up hearing the “if it doesn’t kill, it’ll fatten” mantra, I’ve come to expect a little diarrhoea now and then as the price to pay for my fondness for street food. I know people who only eat food that they themselves have cooked and who are super vigilant about germs and cleanliness. Because I’m healthy overall and because I have access to running water and sanitation, I can afford to be cavalier about an occasional bout of diarrhoea. But for some people—particularly those with underlying health problems, compromised immune systems, the very young, or the elderly—diarrhoea can be life threatening.

According to the World Health Organization, there are over 2 million deaths from diarrhoeal diseases annually, worldwide. Most of these are caused by contaminated food and/or water, with poor sanitation and hygiene being major contributing factors. In fact, more people die from unsafe water and not having basic sanitation each year than from war and other forms of violence! Apart from death, diarrhoeal diseases also have a negative effect on quality of life and economic activity, with affected individuals being unable to work or go about their usual routine for significant periods of time.

In most countries with properly functioning health systems, food safety, sanitation, and hygiene are key components of the public health system, with regular training, surveillance, and inspection of food handlers and establishments preparing and serving food. Unfortunately however, in Guyana, the public health sector, like many other sectors, is woefully underdeveloped and under-resourced.

A recent case of typhoid which was brought to my attention this past week serves as a clear illustration of these problems. The affected individual got sick immediately after eating at a popular franchise in a Georgetown mall and was seen by a doctor who diagnosed typhoid. Typhoid is caused by the ingestion of food or beverage contaminated with faeces containing a type of Salmonella bacteria. If there was adherence to proper sanitation and hand-washing techniques, nobody would get typhoid. The fact that in 2014, even one person contracted this illness, reveals a significant breakdown of our public health system and is cause for serious concern.

In Georgetown, the responsibility for food safety lies with the Food and Hygiene Department of the City Council. Again, unfortunately, in Guyana today, one cannot talk about the Georgetown City Council without politics rearing its ugly head. The conflict between the local and central governing bodies, with opposing entities battling over decision-making, priority setting, and resource allocation, has exacerbated long-standing problems and made the management and effective functioning of these agencies virtually impossible.

The fact is that there are too few Food Safety Officers and too much work for them to do properly. As a result, most eating establishments (not to mention individual roadside food vendors) in Guyana are not regularly inspected, with a corresponding lack of accountability—again, as in so many other aspects of Guyanese life today. This would be problematic at any time, but even more so nowadays as more and more ‘fast food’ joints pop up across the country, and more and more Guyanese are eschewing home cooking in favour of eating out at these places.

A food safety bill put forth earlier this year by the Minister of Agriculture seeks to set up a food safety agency (since nothing like that exists currently), and focuses mostly on ensuring that food exports meet international standards. Protection of the health of local consumers is limited, with most Guyanese who get sick from consuming contaminated food/beverages just suffering in silence. Most do not know where to turn to for assistance, information, or recourse; in fact, most don’t even think of such things in the first place. Like so many other things, Guyanese have become accepting of suffering and atrocity, just ‘taking it’, and just hoping/praying they survive. A little diarrhoea, sadly, is the least of many people’s problems in Guyana today.

Many Guyanese still lack access to clean and potable water. Even in the capital of Georgetown, many households are without running water for many hours daily. People are forced to purchase bottled water, as well as to collect and store water for later use. Containers of water are vulnerable to contamination by a number of sources such as insects, frogs, and other creatures, as well as chemicals and toxins in the environment. Lack of regular running water also contributes to poor sanitation, with the simple preventative measure of hand washing not being done properly or consistently enough, contributing to the spread of diarrhoeal diseases.

Sanitation cannot be discussed without talking about waste management. This, in particular, continues to be an ongoing challenge throughout Guyana. Although millions have recently been allocated to nationwide ‘clean up campaigns’, less attention has been paid to the prevention of littering in the first place, the development of alternative disposal methods like recycling and composting, the production and promotion of biodegradable containers and packaging materials, or the sanctioning of perpetrators. The accumulation and lack of proper disposal of waste encourages the breeding of vermin like rats and cockroaches, as well as other pests like mosquitoes which are responsible for the spread of serious illnesses like dengue, malaria, and chikungunya.

Public health, when understood and implemented properly, is about prevention first and foremost. The old adage about prevention being cheaper than the cure remains true; oftentimes it is simple measures that prevent major diseases and disasters. Not paying enough attention to basic but fundamental pillars of health and well-being like ensuring clean water and proper sanitation for all segments of the Guyanese population is courting trouble.

There needs to be a greater focus on this from all sectors of society—from individuals and community groups to private sector organizations as well as government bodies. Better hygiene and sanitation, less diarrhoea, more accountability, increased health and well-being. This is not rocket science. Let’s make it happen, Guyana!

Sherlina can be contacted at ssnageer @yahoo.com
URL to article: http://www.stabroeknews.com/2014/features/11/14/diarrhoea-accountability/

longing for things unknown

Guyanese people- men especially- have a love affair with songbirds. They spend thousands of dollars on them and mind them like babies, gathering only the tenderest shoots of grass and other delicacies for them. They take risks and pay bribes, smuggling them from the hinterland and over the seas. They can be seen every morning, gathered at the street corners and junctions. I don’t know what the men are talking about, but I know exactly what the caged birds are singing about.

There’s a column on rape and rape culture in my head. It needs to be written by noon on Wednesday. But every time I try to write, rage gets the best of me. It sticks in my craw, blinds me, and stops my hand. The fucking entitlement- on the part of men especially, who think they could just take what they want, whenever they want. The dearth of justice. The plethora of victims. The complicity of the community. Those who take better care of their birds than their children/families. Those who give and take money to make crimes disappear.

Civil society in Guyana is moribund. So says all the pundits, especially the ones who thrive online but who I’ve never seen standing up for anything in real life. What are you going to do about the X,Y,Z issue? I am asked over and over again. Laaaang suck teeth. What are YOU going to do? Those who sit and ask or who sit in silence or who sit and clap are all part of the problem. Those who pay more attention to their birds than anything else going on around them. Those who maintain the status quo.

The fog is upon me again. Everything feels gray. Joy is fleeting and scarce. There is too much crap to deal with and my resources are depleted. Only the children make me venture out. When I go other places, the presence of criminals, enablers, apologizers, and the blissfully and conveniently ignorant mars my enjoyment. I speak to friends and acquaintances from a far and scout escape routes again. I have started drinking hard alcohol again. The birds are too silent. Where are the songs of freedom? Longing for things unknown. Again and again.

Caged Bird

By Maya Angelou

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.
But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.
The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own
But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Epilepsy Awareness Month: Purple is the colour, November is the month

in 2014, people with epilepsy are still discriminated against..

Youth Blogs GY


The month of November officially started yesterday and for most of you it marked the transition of one month into just another month, nothing special. For me, however, it was not just the beginning of any other month, it was the beginning of Epilepsy Awareness Month. A few months ago I had no idea that November was Epilepsy Awareness Month and even if I did know that fact I’m pretty sure it would still be any other month for me. March of this year changed that view however. March 2nd, 2014 will remain a significant day in my life as it marked the first unprovoked seizure I had. It was an incredibly frightening experience, one which has since been repeated multiple times.

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big negroes are the problem. see Blaise & Chantal Compaoré, Barack & Michelle Obama

the big obummer in chief. #learnyourhistory!

mark jacobs lives!

THIS is the problem with negroes and why Black people must always be on a revolutionary footing. ALWAYS. or these big negroes will continue freeing you of your body,mind, soul & natural resources.
revolucion is the answer to 95% of your problems. you know it, the Burkinabe people know it, i know it, they know it and they know we know it.
why come you think they’re always preaching non-violence? and dialogue? and negotiations? and let’s talk it over?
all the while their violence knows no boundaries
even his compromising language is violence

Blaise Compaore murdered Thomas Sankara and mutilated his body on behalf of his masters in Paris. make no mistake about that fact. yet still, he is invited to the white house to wine and dine
in the bossum of freedumb
barack and michelle obama with blaise compaore and wife

“the role of the African child is to overthrow the system and change the dynamic of…

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