Op-Ed: International Women’s Day – Be Bold for Change

By United States Ambassador Perry L. Holloway

International Women’s Day is a globally recognized day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.  The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.  Observed since the early 1990s, International Women’s Day celebrates the collective responsibility of governments, NGOs, charities, corporations, academic institutions, and women’s networks in advancing women’s rights.

Guyana has reason to be proud of advancing women in society.  One-third of Guyana’s Parliament is women, putting it into the top 20 percent of the world.  The mayor of the country’s capital is a woman, the Acting Chief Justice and the Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary are both women, and there are nine female ministers in the cabinet.  All good indicators of progress, but more needs to be done because the goal should be to ensure that all members of a society are given an equal opportunity to contribute, so that the country makes maximum use of all its human capital and not just half.

Guyana is among the poorest nations in the hemisphere, but is on the precipice of becoming one of the richest nations in the hemisphere on a per capita basis.  For the first time in its history, the Land of Many Waters may have the financial resources to address longstanding challenges in education, agriculture, healthcare, infrastructure, the environment, and security.  These challenges can, in great part, be addressed with money alone, but other challenges, like gender-based violence and discrimination against women, actually need more than just money.  They need a commitment from the people and Government of Guyana.  It will take the combined efforts of ALL men AND women to meet the societal challenges women face, as well as a myriad of other social challenges like suicide, discrimination over sexual orientation, and trafficking in persons.

We are at the crossroads in history where a population of less than one million people will boldly chart a path forward that I hope leads to prosperity, security, and inclusion for all.  The road ahead will not be smooth or easy, but working together and utilizing the skills of all its citizens, Guyana has the potential to emerge as a leader, not only in the Caribbean, but throughout the hemisphere.  My wife Rosaura and I have met many impressive women in Guyana, so we know that the future is bright if everyone does their part and provides them with the opportunity to contribute fully to this wonderful country.

One does not have to possess the courage and internal strength of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl shot in the head because she believed girls had a right to education, or the political skills of former Guyana President Janet Jagan to make a difference.  As American anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

The U.S. Embassy will continue working with First Lady Sandra Granger and other stakeholders to work on issues such as women’s empowerment, youth development, and eliminating human trafficking.  Together we will be Bold for Change!