High Commission of Canada sees mass attendance at #PressforProgress Concert and Expo in Guyana
The City of Georgetown in Guyana, a thriving country on South America’s North Atlantic coast, has certainly provided an outstanding example of International Women’s Day best practice.
In Guyana, as in most of the Caribbean, feminism and women’s movements are still frowned upon as efforts to denigrate men. However over 1,000 people attended an impressive, free public #PressforProgress Concert and Expo to celebrate International Women’s Day 2018.
The successful, large-scale event held in the Promenade Gardens of Georgetown was organised by the High Commission of Canada in Guyana and Suriname in collaboration with the Government of Guyana - and was attended by the Acting President of Guyana, the First Lady of Guyana, ministers of government, diplomatic heads of mission and many enthusiastic persons - some of whom showed up hours early to claim a spot.
Over 1,000 people joined the call to PressforProgress.
Dignitaries lent their advocacy and support
Guyana’s First Lady Sandra Granger presented an important keynote address at the event which saw a mix of awareness raising with celebration of the women’s movement. Other speakers included the Minister of Social Protection, Amna Ally, and Patricia Bacchus, a young CEO of a large company who spoke of the need for more women in business.
This impressive and highly successful event was conceived by High Commissioner, Lilian Chatterjee - a strong advocate for women’s equality - to raise awareness about issues of sexism and discrimination against women, as well as to celebrate the remarkable achievements of women. The event was organised in partnership with The High Commission of Canada and Suriname, in partnership with the Ministry of Social Protection. A strong advocate for gender equality, the High Commission believes that the advancement of women and girls is central to human rights.
First Lady Sandra Granger; Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana, Lilian Chatterjee; Foreign Minister and President, Carl Greenidge; Minister of Social Protection, Amna Ally; Go-invest Chair, Patricia Bacchus
Ahead of the event, Lilian Chatterjee penned an opinion piece. “I commend the efforts of the Government of Guyana, local civil society organisations and other key enablers in pushing for the protection and advancement of gender equality in Guyana. I fully agree with His Excellency, President David Granger that we can, we must and we will achieve gender equality. Although it will not happen overnight, we must continue to push for better standards, better policies, greater recognition and greater respect for women. We must press forward toward greater progress.”
Event provided a powerful commentary on violence against women
Guyana is a complex society which still follows the Caribbean patriarchal model inherited from its colonial history. In 2014, Guyana recorded the third highest level of acceptance of domestic violence in Latin America and the Caribbean, with 35.6% of poll respondents (both men and women) condoning violence against an unfaithful wife.
“Our event offered uplifting entertainment, a powerful commentary on violence against women, motivating calls to arms by the First Lady of Guyana and other women, a message of hope from the young girls who are leading the charge on STEM in Guyana, on site basic services provided for those who may not be able to afford them otherwise, access to a sexual and reproductive health organization, access to Guyana’s sexual and domestic violence unit which deals with concrete cases of violence against women, access to training in basic self defence, and also resident banks were on hand to advise women who were thinking of going into business on access to financing for their enterprises,” advised the event organisers. “We wanted to leave powerful messages but we also wanted to have practical impact, particularly for low income women.”
Powerful messages were delivered to support the call for women's equality.
Over 20 booths of local service providers participated
Speakers and performers encouraged women to use their voice in their influential sphere to impact the growth and development of the nation. The event featured over 20 exhibition booths of local NGOs, government agencies, international development organizations and women-owned enterprises to help to educate, empower and create a network for local women’s groups and government service providers.
Examples of the booths included: women miners who rescue victims of human trafficking in mining areas; a Canadian-Caribbean development project, Promotion of Regional Opportunities for Produce Through Enterprises and Linkages (PROPEL), featuring women farmers and their organic produce; a group of girls from Guyana’s local science, technology, engineering and math organization (and their robots); Guyana’s International Planned Parenthood Federation affiliate sexual and reproductive rights NGO, the Guyana Human Rights Association and many others. The Ministry of Social Protection had representatives from their Sexual and Domestic Violence Unit as well as interactive games on misconceptions about gender. The Ministry of Public Health organized free private screening areas for testing for HIV/AIDS, other free health tests, including for diabetes which is a huge problem in Guyana, had a mobile pharmacy and four doctors on site.
Local NGOs, government agencies, international development organizations and women-owned enterprises participated via information booths.
Local and international acts reinforced importance of women’s equality
The event also featured local acts including a dance that celebrated the life of indigenous people, and a local singer with her original calypso song “Woman is Boss” - along with a self defence demonstration, and a moving spoken word performance against violence against women. There were also star-studded performances from international women performers, including Guyanese Lisa Punch who flew in from the United States for the concert.
Popular singer Faith Amour proudly supported the Press For Progress Concert and Expo.
Classical jazz singer Faith Amour lends her advocacy
The question ‘Why do we still need a Women’s Day?’ comes up every year around International Women’s Day. Thus the event was a mix of awareness raising and a supportive celebration of the women’s movement.
Faith Amour, classical Canadian jazz singer, who performed at the event commented, “If we felt there was parity and gender equality, then there would be no need for International Women’s Day, the same way there wouldn't be a international women's history month, or black history month. But, because equality does not exist as yet, we need to keep that awareness and we need to keep encouraging people to give women the same opportunities that men receive.”
Faith, brought to Guyana for the very first time by the High Commission of Canada, was invited to give several radio interviews prior to the concert, during which she spoke about the power of art to promote progressive values, such as gender equality, and also about Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Program.
Singer Faith Amour lent her support in promoting Guyana's International Women's day event.
Strong reinforcement of International Women’s Day branding and campaign theme
Event organisers used the International Women’s Day logo and #PressforProgress campaign branding on all their promotional material, staging, signage and further resources - along with the naming of the Concert and Expo itself.
The Press for Progress Concert and Expo in Guyana proved to be a huge success for the Canadian High Commission.
Looking forward to next year
Such a large and visible celebration of women’s achievements and advocacy on issues facing women is very significant. Feedback is positive with the High Commission already being asked about a further event for next year.
The Press for Progress Concert and Expo organizers and support teams managed the event seamlessly.
Governments across the world support International Women's Day
Meanwhile around the world, many public sector agencies and governments mark International Women's Day. Parliamentarians and further dignitaries celebrate International Women's Day while calling for greater equality. Importantly, many announce or reinforce what tangible action they are taking to help advance women's equality - with some governments flying the International Women's Day flag to demonstrate their commitment to forging women's equality.
The International Women's Day flag was flown by UK Parliament to celebrate the achievements of women across the globe.
Rt Hon John Bercow MP, The Speaker of the House of Commons in the UK, said: “It is absolutely right that Parliament is flying the International Women’s Day flag, to celebrate the achievements of women across the globe."
MP Dawn Butler ,Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities and Speaker of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, John Bercow, display the International Women’s Day flag.
Dawn Butler MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, said: “I am delighted that we are raising the International Women’s Day flag on the roof of Parliament. I would like to thank the Speaker for working with me to ensure that the Houses of Parliament leads the way in celebrating the achievements of women around the world. This flag will be an important symbol of how far we have come in the fight for equality, while also recognizing how far we still have to go, and I look forward to working with colleagues and others to bring about this fairer and more equal society for all.”
Worldwide, many senior officials across government called on their constituents and communities to support International Womens Day and to press for progress.
VIDEO: UK's former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson visited school children to discuss the importance of girls' education and gender equality - and called on communities to #PressforProgress.