The women of Red Village are among the most vulnerable to poverty on the Essequibo Coast, in Region 2 (Pomeroon-Supenaam), Guyana. Predominantly Amerindian, this community has no health centre, community multipurpose building or properly maintained play field. The pitched streets are built on sandy loam soil which due to erosion, caused undermining and overall deterioration of the roads in the village. The main access road to the community is built with sand and loam, rendering it difficult to navigate during the rainy season, especially for pedestrians.
Based on a house to house survey conducted by GEPAN, the majority of men work as manual and polyvalent labourers, or in the logging and mining sectors. Those who work in the logging and mining sectors are absent from their families for extended periods of time, going up to 4 – 6 months. Families depend on their return for income, or occasionally, on monies they earn sent from the interior via third parties.
Women in Red Village associate their disempowerment with inaccessibility to the job market due to varying factors, notably limited education and a significantly high level of unemployment on the Essequibo Coast.
Drugs and school drop-out
Another problematic identified is the heavy consumption of illicit substances, in particular marijuana, by young men within the community. This is believed to be a direct consequence of the high level of school drop-outs due primarily to the financial difficulties faced by households.
The mothers we interviewed singled out unemployment as the source of all the challenges affecting families. 27% of the women interviewed are employed, as opposed to a remaining 73%.
The consumption of illicit substances (mainly marijuana) as well as alcoholism ranks highly among young people who dropped out of school.
Teenage pregnancy was cited as another consequence of financial difficulties faced in single parent homes. All teenage mothers we surveyed dropped out of school, are unemployed and depend either on their families or their partners for financial support.
70% of the participants interviewed identified school drop-out and unemployment of young men to be a leading cause of the crime rate which plagues the community especially at nightfall.
Women have indicated that it is a challenge to raise their daughters in this environment. Boys are identified as the first victims of school drop-out, and are pressured by the responsibility to provide financial support to their families.
The issue of domestic violence visibly constitutes a taboo within the community, where the women interviewed either declined being victims or in the case of 27%, indicated that they were victims in their previous common law relationship.
The information in this article was extracted from Insight Into Guyana’s Rural Communities – Struggles of the Essequibian Woman, a GEPAN report. To access report click here.