Guyanese Women Avoid Politics
By Oscar Clarke

Women are reluctant to enter national politics because they consider it too confrontational and dominated by party structures, according to a recent national survey focussing on 'Public Perceptions of Women in Politics.'

The survey covered women from the ten administrative regions and noted that the vast majority of those polled are not keen on getting involved in the local political arena due to the dominance of the party structure.
The National Democratic Institute (NDI) sponsored the survey which was undertaken by University of Guyana (UG) students, led by Assistant Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Roxanne Myers. The report also said that more women would get involved in politics if they had the financial resources to do so, if they didn't have family responsibilities and if the way local politics plays out could be changed.
Giving a summary of the report, which is expected to engage the attention of delegates at an upcoming women's conference starting on May 27 at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel, Myers said that respondents lamented the fact that many women members of parliament did not promote women's agendas, but acted on instructions from the party hierarchy.

According to Myers, out of the women polled there was broad consensus that they were knowledgeable on existing constitutional provisions affecting them but still saw the need for stronger legislation to better reflect their views.

The survey found overall that women were more focused on local government issues especially in relation to their communities rather than national ones which they viewed as argumentative and confrontational.
In election campaigns, the study showed that women were more likely to be involved in fund raising activities as family and work-related responsibilities left little time for much else.

With respect to the media, one-third of the respondents felt that this sector never showed positive images of women with a similar number noting that women experts were never consulted. Although finding that television was the most favoured form of media, the survey determined that a statistically insignificant number found talk shows to be a source of information about women's issues.

A significant majority of the respondents, according to Myers, professed to have some organisational development experience although less than one-fifth reported having any advocacy training.

Advocacy was equated by most women polled with demonstrations and protests which they viewed negatively, although those involved in this type of advocacy saw them being associated with issues such as domestic violence, women's rights, health care, HIV/AIDS and education. The poll showed that word of mouth was the principal method of publicising issues with which they are associated. The survey also recorded the level of participation of women in public meetings such as the recent constitutional reform and the poverty reduction strategy and statutory council meetings, which indicators show were very low.
According to the indicators this low participation was attributed in most cases to disinterest, with a significant number indicating that they were unaware of when the meetings were being held.

However, even if they did attend the meeting almost 60% indicated that they never or rarely participated in the discussions.
The two-stage, random, stratified selection process adopted by the team, selected respondents by sex and age and was representative of ethnic and political realities locally. The process of collecting and analysing the data was carried out over a five-month period. Meanwhile the conference, under the theme "Fifty/Fifty-Increasing Women's Political Participation in the Caribbean" is scheduled to run from May 27 to May 30 and will see 130 delegates from the 10-administrative regions and the 13 Caribbean Community territories.

The keynote address will be delivered by Annie Campbell who is a founding member of the Northern Ireland Women's Coalition and she will be in the country for a week during which time she will meet with political leaders and women's groups.


May 21, 2003
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