In The News

Poor people suffering tremendously from impact of Covid-19

By Red Thread

Dear Editor,

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected people all over the world, some more than others, but we want to focus on what is happening to us in Guyana. We are concerned about  a number of issues affecting poor people in our daily lives in  Guyana and we need answers and clarification from the relevant authorities, including and especially from those who have been elected to represent us.

We remain unclear about what measures have been put in place to deal effectively with this pandemic, but what we do know is that poor people are suffering, especially families with children, people with disabilities and the elderly. Meanwhile the politicians point  fingers and try to score points off each other.

Frontline workers are now in negotiations for improved working conditions, including increased salaries, risk allowance and more personal protective equipment which we know that they deserve. There is no way we can fight this pandemic and other illnesses without them so it is unfair that they should be threatened for protesting for support that they should have received months ago.

They have been working tirelessly, risking their own lives and the lives of their families to save others.

Many of us have lost jobs as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic (domestic workers, bartenders, barbers, hairdressers, to name a few), and have no other sources of income. The Government’s recent announcement of an allocation of $25,000 dollars to be given to every household is a welcome initiative, but we have further questions:

Is this $25,000 dollars a one-off payment, or assistance that will be provided on a weekly or monthly basis (and if so, for how long)?

What is the basis for determining if households qualify for support?

We ask these questions because twenty-five thousand dollars is not adequate to offset the financial disaster facing the poor at this time. This amount can’t even begin to buy food much less pay rent, mortgages and other utility bills. If we break it down, it amounts to $807 – $833 dollars per day in a month of 30 or 31 days.

This is enough for one pack of Natura milk, a loaf of bread and three eggs on any given day.

Meanwhile the Budget includes the purchase of new vehicles for Ministers. It’s hard not to conclude that everything else always takes priority over the well-being of poor people. The problem we continue to have with Governments, irrespective of who is in office, is that poor people are always offered pennies while those who already have much, can expect to receive more. 

Many people are homeless or are on the verge of becoming homeless as a result of not being able to pay their rent (and we recognize that this is a difficult situation for many landlords who also have mortgages to pay). We have seen this play out with the situation of settlers in Success on the East Coast of Demerara. In the face of contradictory government responses to their plight, our position is that  a rank abuse of power was committed by the police who shot settlers with rubber bullets. We are not condoning illegality but at the same time we cannot close our eyes and ears to the fact that people are suffering, and not just in Success.  Many are in desperate need of somewhere to live. Some have said that they applied for house lots since 2011 and some as early as 2008 and are still waiting. We in Red Thread can relate to that, because we have also been waiting for many years. 

Poor people are continuing to lose confidence in the law enforcers of this country. Over the years families are still awaiting justice for the loss of the lives of their loved ones. They are now joined most recently by the loved ones of the three young men of West Coast Berbice, Joel Henry, Isaiah Henry and Haresh Singh. It has now been over one month since they met their gruesome deaths and not one person has been charged for those murders. But when poor people stand up for their rights, they are teargassed, shot with pellets or live rounds, as we have seen in Berbice, Success and most recently at the Lusignan Prison. At the same time, we are not seeing enough attention being paid to the increases in domestic violence, femicides and abuse of children; where is the justice for these victims and survivors?

When it comes to education, schools have been reopened (not physically) and online learning is in effect. However, many children are at a big disadvantage. Many have no access to electronic devices or internet, and this is especially the case for hinterland communities. Some schools provide printouts or work books for their students, which is very thoughtful, but children need guidance to get their work done and in many households, parents are hardly able to work with their children due to the long hours some of them work just to earn a few extra pennies (like security guards), while some parents and guardians complained that they don’t know the work and therefore cannot help their children. How is this being taken into consideration?

In the 2020 budget presentation the de facto Finance Minister promised  that all Guyanese will be afforded a good education, decent work, be able to start their own businesses, raise and provide for a family , own their own homes, live in a safe secure environment and retire with dignity.  He also said the budget “embodied a no -nonsense, no frills, no fluff, people centred, pro-poor, results-oriented approach to launch this nation back on its positive development trajectory”.  But the bottom line is that the reason people are poor and suffering is because we have an economy that does not cater for us. We make up the majority of the population across geography and race and gender, but we are made to feel the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic because of decisions that are made that do not centre the voices of poor people at the decision-making tables.

Yours faithfully,

Wintress White,

Susan Collymore,

Joy Marcus,

Halima Khan,

Vanessa Ross

For Red Thread

In The News

Moving Forward forum hears calls for racism to be addressed

By Stabroek News Staff

Stating that racism needs to be addressed in order for the country to move forward, participants of a virtual speak-out hosted on Friday by Red Thread called for justice for Joel and Isaiah Henry and Haresh Singh, the three teenagers who are believed to have been killed on the basis of their ethnicity.

Joel and Isaiah Henry, both Afro-Guyanese, were found dead about 600 feet from each other in clumps of bushes near a coconut farm last week Sunday. The brutality of the killings, including the mutilation of the teens’ bodies, has fueled suspicions that they were the victims of a hate crime and this led to persons taking to the streets in protest to demand justice. However, the protests turned violent and another teenager, Singh, who is the grandson of the suspects held by police, was killed in what is suspected to have been a retaliatory act.

As a result, the Red Thread group hosted the virtual speak-out, dubbed ‘Moving Forward Better,’ to explore the ways racism in Guyana can be address-ed. Participants included Karen de Souza, Joy Marcus, Susan Collymore, Vanessa Ross, Sherlina Nageer, Andrew Campbell, Laura George, and Delon Moffett.

In The News

Red Thread Speak Out

By Red Thread


Red Thread extends condolences to the families and loved ones of Josh Henry, Isaiah Henry, Haresh Singh, Prettipaul Hargobin, and joins those calling for an end to violence in our beloved Guyana.

We are organising a virtual speak out, Moving Forward Better, to bring Guyanese together to reflect on what living together means and requires, the need to listen, hear and empathise with each other. To disagree without insult and slander, viciousness and bitterness. To care for each other and to demonstrate that in our words and actions.

The virtual speak out will take place on Friday September 11, from 6-7:30 p.m.

It will be streamed live on our Facebook Page

Please join us.

Karen de Souza,
Joy Marcus,
Halima Khan,
Susan Collymore,
Vanessa Ross,
Wintress White,
Sherlina Nageer,
Alissa Trotz,
Nesha Haniff

In The News

Virtual speak-out on Moving Forward Better

By Red Thread

Dear Editor,

Red Thread extends condolences to the families and loved ones of Josh Henry, Isaiah Henry, Haresh Singh, Prettipaul Hargobin, and joins those calling for an end to violence in our beloved Guyana.

We are organising a virtual speak-out, Moving Forward Better, to bring Guyanese together to reflect on what living together means and requires, the need to listen, hear and empathise with each other. To disagree without insult and slander, viciousness and bitterness. To care for each other and to demonstrate that in our words and actions.

The virtual speak-out will take place on Friday September 11, from 6-7:30 p.m.

It will be streamed live on our Facebook Page

Please join us.

Yours faithfully,

Karen de Souza, Joy Marcus, Halima Khan, Susan Collymore, Vanessa Ross, Wintress White, Sherlina Nageer, Alissa Trotz, Nesha Haniff

Summer Camp

2019 Summer Camp

In August 2019, we began this work with a Summer Camp, as a living legacy dedicated to Andaiye’s memory. The summer program drew thirty (30) children from the Georgetown communities surrounding the Red Thread Centre for a week of activities (August 19-25), that included a sports and recreation day at the Malteenoes Sports Club; art classes; steelpan workshops and a day visit at the Buxton community centre; a seawall cleanup and environmental exercise. The camp was made possible through generous in kind and monetary support from individuals and local businesses. 

In The News

The dignified life in Guyana – Respecting women, gays, young people, migrants and keeping the oil in the ground?

By Vidyaratha Kissoon

This article is an edited version of his blogpost that appeared on August 19:

Afternoon of a Sunday which started with a lot of rain and there is a gathering of people to talk about the right to dignified lives in Guyana.  Dignified life far from my mind as I choose a minibus with loud music so as not to be late – those of us who don’t like noise often have to give in to those who believe noise with a deep pounding bass is part of the good life. But I choose my oppression for the short journey.

Gays and the dignified life

The Faculty of Law – University of the West Indies Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP) joined with Red Thread and other organisations to host the conversation “Living Good : the right to dignified lives and just communities” on Sunday August 18, 2019 at Moray House Trust. The constitutional challenge to Guyana’s cross dressing laws provided the background to the discussion. In 2010, transgender citizens, Candacy (Gulliver) McEwan, Isabella (Seyon) Persaud, Pheches (Joseph) Fraser and Angel Clarke with SASOD filed a constitutional challenge to the cross dressing laws in Guyana.

In 2018, the Caribbean Court of Justice struck down the laws, stating “No one should have his or her dignity trampled on, or human rights denied, merely on account of a difference, especially one that poses no threat to public safety or public order.”

The transgender litigants, the ‘gays’, in their quest for justice, have been able to widen the discussion about human rights, and what “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” means for all of us.

Tracy Robinson, one of the lawyers of U-RAP, presented on the case and the connection of the judgement of the CCJ to the dignified life for all. One slide summarised what a dignified life means…

being treated with respect, not as second class citizens or animals

recognising differences among us and out right to choose to lead out own life

addressing the social and economic rights to health, education, decent work among others

ending discrimination, violence and injustice which compromise our life project

Discrimination, violence and injustice

Kobe Juwan Smith is President of the Youth Advocacy Movement of the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association. He asked for a minute to reflect on the lives which have been lost to gender based violence. He called the names of some young women. Men who were supposed to love the women killed them, even after oil was discovered in Guyana. He talked about the access to sexual and reproductive health services for young people.  He spoke about the need to involve men in the discussions to deal with gender based violence. He talked about an interaction with a duty bearer who did not believe that there have been no improvements in women’s experience of violence and abuse. 

Melinda Janki is a lawyer who has been active in protesting Guyana’s poor management of its oil and other natural resources.  She talked about the death penalty first, and reminded the audience that the presence of the death penalty in law is a violation of the right to life. She went on to talk about the risk to the dignified life, with the destruction of the natural heritage and environment through global warming.  She talked about oil, and the potential destruction to the environment for future generations. I learned about “intergenerational equity”, the concept in law in which the current generation has to be responsible for protecting the environment for future generations.

Sondy Elyseeceran is a Haitian migrant who has been living in Guyana since 2015. He has been providing support to other migrants from Haiti. He spoke about the experiences of Haitians in Guyana. Nation states like Guyana have to consider the dignified life for all human beings. He spoke about how the stories triggered the fears of another attack on Haitian migrants like what happened in the Dominican Republic. I listened and thought of LGBT Guyanese who have migrated to other countries, sought asylum in some cases. Guyanese have migrated, some of them commit crimes in other

countries, some are deported. We forget the golden rule – do unto others as we want them to do unto us.

Norma Adrian is a survivor of domestic violence. She is a member of Red Thread and is involved in the work to monitor the police response to domestic violence. She talked about surviving domestic violence and the needs of a survivor. She asked for adequate housing for the women who are trapped in abusive relationships because of lack of housing. She talked about the justice system and the way it oppresses people who are trying to use it. She talked about abusers who are supported by family and friends – the reality that many people encourage abusers by not holding them accountable.

Changing hearts and minds

Candacy (Gulliver) McEwan reflected on the journey since the arrests in February 2009 and the filing of the Constitutional challenge in 2010. She talked about Guyana Trans United and the work they are doing to provide decent work opportunities and access to health care and services for the trans community in Guyana. She noted that changing laws are not enough, that changing hearts and minds is a process as everyday living is far away from court and legal systems.

The elections in Guyana bring out the racism which props up the shaky power structures. The other forms of discrimination and violence are forgotten under the threats of civil war and the energies in winning and losing. The dignified life is forgotten since it seems only the winners will have one by taking revenge on past winners and the losers in the elections. On Facebook, someone posts that they heard again ‘is bess we suffer under we own than suffer under the last one” – choosing the lesser of all evils and not changing anything… like me in the minibus with the loud music and not saying anything, but with the good fortune to be able to get out at the end of the journey.

I come home after the discussion. I talk to one of the Constitutional duty bearers, a young man living in a rural area.  The man has spent more time and mental energy struggling with the other constitutional bearers over the destructive power dynamics than in attending to the duties and advocating for the improvements he wanted to be involved in.

I have stopped telling him to quit, in my mind thinking that it should be possible to step outside of a Constitution and a legal system to advocate for the dignified life – that some law makers like the status quo of discrimination and violence.

Sour on the pine tart

“I like the channa with the sour,” a young visitor told me. In fact, he liked the sour so much that he was having some with the pine tart.

I was like oh no, what, no man, how he could do that to the pine tart…but difference is as natural as breathing, his enjoyment of the pine tart with sour does not affect my enjoyment of pine tart without sour.  And we should be able to live in the same place.

In The News

CJIA sexual harassment scandal… Red Thread lends solidarity to victims with protest

By Kaieteur News Staff

In an effort to bring awareness to sexual harassment in the workplace, members of the Red Thread Association yesterday, staged a protest in front of the Ministry of Social Protection on Brickdam.

The protest was also done to lend support to the alleged victims of the CJIA sexual harassment scandal that has shocked the country.

On June 16 Kaieteur News reported that a worker at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), Timehri, made a complaint to the management of that state-owned entity.
She claimed that a senior official at the airport sexually harassed her when she visited his office.

The worker complained to management and it was only recently after enquires that she was told that the matter was “addressed.”

A few days after that article was published, another former female staffer came forth with her disturbing details of sexual assault and victimization, which she endured at the hands of another top official of the airport.

Just one of the victims have made an official police report, but investigations are currently being conducted into the scandal.

Susan Collymore, one of the members of Red Thread, is calling for other women, and even men to speak out against actions of sexual assault committed against them in the workplace.

She said that she expects “from the protest that the perpetrators are brought before the courts, which would in turn mean justice for those who genuinely deserve it.”
“I think that this act of sexual harassment needs to stop. Employers should come forth and support victims who are harassed,” Collymore added.

The Red Thread member believes that the victims are going through a second phase of harassment by now being out of a job. “She is being victimized and jobless. How will she support her family?”

The woman strongly accepts that sexual harassment only happens because the victims are not considered high in the social class, and so they are perceived as helpless.

“All we can do is hope that policies and laws are implemented in the workplace so that issues like this can desist, and those laws also need to be stringent, not only at the workplace level but even at the enforces of the land.”

In The News

Guyana Red Thread Pickets Labour Department


In The News

Red Thread report finds overwhelming increase in abuse over the years

By Guyana Times Staff

Red Thread report finds overwhelming increase in abuse over the years

There has been a significant increase in the various forms of abuse over the years – as is evident in news reports.
This conclusion was made recently as Red Thread presented its findings from a two-year project at the University of Guyana, Turkeyen Campus. The project targeted Better Hope/Plaisance, Parfaite Harmonie, Anna Regina, Bartica and Lethem among other areas.
Over the 24-month period, close to 6000 persons were engaged during house-to-house visits and community meetings.

According to statistics garnered from a court report, “Physical abuse was mentioned in 34 per cent of the application forms in 2014. In 2017, it was 48 per cent of the cases coded … Emotional and physiological abuse was mentioned in most of the cases. Verbal abuse and name calling were specifically mentioned in 17 per cent of the applications in 2014. Forty per cent in 2017. More than one form of emotional and physiological abuse was mentioned in 17 per cent of the applications in 2014 and 40 per cent of the applications in 2017”.

The Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), based on its study findings, has suggested several measures to be enforced as it seeks to reduce the disappointing situation in the country.

Acting Chief Magistrate Sherdel Marcus-Isaacs, who was on hand as the report was publicly released, noted that one of the important steps that were necessary to decrease the number of abuse cases may very well be the creation of more safe houses for victims and survivors of abuse.

She even recommended more specialised counselling services for children, as she pointed out the shortage of probation and welfare officers to service the courts. “In many instances, there are adjournments, because the probation officer is not ready with the report and that is because that one probation officer is servicing three or four Magistrate’s Courts,” Marcus-Isaacs explained.
Statistics from the project also found that 81 per cent of domestic violence cases were filed by women, 17 per cent by males, and it was unclear who filed the remaining two per cent. On the other hand, when it came to persons subjected to court orders, it found that 83 per cent of men were respondents to the orders and 17 per cent of females.

More specifically, the survey found that between January and May 2018, 333 of the 3067 matters filed in the East Demerara Magisterial District were domestic violence matters; in the Essequibo Magisterial District, 3084 matters were filed with 35 of these being domestic violence matters; in the Georgetown Magisterial District, there were 7972 matters filed with 352 of those domestic violence matters and in Berbice Magisterial District, there were 1947 matters, with 35 domestic violence cases.
The project, launched by Red Thread two years ago, was conceptualised with the intention of changing persons’ attitudes as it relates to domestic violence, to examine the performance of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and courts in dealing with these matters and to draft recommendations for these entities to better develop their capacity.

As a result of the project, 743 victims of domestic and sexual violence were supported.

In The News

Red Thread on a mission to end Domestic Violence

By Kaieteur News Staff

Red Thread on a mission to end Domestic Violence

Red Thread is slowly moving to establish a systematic and holistic approach to addressing domestic violence in Guyana.  The group is currently finalising a report on its two-year project implemented through funding from the US Department of State.

Red Thread Coordinator Karen DeSouza

The project titled “Engaging communities for improved implementation of domestic violence laws” engages residents in five communities to provide leadership and transformative action towards adequately addressing domestic violence.

The aim of the project includes generating research that could drive policy and identify areas for training and technical assistance to improve the implementation of the Domestic Violence (DV) Laws. An integral activity of the project was to assess the efficacy of the police and judicial systems in addressing DV case.

Red Thread has so far assessed, organized and mobilized community monitors in the various communities who have been observing police and court practices as it relates to addressing the social scourge.

Addressing a conference at the Education Lecture Theatre (ELT), University of Guyana Campus on Friday, Red Thread Coordinator, Karen DeSouza, told the gathering, which included a wide cross-section of representatives of stakeholder groups that although the research is in its finalized stage, the main challenges remain to help the citizenry understand their role and how to overcome common attitudes towards addressing cases of domestic violence.

According to De Souza, in the course of training the victim blaming and shaming attitude mentality by members of public particularly those involved in law enforcement was the most common challenge.

She noted that Red Thread is continuing its work with the police and judiciary to develop a more effective approach to Domestic violence.

An important part of the research is monitoring the police and courts; and their response to such cases … And what we found is that one person got used to the fact there were monitors, there were more requests for monitors.
Admitting that addressing domestic violence is a gargantuan task, DeSouza noted that hopefully, the project could be seen as a different mould of work, hopefully, one, which is more sustainable.

“This is the last official activity in the project, even with the germ of an action plan; the police force has been very interested in the criticism, which were made and they are looking at how their operations can improve.

Similarly, the judiciary has shown interest in improving and demonstrating their commitment to enforcing the law and improving the situation of Domestic Violence in Guyana.”
Domestic Violence homicide cases are at an alarming proportion in Guyana. The state of affairs requires a multi-stakeholder response.

A number of governmental and non- governmental organisations have joined efforts to address the issue. Most recently, Suresh Sugrim, a representative of the Humanitarian Mission Inc., an overseas-based charity called on the Government to up the ante in providing safe houses for, which victims of domestic violence can find refuge.

Through the charity, Sugrim has been working in Guyana since 2005, conducted outreaches, particularly in Berbice, where donors build houses for families in need.