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GUYANA - Global Women’s Strike

Permission requested to use information from Global Womens Strike


By Eusi Kwayana

The main streets of Christianburg, Wismar, and Mackenzie in Linden [Guyana] rang out with the noise of empty pots and pans banging and of 140 plus women chanting on Friday, March 8, 2002. It was not a riot. It was a planned action of Guyanese women of many races – Afro-Guyanese, Indo-Guyanese, Amerindian, Mixed - celebrating International Women’s Day with their own act in the third Global Women’s Strike.

They were supported by about a dozen men. The act was organised by Red Thread and throughout the 3-4 hours it lasted, Sisters Cora, Halima, Joycelin, Nicola, Vanessa, Margaret, Chandra, and Wintress could be seen leading the chants, carrying the banners, marshalling the marchers, leading the march.

Before it took off, Andaiye, also one of the Red Thread organisers of the march, reminded the marchers from several organisations and many towns and villages why women all over the world were marching with empty pots and pans as a symbol of their refusal to continue accepting no pay, low pay, and too much work:

"The empty pots and pans will tell the world that today we are on strike. Today we are not in! We are not cooking and washing. We are not cleaning or caring. Not in the normal way. Not for the next several hours. We are joining with women in 75 countries to strike to demand a world which values all women’s work and all women’s lives. "

The women’s peace troops had travelled in two full big buses and one car from a pan assembly point in Georgetown to the ailing bauxite town, landing at the community ground, Christianburg, the starting point. Other women had come from inside Linden itself, and from nearby Amerindian communities.

Some of the placards the marchers held carried local demands such as "We demand roads for lower Kara Kara."

Some were demands of women all over the country. Hear them:

We must have better heath care.
Doctors must stop playing GOD.
Housewives need pure water.
Single mothers of all races must have access to land and house.
Affordable electricity for all.
Housewives must have pensions and NIS benefits.
Working mothers need maternity benefits.
Breast feeding breaks for working mothers.
Domestic workers must have benefits.
Maternity benefits for working mothers.
Free Daycare.
End the slaughter of children on the roads.
We demand protection of children from rape.
Protect women against brutality.
Some placards shouted a promise:

Women pledge to cross race divide and fight for all our RIGHTS.
Woman against RACISM.

And some said what kind of world women want, and how the demands of women should be funded. They said, "Invest in caring, not killing!" "Abolish the Third World debt and free up the money to pay for what people need!"

The marchers paused opposite the Mackenzie hospital and chanted

"We want better health care we want doctors here!"

Community people began suggesting demands.

"Dredge the canal in Kara Kara , now!"

"Spray the mosquitoes! Stop the malaria!" Mosquitoes are a major pest in parts of Linden.

These demands might seem at first glance to be about different things but look again. They are all demands that fit into the demands women all over the world are making as part of the yearly Global Strike. Throughout the march the women were chanting:

"Stop the world and change it!"

"Women Count ! Count our work, price it and pay it!

Along the route were knots of women and men and students on their way to school. Many people responded, some asking questions, others picking up the chants, still others shouting out their agreement with what the strikers were demanding. Many women caught the spirit of the march and turned down their brooms upside down outside their homes and even workplaces.

As they marched, some women gave out Global Strike handbills, explaining the importance of the day, the Global Strike demands, and spelling out the demands of Guyanese women. They carried a message from the Linden women who deplored the assaults and rapes of Indo-Guyanese women in Linden almost two decades ago and declared their determination in future to defend all women against such attacks, whatever their source. They called for Linden to be a place where all races could come and enjoy equal security, just as the Organisation of Working People of the early seventies once did in their meetings and handbills. At the end, after a short demonstration of the placards in the market square, the march moved on to the Mackenzie band stand where the strikers settled down for refreshments, and Sister Nicola of Linden made a call for the embrace of all races and condemned the ugly record of the past.

This is the first public declaration by a group of Linden residents that the attacks of the early 1960s could never be justified by any tat for tat argument. It is notable that such a truly forward looking call should come from women on International Women’s Day taking part in a Global Strike for all women: from Africa, India, Latin America – including Indigenous women – Europe and North America. With the support of women all over the world, the women in Guyana had the power to demand what they are entitled to, and to reclaim their first right – not to be at war with their neighbour of another race.

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