As we near local government elections on March 18th and Guyana’s 50th anniversary of independence on May 26th, this year’s International Women’s Day takes on added significance. The contributions of women to Guyana’s rich history are too many to list. The influence of leaders like former President Janet Jagan, former Public Service Minister Dr. Faith Harding, and former Member of the National Assembly Sheila Holder is enduring and today Guyana is fortunate to have women lead in the Cabinet, in the private sector, and in civic society.
In the United States it wasn’t until 1920 that women were afforded the right to vote, and it was much longer for many African-Americans who suffered under Jim Crow laws, segregation, and racial injustice. Through the determined efforts of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, and so many others who saw participating in the democratic process as a right, not a privilege, women now comprise a powerful voting bloc. Today women hold twenty seats in the United States Senate, more than eighty seats in the House of Representatives, and there are three female Supreme Court Justices. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is competing for the Democratic nomination in hopes to become the first woman president in United States history.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality. The United States of America is committed to working in partnership with the Government of Guyana and local organizations to strengthen social equity and access to essential social services for all people of Guyana, specifically to increase participation of and support for women, LGBT, indigenous, and vulnerable populations. We value the work we have undertaken thus far in partnership with government and civil society leaders, and we look forward to building on this partnership as we work within the Guyana government and in civil society to achieve this shared goal.
It is heartening to see that many Guyanese women are seeking office in the upcoming local government elections on March 18. I encourage all Guyanese to participate in this critical election process. Elections and progress go hand in hand as we all work together to make Guyana more safe, secure, and inclusive. Get out and vote!