“You have to grow something inside them”

what we have done to the children is wrong. They don’t have the thing inside and they are not children. We haven’t given them a chance. We haven’t thought about them. They came on earth but they haven’t come from our hearts. The “we” is not just their parents. The “we” is us all of us. The us that create their reality. The “us” that ignore them. What we have done to the children is wrong.

Di Institute for Social Leadership

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Uche says you have to grow something inside them. You have to grow something inside them so that when they think about doing “wrong” the thing will help them to think differently.  This is what he told me when i asked him if he thinks we can change anything for these yutes who come to the ISL. I believe him.  What we have done to the children is wrong.  What we have done is so wrong. They came into a life that we made and they suffer as children into adulthood to then make more children and this cycle will never change. Children will always come, and make more children.

Two boys came to hang out at the ISL yesterday. Sunday evening. They came while i was playing a game of draughts with Uche. Uche called one them to come sing his songs for us. He started singing and he…

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The Complicity of the Ministry of Health in the Malpractice of Medicine in Guyana

In the practice of medicine, as in all aspects of life, mistakes are made. After all, it’s human beings who are involved, not robots. In the provision of healthcare, however, mistakes can result in death. There is a big difference also, between an honest mistake and an error made because of inadequate training, improper equipment or supplies, or a lack of compassion or attention by healthcare workers.

Over the years, there have been numerous suspicious deaths at the public health facilities of Guyana, especially at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), the largest and busiest hospital in Guyana. In particular, numerous pregnant women have died during and after delivery of their babies, making Guyana the country with the second highest maternal mortality rate in the Caribbean and Americas region. Yes, there have been some improvements and reduction in maternal deaths in Guyana over the years, but the rate remains disturbingly high.

Part of the problem is that too many women still aren’t receiving proper prenatal care (evidence of a lack of education and public health outreach). However, many deaths have occurred because of inadequate or incompetent care by staff at the public hospitals. Women have been forced to deliver vaginally when they have been advised to have Cesarean sections, not monitored properly, berated and ignored when they cry out. Preventable deaths from ruptured uteruses and hemorrhaging are too common.

Others with minor injuries have also died unexpectedly while receiving care at the public healthcare facilities of Guyana. Four year old Jaden Mars died after going to the GPHC with a cut tongue. Not long ago, a ‘bandit’ who was shot in the jaw and another man shot in the buttocks- both non-life threatening injuries- died while patients at the GPHC. Recently, I heard about an otherwise healthy woman who suffered a broken ankle after being knocked down by a car. She also died unexpectedly at the GPHC. Misdiagnoses are also relatively common. A friend’s mother recently died of lung cancer; the doctors in the public health system misdiagnosed and were treating her for tuberculosis. These are just a few of the numerous cases that have been reported over the years. In hinterland and out-of-town facilities, staffing and quality of care is often poorer than in Georgetown, with incidents less likely to become public.

Jaden Mars
Jaden Mars

This is not an indictment however of all staff at all public healthcare facilities in Guyana; I know there are many dedicated, competent, and caring professionals. The system though, is seriously flawed. The fact is that there are many healthcare workers in Guyana who are not adequately trained. The failure rate of trainee nurses, for example, is exceedingly high. The Guyana Nursing Council been complaining, for several years now, of political interference in their operations, alleging that that Minister of Health forced them to accept more students than they could properly educate. Stories are also commonplace of doctors missing from duty, of facilities being locked when patients try to access care, of the lack of running water, medication and supplies (like rape kits), of expired medication, of patients being forced to share beds, families having to clean and tend their loved ones while staff engage in conversation and other personal business, of patients being disrespected and their confidentiality breached, of services not being offered that should be, of families seeking answers being ignored and given the run around; the list of abuses is long.

Many doctors working in the public health system also operate private practices. This is their right but it becomes problematic when services that should be provided in the public sector aren’t, so that doctors can make money privately from patients. Medical termination of pregnancy (abortion) is one glaring example. Abortion has been legal in Guyana for two decades, since 1995. Regionally, our laws about abortion are among the most progressive in the Caribbean. However, only recently, has the Ministry of Health implemented this law, and just partially at that. Abortions are currently only being done at the GPHC. Women in other parts of Guyana who need this service but who are unable to travel to Georgetown, are left to fend for themselves still, pushing foreign objects into their wombs, drinking unknown concoctions, and going to unlicensed bottomhouse clinics where they are regularly injured and killed.

Two women have already died this year- 23 yr old Athina Kennedy, mother of two in Bartica and 22yr old Kamili Arjune, mother of four in New Amsterdam. The doctors who performed the abortions which resulted in these deaths are both employees of the MOH, working in the public hospitals, but neither was officially trained or licensed to perform abortions. They did it privately for years though, making money. However, like Dr. Dalip, who was implicated in the death of 18 year of Karen Badal, mother of two, in 2011, also from an illegal bottomhouse abortion, these doctors remain unpunished.

Athina Kennedy- victim of botched abortion carried out by unlicensed Dr.
Athina Kennedy- victim of botched abortion carried out by unlicensed Dr.
Kamili Arjune- victim of botched aborton carried out by unlicensed Dr. Rahaman
Kamili Arjune- victim of botched aborton carried out by unlicensed Dr. Rahaman
Karen Badal- victim of botched abortion conducted by unlicensed Dr. Dalip
Karen Badal- victim of botched abortion conducted by unlicensed Dr. Dalip

There is a body- the Guyana Medical Council- responsible for licensing and disciplining doctors. However, reports of political interference in the work of this body have emerged in recent years. On more than one occasion, pressure has been put on the Council (by the Minister of Health, allegedly) for them to revise and water down their disciplinary recommendations. The case of the doctor who participated in the police torture of the teenage boy at the Lenora Police Station in 2009 is one example of this; instead of being fired immediately, he simply received a slap on the wrist.

injuries inflicted on a 15yr old Guyanese boy by police, aided by Dr. Mahendra Chand
injuries inflicted on a 15yr old Guyanese boy by police, aided by Dr. Mahendra Chand

http://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2010/04/29/health-minister-makes-a-mockery-of-guyana-medical-council-ghra/

The Medical Council also only acts when it receives a complaint from someone who has been victimized, or their families, or if the Chief Medical Officer orders an investigation (he has never done that). Most Guyanese aren’t even aware of the existence of the Council, its location (MOH compound), contact information, or complaint procedures. Clearly, the Ministry of Health does not really care about holding their staff members accountable, providing the best quality care to the people of Guyana, or ensuring that those who have been mistreated receive justice. This must change. We deserve better.

Sherlina can be contacted at ssnageer@yahoo.com

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another late night encounter with the Guyana Police

guyana foolice farce in action

mark jacobs lives!

marriott guyana opening protest (12)passed a very slow moving truck on a side street close to home with what seems like a guyana police logo on one door. but you never can tell these days and i cant see inside
over taking is still LEGAL in Guyana
the truck suddenly speeds up after i pass and starts flashing headlights
i know what that means, but i also do not know what that means at 945PM
keep driving
quick turn. another 100 metres i’ll be on my drive way and behind the gate with the barking dog
truck speeds up to within two feet of my rear bumper lights flashing mad
i know what that means, but i also do not know what that means at 945PM
keep driving

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LGBT Guyanese deserve acceptance, equality, justice, and wellness

Sexual orientation (how one identifies sexually, in terms of who they are sexually attracted to) and behaviour are important elements of health and wellbeing. Most obviously, there are some infections that are transmitted during sexual activity via the exchange of bodily fluids or by intimate skin-skin contact. However, sexual orientation also affects mental health.

Unfortunately, there is still a great deal of discrimination in the world today based on sexual orientation. Heterosexuality- sexual attraction between men and women- is the most common orientation, but homosexuality- sexual attraction between men and men (gay) or women and women (lesbian) and bisexuality (sexual attraction to both men and women) have been found in all societies worldwide. In fact, research has shown the existence of a wide range of sexual orientations, including in the natural world- with homosexuality and bisexuality also being observed in numerous animal species.

Transgender refers to individuals whose self-identity does not fit with the common understanding of male and female gender roles and usually does not match the sex they’re assigned at birth due to their external physical genitalia. Transgender therefore refers to a gender identity, not a sexual orientation. Transgender individuals experience the same variety of sexual attraction as others and can be heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual in orientation. There is evidence of transgenderism in numerous societies around the world from ancient to modern times, with both genetic and environmental factors influencing transgender expression.

However, although homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism have been co-existing with heterosexuality from time immemorial, prejudices against homosexual, bisexual, and transgender persons (and behaviours) have gotten engrained in many religious, sociocultural, and legal systems. While it may seem ridiculous to police sexuality (after all, what consenting adults do with each other shouldn’t be anybody else’s business), the fact is that sex, sexual identity and sexual behaviour underlie huge parts of society today. Sexual reproduction, after all, is necessary for the continuation of most species, and marriage- the most obvious expression of heterosexuality- binding men and women together, usually in order to beget and raise offspring- plays a significant role in the economic sphere as well as in helping to maintain social control. As such, non-heterosexual identities can appear, to some, as threatening these fundamental tenets of human society. However, this fear is largely irrational.

Most LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) individuals want the same things as heterosexual (‘straight’) people- love, understanding, respect, happiness, meaningful employment, opportunities for self-expression, growth, and development, and a conflict-free life. It is also a fact that there have (and will likely always be) more heterosexual than non-heterosexual people in the world, so on the sheer numerical scale of things, LGBT people will never ‘take over’ anything. Finally, there is a great deal of data showing that sexual orientation is largely innate- we are born so, not really a choice that one makes or something that can be changed (although the environment does have some influence, as in many other aspects of life). As such, fears of LGBT people ‘converting’ straight people are highly irrational. However, as discussed in a previous column, fear is not always based on rational thought and unfortunately, still drives a great deal of the prejudice against LGBT people.

Like many other differences, sexual orientation has been used by the majority ‘straight’ population to oppress LGBT individuals with that minority sexual orientation, and to maintain systems that privilege heterosexuality. LGBT Guyanese, like their peers in many other countries in the Caribbean and worldwide, suffer from high levels of harassment, abuse, and violence, as well as widespread discrimination in accessing healthcare, education, housing, employment, and justice. Crimes against LGBT people are often not taken seriously by the police; in fact, there are specific laws (the sodomy law) that criminalize certain sexual practices and the gay population disproportionally, as well as laws against crossdressing for ‘dubious purpose’ that stigmatize the trans community. While these laws may not always be enforced, and while some LGBT individuals may find acceptance and tolerance within some spheres, the fact is that Guyana remains, in large part, a deeply hostile society for many LGBT people.

Many LGBT Guyanese live constricted lives, unable to reveal and revel in their identities at all times, for fear of becoming victims of abuse or violence, losing friendships, jobs, their place of abode, or status in society. With such constant stress a regular feature of their life, many LGBT Guyanese, not surprisingly, suffer from high rates of anxiety, depression, suicide, and other mental health disorders. LGBT youth are also greatly affected by bullying in schools, with many dropping out and failing to attain gainful employment, becoming very vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

Although significant strides have been made in recent years, religious and sociocultural conservatism makes discussion of LGBT issues still mostly taboo in the public domain. LGBT issues are not addressed in sex education materials in schools, nor at most public health facilities. In addition, adequate systems have not yet been established to promote and ensure a culture of tolerance and acceptance; persons with discriminatory beliefs and behaviours still act with impunity in many instances, with scant effort made to uphold professional standards of equity and justice for all. LGBT persons often do not feel comfortable accessing public services in the first place, because of disrespectful treatment they receive. As a result, many LGBT people do not receive regular medical screenings, or withhold essential information from the healthcare provider when they do seek care. This has serious consequences for both individual and societal health- illnesses may go unaddressed, sick partners not reached, and poor health decisions made.

Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and the denial of basic human rights to LGBT Guyanese is a sign of a society seriously lacking in understanding and empathy. LGBT Guyanese are not to be feared, nor to live in fear. We must challenge and squash these hateful and nonsensical taboos, change societal norms to celebrate and embrace differences, and work to ensure respectful and equitable treatment and justice for all.

Sherlina can be contacted at ssnageer@yahoo.com

URL to article: http://www.stabroeknews.com/2015/features/04/10/lgbt-guyanese-deserve-acceptance-equality-justice-and-wellness/

Fuck Religion; What Guyana Needs Is Justice!

The Dangers and Impossibility of Forgiving and Forgetting
Or: Fuck Religion; What Guyana Needs Is Justice!

Minster of Human Services and Social Security, Jennifer Webster recently told the women of Guyana that they needed to ‘forgive and forget’ Attorney General Anil Nandlall for his derogatory language towards a young female reporter(http://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2015/04/03/nandlall-recording-may-haunt-ppp-in-elections-ramsammy-admits/). Nandlall was heard on tape calling the journalist a ‘thing’ and trying to convince another man to procure her for his uncle to have sex with (what the young woman might have thought or wanted was never considered by the Attorney General). Although there were multiple and sustained calls for his resignation, Nandlall received no sanction from his superiors in government and continues to hold the top post in the judiciary of Guyana. In her most recent defense of Mr. Nandlall, Minister Webster stated that- “In life, many of us do things,” and “If you are a Christian, you have to forgive and forget.” As a Guyanese woman, as a feminist, and as someone who works regularly with women and children who are the victims of abuse, I found the Minister’s statements horrifying, ignorant, and most of all extremely dangerous.

Bland platitudes like ‘forgive and forget’, ‘leave it to God’, and ‘God is in charge’ are what people say when there is no hope of receiving justice on the earthly plane. It is pap that is shoveled down people’s throats to stifle their cries for accountability. It is the cultivating of passivity and the silencing of critical thinking.

The fact is that those who see women as mere ‘things’ to be used for men’s sexual pleasure and who blatantly disregard the importance of consent in sexual activity are dangerous, plain and simple. That is the mindset of sexual predators, too many of whom roam freely in the streets of Guyana today. Such people are not fit to hold public office. They deserve only condemnation, not to be defended. When such persons remain in positions of power and are defended by other powerful folk, the rule of law is fundamentally undermined and compromised, with the message being sent to all other sexual predators that they have company at the highest level of society and they too can engage in such depraved actions without any punishment. Apologizing and professing remorse after being caught and cautioned by your mother rings hollow; the fact that such statements were uttered in the first place reveals volumes about one’s beliefs no matter how much whitewashing is attempted afterwards.

The fact is that Guyana today is an extremely dangerous place for women and children (and many men as well). This is the end result of years of valuing might over right, of perpetuating oppressive stereotypes that preach female submissiveness and subordination to male domination, of not valuing open and non-violent communication and conflict resolution, and not teaching these skills to the youth. Today, many men do in fact believe that women, girls and children are simply objects for them to do what they will with, regardless of what the girl, woman, or child may want or agree to. Rape, sexual assault, and other violent crimes are widespread, with babies and the elderly also being brutalized regularly.

Justice is scarce. Corruption is rampant at all levels, with the police and other authorities who are supposed to be enforcing and upholding the law often taking money to look the other way, lose the paperwork, or otherwise act to ensure that perpetrators walk free. While some of this massive corruption simply has to do with inefficient systems, low salaries and underpayment of public servants, a great deal of it also revolves around the fact that crimes against women and children, especially those at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale (ie poor people) are not taken seriously enough. It’s almost as if sexual violence is expected, the norm, “just” a ‘rite of passage’ that a Guyanese woman/girl/child has to endure. Their suffering is ignored by those in power; their bodies disposable.

By promoting ‘forgiveness and forgetting’, Minister Webster seriously undermines the Guyanese judicial system and the rights of all Guyanese to attain justice when they have been victimized. Her call to forgive and forget shows a sickening lack of empathy for the victims and more concern for the victimizers. For it are the perpetrators who benefit the most from the crime being forgotten and forgiven. Forgiving and forgetting gives victimizers a free pass; it does not force them to rethink their negative behaviors or to do anything differently. How though, are the mothers whose children are raped and murdered to forget those lives and losses? How do women and children who are maimed and brutalized simply forget that abuse while they struggle to cope with missing appendages or limbs, a damaged sense of self and security?

The fact is that abuse and violence leaves scars on people’s bodies and minds that can linger for lifetimes. While some may find some measure of peace in forgiving and forgetting, what may work for one individual on a personal level cannot be held up for all and certainly cannot be used to shape national policy. The fact is that the judicial system in Guyana is not based on religious tenets but on rules that have been established by the larger society and its designated representatives. For a Minister of government to promote her personal religious beliefs over the secular laws of the land is troubling. Her action could encourage other individuals to prioritize their own personal codes of conduct over the nation’s laws, to enact their own form of justice, and simply to ignore the national laws they don’t like. In retrospect though, this is already largely the case in Guyana today; it is an outlaw society in many regards. Minister Webster’s comments, sadly, are simply a reflection of a lawless nation run amok.

In conclusion, even if the act of forgiving and forgetting does help some persons, the fact is that this does not happen magically. Often, those affected will need intensive counseling in order to reach that place of healing. However, with less than half dozen trained psychologists in the entire public health sector of Guyana today, Guyanese in all regions are woefully underserved. The fact is that most victims of violence and abuse in Guyana do not receive any or sufficient counseling. Minister Webster, with responsibility for the portfolio of Human Services and Social Security, should be acutely aware of this deficiency. She should be working as hard as possible, with the Ministries of Health and Education to foster and train more mental health professionals. She should be working to educate her colleagues in government as well as the general public about the importance of consent in sexual activity, as well as the serious negative effects of misogyny and the objectifying of women. She and her colleagues should be working to wipe out corruption, to ensure justice and accountability at all levels, and that the systems are working to benefit the people of Guyana. Until then, until there is justice and accountability for all Guyanese, there can be no forgiving or forgetting.

Lis Harper’s role in the victimisation of Varshnie Jagdeo

Youth Blogs GY

When former First Lady Varshnie Jagdeo spoke out in 2009 about what she called hi-tech domestic violence, she spoke of her fears and insecurities living in a country where her oppressor had his hand in every facet of the day to day functioning of the country. This put Varshnie in a precarious position that she could not escape.

That was 6 years ago. Yesterday, I came across a blog entry from Blogger Mark Jacobs titled Jagdeo’s abused former “wife” attended PPP Kitty Rally #guyana. Jacobs recalled an account from the former First Lady where she documented, in great detail, her decade-long experience.

I reblogged that piece with a small note saying: “This is the story of how Guyana’s former First Lady endured countless acts of domestic violence and state victimisation while living with a shameless beast who was elected to serve and protect the people of Guyana…

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Jagdeo’s abused former “wife” attended PPP Kitty Rally #guyana

mark jacobs lives!

varshnie & her father listen to bharrat & friends in Kitty varshnie & her father listen to bharrat & friends in Kitty

this here is HEAVY
“anger and resentment binds the oppressed to the oppressor” – dr. amos wilson

i’ll just revisit what i’ve written before

many east indians in guyana are suffering from stockholm syndrome
my previous conclusion of east indians being held hostage was incomplete hence my switch to saying they are victims of stockholm syndrome. cause hostage means one is captured. but as we see in Guyana while not being physically held in captivity, the love of the abuser/aggressor many east indians display can be more properly explained in the expanded definition

Stockholm syndrome can be seen as a form of traumatic bonding, which does not necessarily require a hostage scenario, but which describes “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.”[4]

back in…

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