|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Committee on Elimination of
Discrimination against Women
1041st & 1042nd Meetings* (AM & PM)
Despite Reduced Foreign Aid, Women’s Empowerment Rooted Firmly in National
Policies, Delegation of Guyana Tells Anti-Discrimination Committee
Expert Members Also Express Concern
About Limited Access to Justice, Root Causes of Trafficking in Persons
Despite cuts in development assistance due to the global economic crisis, ingrained prejudices towards women and cultural barriers confronting them, Guyana had rooted the empowerment and protection of women firmly in its national policies, legislation, educational and social programmes, as well as health initiatives, members of that country’s delegation told the Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee today.
Heading the seven-member delegation, Jennifer Webster, Minister for Human Services and Social Security, said that, through a mix of progressive laws and programmes to stamp out domestic violence and gender-based discrimination in the workplace, ensure women’s representation in Parliament, prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV and provide low-interest loans to buy homes and run businesses, among other things, Guyana had made headway in improving the lot of women.
“The Government of Guyana,” she said, “remains unswerving in its commitment to honour its obligations under the Convention and will expend every effort with available resources — human, financial and technical — to ensure that we continue to make progress for all our people, especially our women and children.” She was presenting her country’s seventh and eighth periodic reports to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which monitors the compliance of States parties with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
She went on to say that the Government was tackling widespread gender-based violence in partnership with non-governmental organizations. Its “Stamp it Out!” awareness-raising campaign launched in 2008 had paved the way for enactment of the 2010 Sexual Offences Act, which introduced stiff penalties for offences, “safe zones” for victims and expedited judicial procedures for those seeking redress. She said that a new Men’s Affairs Bureau within her Ministry had brought men’s concerns to light, while the “It’s Our Problem, Let’s Solve it!” campaign, launched this month, would sponsor public discussion in communities where violence was particularly acute.
Citing legislative and administrative steps that had boosted the proportion of women in non-agricultural paid employment, as well as their representation in Parliament and Cabinet-level posts to more than 30 per cent, she said Guyana’s 2011 Millennium Development Goals progress report showed notable gender-equality achievements in education, curbing infant and child mortality, and stemming poverty, thanks in part to the Government’s commitment to earmarking 25 per cent of the federal budget for the social sector. But she expressed worry that shrinking donor funds would stunt the Government’s ability to maintain programmes affecting women and children in particular.
The Committee’s 23 expert members acknowledged the progress made, but expressed concern, among other things, about women’s limited access to justice, particularly in rural areas and the hinterland, slow implementation of the Convention and judicial reforms, reported widespread discrimination against homosexuals and bisexuals, and whether the root causes of trafficking in women were being addressed.
They also voiced concern over the Government’s ability to sustain programmes in light of reduced external aid, the absence of sex-disaggregated data, and contradictory information in the delegation’s report about women’s access to health care, the mass emigration of trained nurses and other health-care professionals, and the failure of rural courts adequately to address women’s concerns.
Delegates responded by saying that their country’s topography limited access to justice in some regions. Despite efforts to ensure proper implementation of the Convention’s articles, Guyana’s legal system faced challenges owing to a lack of resources. They refuted the contention that discrimination against homosexuals and bisexuals was widespread, but acknowledged that the populace had rejected the possibility of a specific law clearly prohibiting such discrimination.
To tackle trafficking in persons, they said, the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security provided psychosocial, medical and economic support, as well as job training to victims of trafficking, with the overall aim of reducing poverty. Additionally, the Government was making every effort to ensure the compilation and digitalization of data directed specifically at women’s issues, they said. They also defended the country’s health-care system, saying that, while it was difficult to provide services in the hinterland, most of the country was served well by the public health-care system.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 11 July, to consider the combined sixth and seventh periodic reports of Indonesia.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met today to begin its consideration of the combined seventh and eighth periodic reports of Guyana (document CEDAW/C/GUY/7-8). (For more information, please see Press Release WOM/1911 of 9 July 2012.)
Jennifer Webster, Minister for Human Services and Social Security, led the Guyanese delegation, which also included Priya Manickchand, Minister for Education; Gail Teixeira, Presidential Adviser on Governance; George Talbot, Permanent Representative of Guyana to the United Nations; Troy Torrington, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Guyana; Bibi Ally, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Guyana; and Shiraz Mohamed, Second Secretary, Permanent Mission of Guyana.
Introduction of Report
Ms. WEBSTER presented the combined report saying it covered the period 2004-2010, during which Guyana had acceded to the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and ratified the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Their Families. In line with the recommendations of the Human Rights Council’s 2010 Universal Periodic Review, Guyana was considering acceding to the Optional Protocol to the women’s Convention, she said. “Since Guyana was last reviewed much has taken place and much progress has been made whilst some old challenges persist and new challenges have emerged.”
She said the Government continued to prioritize investment in the social sector, earmarking more than 25 per cent of the annual federal budget for education, health, housing, water and social security. Investments in safe water reduced the amount of time women and children spent travelling long distances to fetch it, which allowed them to spend more time and energy on self-improvement and education. Every house allocated to a low-income family or single parent under the Government’s housing programme enabled women to take better care of their families and to have security of tenure, she pointed out.
Noting that the 2011 Millennium Development Goals Progress Report documented her country’s notable achievements in poverty reduction, gender equality, education and infant and child mortality, as well as key challenges in maternal health, she said that, with just six obstetricians to attend 15,000 births annually and limited support from development partners to address that deficiency, the Government had taken steps to recruit obstetricians from overseas while placing Guyanese doctors recently trained in Cuba in outlying regions of the country.
With donor funds poised to decline further, Guyana was worried about its ability to maintain programmes begun with external support so as to address communicable diseases affecting women and children in particular, she continued. The national programme to provide free antiretroviral treatment and prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV had reduced mortality and improved the quality of life for HIV-infected people. “We don’t want to see those compromised due to a lack of resources,” she emphasized. From 2009 to 2011, six modern, progressive laws had been enacted to address children’s rights and protection, she said. Among them were the 2010 Sexual Offences Act and the Persons with Disabilities Act, as well as statutes that would impact women and children victims, amendments to the social security law and the age of recruitment into the army. They would bring Guyana more in line with its treaty obligations under the women’s and children’s Conventions.
Pointing out that her country had already achieved the third Millennium Development Goal, gender parity in primary and secondary education, she said Guyana would continue to strive towards parity at the tertiary level as well. The revised 2003 Constitution enshrined, as a fundamental right, “equal rights and status with men in all spheres of political, economic and social life”, as in the Convention. Thanks to the Government’s aggressive housing drive and low-income loans, more women, particularly single mothers, now owned property, she noted. The “Women of Worth” microcredit initiative gave women access to low-interest loans and microcredit facilities that enabled them to carry out small business projects in various fields.
Thanks to legislative and administrative measures to prevent discrimination against women in the workplace, the proportion of women in non-agricultural paid employment had risen from 29 per cent in 1991 to 33 per cent in 2006, she said, adding that wages were set at the same rate for women as for men. Labour legislation offered adequate protection against discrimination. Due to legislation requiring political parties to devote one third of their electoral lists to women candidates for national and regional elections, female representation in the National Assembly had increased from 18.5 per cent in 1992 to 32 per cent in 2012, she said, noting that Guyana ranked twenty-fifth out of 189 countries in terms of the proportion of women in Parliament.
She went on to stress, however, that, while women held one third of Cabinet-level posts, there was room for greater representation of women on management boards and service commissions, as well as in the labour movement and the business sector. Since its inception two years ago, the Women and Gender Equality Commission, which reported directly to the National Assembly, had focused on sensitizing the public and specifically women’s organizations to gender issues and to the Commission’s mandate.
The Government had made it a national priority to tackle the endemic culture of violence and widespread gender-based violence, she said. The “Stamp it Out!” campaign, launched in 2008 to sensitize communities in all 10 administrative regions to gender-based violence, with a particular focus on sexual violence, had paved the way for enactment of the 2010 Sexual Offences Act, which had introduced new offences, severe penalties, mandatory counselling for victims and perpetrators, and an integrated, multi-stakeholder approach to addressing violence. It had also expedited the formal judicial process for trying such cases and set up “safe zones” where victims could seek help and protection.
Additionally, in 2010, former President Bharrat Jagdeo had involved 600 religious leaders and activists in areas with high rates of domestic and sexual violence in a massive sensitization and training programme, she continued. In 2011, the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security had set up a Men’s Affairs Bureau, which advocated against violence and in favour of responsible male behaviour and parenthood. The “It’s Our Problem, Let’s Solve it!” campaign would comprise community-led discussions in 17 targeted communities from July to November, she said. The ultimate objective was to create a revised national action plan to end and prevent domestic violence, as well as a comprehensive communications strategy and a monitoring and evaluation framework. A family court to address such cases would become operational in the second half of 2012. The 2010 Persons with Disabilities Act accorded protection to disabled women.
Since the lack of timely, accurate data made it difficult to assess efforts to advance women’s rights, the Government had begun in 2010 to strengthen its national monitoring and evaluation systems, beginning first with the health and education sectors, and moving on to the social services and housing sectors. “Some of the challenges which remain are the prejudices, ingrained cultural barriers and male attitudes in our society which are not easily dislodged,” she said. “The Government of Guyana remains unswerving in its commitment to honour its obligations under the Convention, and will expend every effort with available resources — human, financial and technical — to ensure that we continue to make progress for all our people, especially our women and children.”
Experts’ Questions and Comments
PRAMILA PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, opened the question-and-answer session by commending the progress made in Guyana, including radical changes to the Constitution and human rights guarantees. She asked how the Government was targeting indigenous people to inform them about the new laws.
VICTORIA POPESCU, expert from Romania, requested information on measures taken to facilitate women’s access to justice, particularly in rural areas and the hinterland. What complaint mechanisms were available to women? Finally, she said the Committee had learned from various sources that the Ombudsman’s office was not functioning.
VIOLET TSISIGA AWORI, expert from Kenya, said the Convention was not invoked in court judgements, and asked whether judicial reforms were progressing slowly owing to a lack of financial and technical resources.
Ms. MANICKCHAND, Minister for Education, responded by stating that the Government was doing its best to ensure proper implementation of the Convention’s articles. While it was difficult, and even clumsy, for the judiciary to invoke the Convention in its judgements, the treaty was well reflected in domestic legislation. Noting that a law by itself would not change society, she said it was a beginning nevertheless. For instance, the law on sexual offences had been widely publicized throughout the country, but cultural barriers had prevented many victims from pressing charges against loved ones and family members.
Regarding women’s access to justice, she said that 6 of Guyana’s 10 regions had legal aid services, which had previously only been available in Georgetown, the capital. The country’s topography made it challenging to provide access in all the regions, she said, pointing out that most of the regions had courts with judges, and that some of them sat daily while others sat only weekly. That was necessary for financial reasons, she said. Sadly, Guyana’s legal system faced many challenges due to a lack of resources, which caused substantial delays in taking legal decisions.
She said the President was committed to appointing a new Ombudsman shortly.
Experts’ Questions and Comments
PATRICIA SCHULZ, expert from Switzerland, asked about the protection of “LBTs” (lesbian, bisexual and transgender people), noting that the Convention prohibited all forms of discrimination against women, including LBTs. The Committee had received information about widespread discrimination against LBTs in education and other areas by private actors, as well as the State. What concrete measures were being undertaken to sensitize the public and create a climate respectful of LBT rights? Were there plans to modify school curricula in order to create a positive climate, and did Guyana plan to repeal all discriminatory laws against LBTs?
DUBRAVKA ŠIMONOVIĆ, expert from Croatia, requested additional information about incorporation of the Convention into the national Constitution, noting that, according to Parliament’s website, the paragraph on article 154 A1 stipulated that it was subject to limitations, and it was, therefore, not clear whether the Convention was directly applicable in Guyana.
Ms. SCHULZ, expert from Switzerland, asked which agency was responsible for implementing the Convention; was it the Ministry of Human Resources? What was the relationship between that Ministry and the Gender and Equality Commission?
Ms. POPESCU, Committee Vice-Chairperson and expert from Romania, repeated her question about translation and dissemination of the Convention, also requesting the delegation to indicate the number of complaints made to the Gender and Equality Commission.
Ms. PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, asked the delegation to clarify whether legal aid was provided by the State or through legal clinics run by non-governmental organizations.
SILVIA PIMENTEL, Committee Chairperson and expert from Brazil, asked whether international human rights law was part of the curriculum in the faculty of law.
Ms. MANICKCHAND stated that the Gender and Equality Commission had not forwarded any formal complaints even though it had the mandate to do so. That was because it had not yet established its own protocols for forwarding complaints.
Regarding dissemination of the Convention, she said it could not honestly be said that, in the last five years, Guyana had expended efforts to disseminate it. However, the local laws established by the Government emphasized the terms of Convention. Every time the Government made a law for women, there was a massive campaign to educate the public, she said. Why was that law necessary, what mischief would it undo, and what other countries had similar laws?
Regarding legal aid, the Guyana Legal Aid Clinic was still run by a non-governmental organization (“NGO”), but the Government provided the entire sum they needed to function. Therefore, legal aid in Guyana was State-funded but NGO-run.
As for those responsible for implementing the Convention, every single State actor was beholden to implement its articles since the Convention was part of the Constitution, she said. In practical terms, the Women’s Affairs Bureau had been driving implementation of the Convention, holding workshops and seminars on the laws. Regarding the relationship between the Ministry and the Gender Commission, she said they enjoyed “a healthy relationship”.
Turning to the subject of limitations on implementation of the Convention, she said it would serve Guyana’s people well and that was why it was enshrined in the Constitution. If articles of the Constitution were breached, there could be big charges against the State. Therefore, the National Constitutional Commission had sought to provide two exceptions to the Convention’s implementation: Guyana would implement it as far as its resources would make that possible, and there would also be consideration of the socio-cultural environment. So the Convention was enshrined in the Constitution but subject to those limitations.
For instance, the Constitution said that “every girl child is entitled to an education”, she said. While that was noble, if it had been something that Guyana would have had to comply with in 1979, the country would have been in big trouble. In 1992, it had had one school serving its hinterland regions. The country had seen poverty much reduced since then, so it came down to what Guyana could afford to do, and in more real terms, what its people would allow the Government to do. That also applied to LBT issues, she stated. While refuting the contention that discrimination against “LGBTs” (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) was widespread, she conceded that the LGBT community was not readily welcomed by the populace.
While the law did not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, the people of Guyana had rejected the possibility of a specific law that clearly prohibited discrimination against LGBT people, she continued, noting that the Government was consulting the people once again on that subject.
Regarding the legal curriculum, she said that a Guyanese law student had the option of doing the degree locally or regionally at the level of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Guyana did not have any input in the regional law school’s curriculum, but human rights courses were done at the degree level.
Experts’ Questions and Comments
NICOLE AMELINE, expert from France, asked whether each public policy included an approach to women’s issues, and whether Guyana could count on continued external aid to fund projects over the long term.
NAELA MOHAMED GABR, expert from Egypt, asked about inter-agency coordination among Government mechanisms to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and implement the Convention. Was there a national action plan to ensure gender equality, and were the root causes of trafficking in women being addressed?
ZOU XIAOQIAO, expert from China, asked the delegation to elaborate on the activities of the Men’s Affairs Bureau, which worked with male victims of domestic violence. What percentage of victims of sexual violence were men? Were there shelters for them?
ISMAT JAHAN, expert from Bangladesh, asked about programmes for providing reproductive health services for prostitutes, as well as job training and services for those seeking to leave the sex trade.
Ms. WEBSTER said that, while the federal budget was not directly structured towards gender mainstreaming, fully 25 per cent of it was earmarked for social services directed at women, children and vulnerable groups. While Guyana had benefitted from some donor support, overall external aid was shrinking, and the Government was making every effort to ensure the compilation and digitalization of data directed specifically at women’s issues.
Indeed, Guyana had legislation aimed at combating trafficking in persons, she continued, noting that her ministry focused on providing psychosocial, medical and economic support, as well as job training to victims while helping them reintegrate into society. The overall aim was to reduce poverty among victims of trafficking and vulnerable segments of society, she said, citing a Government programme to aid single mothers, provide skills training for youth, and the “hinterlands” programme aimed at reducing poverty, especially in Amerindian communities. The 2005 Trafficking in Persons Act was stringently enforced, but as Guyana was a small country, few cases were presented for prosecution.
Regarding inter-agency coordination, she said the Women’s Affairs Bureau worked in earnest to implement and coordinate programmes that supported implementation of policies in line with the Convention. Federally budgeted resources for the Bureau had increased. In addition, the chairpersons of all women’s rights bodies in the country served on the Human Rights Commission.
Another delegate said that, during the national “Stamp it Out!” campaign, men had complained that their problems concerning domestic sexual violence were not being addressed. As a result, the Government had decided to establish the Men’s Affairs Bureau as a forum for men to voice their concerns. There were probably more male victims of violence than generally believed, although their numbers were not as great as those of female victims. Regarding Government programmes for prostitutes, she said not many had come forward to seek assistance.
Experts’ Questions and Comments
OLINDA BAREIRO-BOBADILLA, expert from Paraguay, applauded Guyana’s having achieved 30 per cent female representation in Parliament, but asked whether it had increased at the local level. Were indigenous women politically active? What support was provided to non-governmental organizations and unions?
Ms. MANIKCHAND replied that the Government often worked in partnership with non-governmental organizations, even those critical of the Government. “Help and Shelter”, an organization that catered to women victims of violence or trafficking, was completely funded by the State, she said, adding that women’s branches of various political parties were supported by their parent structures, as well as the National Assembly. The Guyana Legal Clinic was fully funded by the State, she said, adding that unions were active and the Constitution protected and guaranteed the right to join and participate in them.
As for indigenous women’s participation in elections, she said that recently, for the first time, a woman had been elected to head the body consisting of all tribe captains. There were presently five indigenous Amerindian women across the parliamentary divide, she said, pointing out that the face of Guyana — the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the first female to hold that position — was Amerindian.
Experts’ Questions and Comments
BARBARA EVELYN BAILEY, expert from Jamaica, said the absence of disaggregated data posed a serious problem for understanding the situation of girls in the education system. The Committee needed data based not only on sex, but also location. Also, no data had been provided on dropout rates, she noted, asking whether adolescent pregnancy was a factor. If so, what measures were being taken to encourage re-entry into school? The report also lacked information on curriculum and sex stereotyping in education.
Ms. PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, raised the question of occupational segregation in employment, asking how the Government was addressing horizontally segregated job markets that excluded women from certain jobs. Experiences from other countries showed that structural changes were necessary for women to participate fully in the job market. What targeted programmes were in place for the advancement of women in the labour force? The Committee had often seen a connection between job segregation and the wage gap between genders. Further, the report contained no information on women in the informal economy, such as workers without contracts, day labourers, temporary agency workers, part-time workers and employees of informal enterprises.
ZOHRA RASEKH, Committee Vice-Chairperson and expert from Afghanistan, said the report contained contradictory information on women’s access to health care. Parts of it talked about the high quality of health care and full access for all women throughout their respective lifespans, but elsewhere it mentioned a lack of resources and quality. Alternative sources had stated that the Government health-care system was low in capacity, funding and quality, while high-quality health care seemed to be available only to those who could afford it. How did corruption in the health-care system affect the delivery of services? The report also made no mention of abortion, she noted. While it was legal in Guyana, safe abortion services were not provided, which had resulted in a high maternal mortality rate. What specific programmes were in operation to reduce that?
Ms. MANIKCHAND began her response by stating that she was “uncomfortable with the repeated references to alternative sources”. Publicly available information often contradicted alternative sources, she said, stressing that a higher standard of research would be appreciated. Guyana acknowledged that its data collection was problematic, but a lot of effort had gone into fulfilling the country’s reporting responsibilities, she said, assuring the Committee that the data would be “up to scratch” by the time of the next report.
While Guyana had attained universal primary education, it was still working on universal secondary education. It was not possible for a developing country to build schools in every community and, instead, the plan was to build schools and dormitories for geographical regions, she said. It was also “absolutely inaccurate” that more girls than boys dropped out of school. Regarding pregnancy dropouts, Guyana was studying the experience of Jamaica in dealing with that issue.
Turning to health care, she stated that most hospitals were public and the health care they provided was completely free. There were six private hospitals and they were all on the coast, serving only coastal populations. As for abortion, Guyana had no data to suggest that the high maternal mortality rate resulted from that practice. Recently, there had been one reported death from an unsafe abortion and that had been in a private clinic. While it would be naïve to imagine that some health-care service providers did not ask for money to deliver services that the Government intended to be free, there was no evidence that corruption was endemic to Guyana’s health-care system.
She went on to state that, due to the geography of the hinterland, it was difficult to provide health-care services there. Though the hinterlands constituted a large area of Guyana, they housed only 5 per cent of the population. Refuting the notion that high-quality health care was available only to those who could afford it she said most of the country was served very well by a public health-care system. But it was also the nature of health care that some failures would occur. If one went to a hospital to have an appendix removed and the operation was successful, it was not celebrated, she noted. But dying on the table would make the front page of the newspaper.
Ms. WEBSTER, responding to questions about women’s access to decent work and stereotyping in certain professions, said the Ministry of Labour was compiling statistical data on women in the workforce. She cited programmes geared towards helping women’s gain entry into welding, carpentry, information and communications technology, jobs promoting the green economy and other fields. Through human and social development, the Ministry hoped to have the funding to service women and help those in hinterland communities improve their livelihoods. A Ministry of Labour committee reviewed employee practices for discrimination specifically, she said, adding that there was no collective agreement between employers and unions that discriminated between men and women in terms of wage-setting. The national insurance scheme provided pensions for women, she said.
Experts’ Questions and Comments
Ms. AMELINE, expert from France, asked what could be done to prevent the emigration of many Guyanese nurses to the United States and elsewhere in search of higher-paying jobs.
Ms. RASEKH, expert from Afghanistan, said the information that the delegation had refuted on health was derived from credible United Nations sources. While the delegation’s own report pointed to strides in health care, it also noted short-term remedies, such as the importation of obstetricians to offset the dearth of such health-care professionals. But that was not a long-term solution, she cautioned, asking what Government services provided women with access to counselling and psychiatric support.
SOLEDAD MURILLO DE LA VEGA, expert from Spain, asked about efforts to end corporal punishment, to enable banks to provide loans for women-run businesses, and to prevent disease during natural disasters.
Ms. MANICKCHAND agreed that the Government could do more to maintain and bind nurses trained in Guyana to stay in the country. However, Guyana could never match the salaries offered in the industrialized world. It did have difficulty in providing the same level of health care in the hinterlands as in urban areas. Guyana was offering health-care services to the best of its ability, but it had limited technical and personnel capacity to offer a full range. There were more than 900 medical students, thanks to an educational arrangement with Cuba that would staff Guyana with more obstetricians and gynaecologists. While Government and civil society social workers and counsellors offered psychosocial counselling, more psychiatrists were needed.
Describing corporal punishment in schools as “a very sensitive issue”, she said three Government consultations had been held on that subject thus far. While education on sex, health and family life education was provided in schools, it did not extend nationwide.
Ms. WEBSTER said bank interest rates had dropped from a high of more than 30 per cent to affordable rates, while microcredit loans were offered to women at interest rates of 6 per cent.
Experts’ Questions and Comments
Ms. BAILEY, expert from Jamaica, asked about the percentage of loans granted to women, the default rate for women, whether female loan recipients could sustain their businesses, whether training for microenterprise business had a gender-specific focus, and whether single, childless women qualified for house lots on the same footing as married mothers.
Ms. JAHAN, expert from Bangladesh, asked why there were more women in urban areas than men, what percentage of the national budget was earmarked for rural areas, whether Guyana’s poverty reduction strategy paper was gender-sensitive and how rural women in particular would benefit from it. She also asked how land ownership was governed in rural areas and whether gender concerns were being mainstreamed into disaster risk management strategies. She expressed disappointment that rural court systems did not seem adequately to address the concerns of rural women.
Ms. AWORI, expert from Kenya, asked if new legislation was protecting girls from child marriage.
Ms. WEBSTER, responding on the question of natural disasters, said that since 2005, the Government, in collaboration with donors, had been addressing the rehabilitation of drainage and infrastructure, as well as the restoration of livelihoods. The plan would ensure that adequate care was taken of women.
Regarding access to loans, she stated that, of the 864 women who had gained access, more than 100 had multiple loans. Many women had repaid their loans and received more loans to expand their businesses, she said, adding that Guyana was making good progress in microcredit and would continue to work with banks to ensure that continued. As for women’s access to housing, the Ministry of Housing had embarked upon an initiative to provide more houses for low-income families, she said, adding that many of the beneficiaries would be female single parents. Concerning pensions, all women were eligible to receive old-age pensions provided by the Government once they reached the age of 65. However, those who had not contributed to the national insurance scheme could not access benefits under that scheme.
Ms. MANICKCHAND, responding to the question about discrimination against single women in housing, said that when the Government had begun distributing housing lots, hundreds of thousands of people and thousands of families had been in need of a place to live. Therefore, housing lots had been given on a needs basis, and the housing needs of those with 10 children had been deemed to be higher than those of a single person. At the moment, demand for housing had decreased, so single women and female single parents were also receiving housing support, she said.
Regarding child marriage and the age of consent, she said those were two separate issues. The age of consent had previously been very low at 13 years of age, but after widespread consultations, it had been raised to 16. Between 16 and 18, a child could marry with adult consent, but parental consent was not necessary after 18.
Ms. WEBSTER concluded by reaffirming that her country was committed to eliminating discrimination against women in all regards. Working in collaboration with civil society, donors, religious organizations, and non-governmental organizations, Guyana would continue to undertake steps and measures to ensure that it was compliant with the Convention.
Ms. PIMENTEL, Committee Chairperson and expert from Brazil, thanked the members of the delegation and encouraged them to work towards “a more comprehensive implementation” of the Convention. She also acknowledged the work of Desirée Patricia Bernard, a former expert member from Guyana who had been a “respected force” on the Committee.
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