Guyana Equality Forum Hosts “Orange Walk” to Close 16 Days of Activism on Gender Violence

Last Saturday, December 10, Human Rights Day, the Guyana Equality Forum (GEF) hosted its “Orange” Walk to commemorate Human Rights Day 2016 and close the 16 Days of Activism Campaign, which is held annually to galvanize action to end gender-based violence.
SASOD’s Joel Simpson led the marchers as they chanted “Equal Rights! Equal Love! Equal People!” and “Break the Silence, End Gender-Based Violence.”
Participants led by SASOD's Joel Simpson walking down Camp Street
At the end of the walk, brief remarks were shared by Minister of Social Protection, Volda Lawrence and keynote speaker Dr. Dawn Stewart. Dr. Stewart is the civil society representative to Guyana’s Global Fund Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) and founder and Chief Executive Officer of CPIC’s Monique’s Caring Hands - a leading, local grassroots women's rights group.
Dr. Stewart commenced her remarks by expressing, “It is one of the most pervasive violations of human rights in the world, one of the least prosecuted crimes, and one of the greatest threats to lasting peace and development. I am talking about violence against women and children. I am honoured to be here, at your request, to address this urgent matter as we join together to advance human rights, and the common values of humanity.” Dr. Stewart noted that we live in a society where gender stereotypes, everyday sexism and rape culture are commonplace; and voiced that violence against women must receive the attention it needs.  “Violence against women and girls is rooted in gender-based discrimination and social norms and gender stereotypes that perpetuate such violence.  The best way to end violence against women and girls is to prevent it from happening in the first place by addressing its root and structural causes,” Dr. Stewart said. She concluded by emphasizing   that, “prevention should start early in life, by educating and working with young boys and girls, promoting respectful relationships and gender equality. Working with youth is a “best bet” for faster, sustained progress on preventing and eradicating gender-based violence. While public policies and interventions often overlook this stage of life, it is a critical time when values and norms around gender equality are forged.”
Dr. Dawn Stewart delivering the keynote address
Minister Lawrence, in brief closing remarks, thanked the Guyana Equality Forum for organising such an initiative geared towards raising awareness to end gender-based violence and observing Human Rights Days. She also reiterated her Ministry’s commitment to working with civil society oragnisations and other partners to eliminate gender-based violence in Guyana.
Minister of Social Protection, Volda Lawrence sharing closing remarks at the Walk
Ms. Mikiko Tanaka, United Nations Resident Coordinator; Dr. Martin Oditt, UNAIDS Country Director; Amanda Cauldwell, US Embassy’s Public Affairs Officer; Akilah Dorris, Manager of the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Policy Unit at the Ministry of Social Protection; along with other representatives from the Ministry of Social Protection, various civil society organisations and public-spirited citizens also participated in the Walk.
In closing, SASOD’ Advocacy and Communications Officer Schemel Patrick on behalf of the Guyana Equality Forum (GEF) extended heartfelt gratitude to all the marchers who took part in the Orange Walk. Patrick also thanked Pegasus Hotel – Guyana, Guyana Bank for Trade & Industry (GBTI), E-Networks and the Ministry of Social Protection for their kind contributions to the Walk and the Guyana Police Force officers who escorted the marchers safely through the city traffic.