Friday, October 24, 2008

Guyana praised for its role with indigenous people

Georgetown, Guyana - Guyana has been praised for its role in education and health care for its indigenous people at a conference of representatives from Indigenous Women's groups from Dominica, Suriname, Belize and Guyana being held in Georgetown.

Belize Senator Pulcheria Teul told the gathering that Guyana's role for indigenous people is monumental in comparison with other countries, in particular Belize.

Teul, who is a Senator in Belize, worked with indigenous women for a decade, and said that the livelihood of the indigenous people in her country is grounded on the principles of respect of nature and a greater sense of community spirit, which set the foundation for sharing and managing resources.

The Guyana Chronicle reported that the Belize senator said, "Belize indigenous people reside in the rural communities; and with a slowly developing economy, the poorer classes are not well provided for as the indigenous women of Guyana.”
She added, "In Belize they cannot easily access higher education, which is a major constraint in the development of women there.”

The Belizean said she was impressed that three indigenous women in Guyana are Ministers of Government, Pauline Sukhai, who is Minister of Amerindian Affairs; Carolyn Rodrigues, Minister of Foreign Affairs; and Desrey Fox, Minister in the Ministry of Education, as well as countless other women who serve in managerial positions across the country.

Teul said that she is proud of her post and is privileged to be the only indigenous woman involved in Parliament in Belize.

Author: Oscar Ramjeet
Source: Caribbean Net News

Age conflict seen in laws that relate to child trafficking

Guyana - Participants at a forum on human trafficking are questioning whether the age of consent under the Criminal Law Offences Act and the age a person is still considered a child under the Combating of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Act are in conflict after reviewing some case studies.

In her feature presentation Chrissey Mueller, Pro-gramme Co-ordinator for the US-based, International Organisation for Migration told the forum that there is a key difference between adult trafficking and trafficking of children; trafficking of adults involved mobilisation via particular means which resulted in their exploitation. Child trafficking on the other hand, only required the children to be mobilised and exploited.

Mueller identified methods of mobilisation as including recruitment, transportation, transferring and harbouring. She said too the means applied to mobilise such persons included the use of threats, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception and abuse of power; and exploitation included forced labour, slavery, servitude and removal of organs. Mueller also said when prosecuting an adult for child trafficking the criteria of means (use of threats, coercion, abduction etc) need not be present. She also submitted that adults who organised children to beg were engaging in trafficking. In this regard even parents can be prosecuted though Mueller suggested that the best way to deal with such a situation may be to direct the mother to a social service agency which would be better equipped to offer assistance.

A conflict arose during an interactive session when case studies were presented and Mueller used an example of a 17-year-old girl being recruited by a group of individuals who own a brothel who then freely decides to engage in sex for money. The participants questioned whether the owners of the brothel could be prosecuted for trafficking in persons since under the Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2005; a child is defined as someone under the age of 18 whereas the Criminal Law Offences Act states that a girl can consent to having sex at 16.

Meanwhile, Minister of Human Services Minister Priya Manickchand said too many people are ignorant about what constitutes human trafficking and although she acknowledged that there were several practices which bordered on exploitation; these cases could not be identified as cases of trafficking in persons. The minister said too the rate of trafficking in persons in Guyana was much lower than it has been portrayed by the US State Department as government continues to make great strides in tackling the issue since it first appeared on the Tier 3 Watch List in 2004.

Manickchand told the forum that for the past two years Guyana has been on the Tier 2 Watch List which means that TIP is seen as a problem in the country and though government has been trying to address it, its efforts have been slipping.

Manickchand opined that since being ranked Tier 3 a very negative perception has been attributed to Guyana as that rank indicates that human trafficking is seen as a major problem in the country and that the government is making little effort to combat it.

As regards cases of human trafficking, the minister said the authorities were trying to prosecute those suspected of perpetrating this crime. At the same time, she acknowledged that more could be done to ensure that persons at high risk of being trafficked were protected. Manickchand also said that government needed to engage the US government on conducting a full investigation into human trafficking locally as so far no concrete evidence has been presented to the government to confirm that the rate of trafficking in Guyana was high. The minister said she was convinced that if the US conducts its investigation, her views would be validated.

According to a recent report from the US State Department, Guyana is a “source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour.” Further, it said that Amerindian girls are trafficked to brothels near the mining camps and to coastal areas for sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. “Young Amerindian men are exploited under forced labour conditions in mining and logging camps. Some women and girls trafficked into brothels in the interior are from northern Brazil,” it added.

The forum was hosted at the Cara Lodge Hotel two Fridays ago.

Author: Mark McGowan
Source: Stabroek News

Increased access to social services a priority among indigenous women

Guyana - Increasing access to social services is among the priorities identified by indigenous women leaders in the region as key to empowerment, against a backdrop of development.

Participants at the ‘Conference on Indigenous Women in the Caribbean: Voice, Participation and Influence for Development’ that opened last Thursday found that many of their problems were the same. These include poverty, limited access to health, education and other basic social services, while trying to secure recognition of traditional land and rights. Another issue is gender-based violence. One of the challenges facing the conference was creating room for women’s rights in the context of the collective indigenous rights. The two-day meeting was organized by the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs and United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). It attracted a cross section of government and civil society participants from Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Suriname, Nicaragua and St Vincent.

Speaking at a press briefing on Friday shortly before the end of the conference, Roberta Clarke, Regional Programme Director of UNIFEM Caribbean Office, said that despite progress across the region, indigenous women still face many disadvantages. She said the conference found that geography has a severe impact on how indigenous women access basic social services in addition to infrastructure. “Many indigenous women live in conditions of hardship,” Clarke said, adding that the situation was exacerbated by the failure of schools to be culturally responsive when they are accessible. Instead, they are geared towards urban centres, with curricula often irrelevant to people in indigenous areas.

Clarke also identified the perpetuation of harmful gender-based stereotypes in indigenous communities as another area that needs to be addressed. In fact, she pointed out that the seeds of gender equality are embedded in the traditional indigenous culture.

In this regard, she also emphasised that while there are specific issues that indigenous women face, they are also commonalities that they share with women in general. Among them is the little representation they have in their countries’ political leadership. In some countries there are no women represented in the parliament.

Clarke said the conference provided a forum for the sharing of best practices, while learning from each other’s mistakes. She added that UNIFEM would use the outcome to shape its programme in the Caribbean and would work in partnerships to realize the agreed priorities.

Amerindian Affairs Minister Pauline Sukhai pointed out that while governments think they have done all that is possible for women, there remains segments for which more has to be done, like indigenous women.

She also drew attention to the recurring themes among disparate peoples, including the need for land rights, better education and women’s rights. Sukhai was optimistic about developing strategic alliances among indigenous women across the region and to identify priorities for action.

Belizean Senator Pulcheria Tuel, who also represents the Toledo Maya Women’s Council, welcomed the deliberations as a starting point for an indigenous people’s agenda in her country. With the outcome of the conference, she vowed to use her influence in the senate to identify and address indigenous women’s issues, including poverty and violence. “For us to move forward,” she explained, “we must address these issues in the context of development.”

In this vein, Tuel saw the conference and its deliberations as a good opportunity to influence the development of a framework to address indigenous issues in Belize. “I believe our government is willing to give indigenous women more support and prepared to address indigenous women’s issues.”

Surinamese researcher Marie-Josee Artist emphasised the importance of countries learning from each other. (Guyana’s Amerindian Act and the constitutional Indigenous People’s Commission were cited as progressive initiatives.) Suriname, Artist noted, does not recognize traditional land rights for indigenous people and this has led to conflict between the authorities and indigenous groups, including women’s organizations. The intrusion of mining companies has also led to problems. Many indigenous and maroon women’s organizations in Suriname are looking for support, she said, but because of restricted access to their communities, donor agencies and NGOs interested in giving assistance often find their funds going largely to transportation costs.

Source: Stabroek News

Moraikobai villagers honoured for contributions to Carifesta

Guyana - Certificates were presented to Amerindians from Moraikobai, Region Five who constructed the Amerindian Village at the Sophia Exhibition Complex for Carifesta X.

According to a Government Information Agency (GINA) press release, the 28 workers, including Eustace Vieira, Sylvan Henry, McKennon Adrian, Taracharan Mathura, Cromwell Andrews, Sean Adrian, Roy Adrian, Morris Dick, Claude Hope, Gary Smith, Vernon Smith, Steve Fredericks, Paul Roberts, Marcano Andrews, Lorri DeSantos, Ivan Henry, Andrew Neruda and Peter Henry were honoured as part of Heritage Day celebrations. Village Day celebrations at Moraikobai also featured a pageant, graduation ceremony and other activities.

The workers had constructed the model houses of all nine Amerindian tribes by using indigenous materials from Moraikobai and other Amerindian communities. In his presentation Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport Dr Frank Anthony said he was proud that the group was able to use its talents to create the Amerindian Village as the ministry had aimed to make the festival unforgettable. He noted that Guyana wanted to showcase its people and their culture. “We didn’t want to leave out any segment of our society,” he said.

Source: Stabroek News

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Miss Kalinago and Princess Natari 2008 Chosen in Dominica

Carib Territory, Dominica (UCTP Taino News) – 10 contestants competed for the Miss Kalinago and Princess Natari pageant crowns as part of “Carib Week” in September 2008. This year the annual pageant was held at the Karina Cultural Village in Bataca, Dominica and two of the contestants, Miss Juslyn Antoine and Miss Darylia Sanford, took home the coveted titles.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Petition Calling for the Abandonment of Proposed Columbus Monument in Boriken (Puerto Rico)

Recalling that: In 1492, Christopher Columbus initiated a genocidal campaign against Indigenous Peoples that began with the Taíno, Karib, and Arawak Nations and extended throughout the Americas, and

Recalling that: Christopher Columbus was the first trans-Atlantic slave trader in the Western Hemisphere, and

Recognizing that: Christopher Columbus is a symbol, not of a man, but of imperialism, colonialism, and genocide, and

Further Recognizing that: Imperialism and colonialism are continuously manifesting with the exploitation of humanity and the Earth as well as in the ongoing violations of the rights of Indigenous Peoples,

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: We, the undersigned call on The Holland Group, Inc and the City of Mayagüez to abandon their plans to erect a monument to Christopher Columbus on the island of Boriken (Puerto Rico) in 2010. This proposed project is not only offensive to the local Taino, Karib, Arawak and other Indigenous Peoples but it is an offense to all peoples of good conscience around the world.

Sign petition at:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Amerindian Heritage Day in Trinidad

UCTP Taino News - Surinamese Carib Chief Paremuru
attending the Amerindian Heritage Day Celebration
in Arima, Trinidad on October 14, 2008 at Arima Town Hall
Photo: Wendy-Ann Duncan