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According to the United Nations (UN) women represent half of Guyana’s population, 49.67% compared to 50.33% male, but remain proportionately under-represented in political leadership.
In the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) women are seen as the party’s backbone and comprise 80 percent of the membership.
The UN in calling for women to play a more integral role in politics advises “They are powerful advocates for intergenerational collaboration and accountability towards a more just, sustainable and equal world.”
In Guyana, where efforts are being made to integrate women, but not fast enough to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 of gender equality and empowerment, the late United States Congresswoman, Shirley Chisholm, who shared Guyanese extraction once said “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”
Ms. Annette Ferguson, People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) member, is contesting the post for Chairperson of the Georgetown District. The District’s conference, where principal office bearers will be elected, is scheduled for October 2. She is contesting for the post which is presently held by Member of Parliament (MP) and former Minister of Health, Ms. Volda Lawrence, who is not seeking re-election.
Village Voice posed some questions to the candidate, which are represented below, along with her answers
Q- Why are you running?
A– My decision to run for the position of Chairperson of the Georgetown District, is because I believe there is a need for a new paradigm shift to increase confidence of our support base, by focusing on rebuilding, rebranding the District in preparations for Elections. The party has strong and resilient leaders, and I am cognisant that those contesting candidates are as resolute as I am.
Q- What distinguishes you from the other Candidates?
A- While my colleagues are noble individuals, I believe that my candidature will inspire greater confidence and trust from party supporters.
I am fearless and have the capability, capacity and ability to challenge the People’s Progressive Party/Civic at any and every level.
I have served at various levels of the party’s leadership. I was Region Two campaign manager for the 2020 General and Regional Elections (GRE), 2020 and 2018 Local Government Elections (LGE). The three Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) I played a part in establishing, contested the Elections for the first time and won.
In the 2016 LGE I served as Constituency Manager for Constituency thirteen (East-West Ruimveldt). The APNU+AFC secured victory in both the Proportional Representation (PR) and Constituency seats.
For the 2015 GRE I also served as Constituency Manager for Constituency 13 (East-West Ruimveldt) which the APNU+AFC won. I was part of the 2015 PNCR team in the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Campaign Committee that managed, mobilised, coordinated and organised the major rally which helped the A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) elected to government.
I’d like to make the point that success could not have been possible with the passion, support and commitment of other members of the team and voters, and take this opportunity to once again thank them.
During the Party’s 60th Anniversary I played a significant role in coordinating celebrations, including activities to ensure long standing members were recognised and honoured.
I am presently the Chairperson for the Ruimveldt Transformation PNCR group and has been re-elected to the position several times. At the district level I assist in mobilising resources to enhance the Party’s Office in East Ruimveldt. Nationally, I have served on Congress Committees which include ensuring logistical support (transportation) for outlying communities such as the Hinterland.
During the APNU+AFC government, I served as Minister within the Ministry of Communities with responsibility for Housing (April 2019 to August 2020)- a stint that saw thousands of Guyanese allocated lands. I also served as Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure (May 2015 to April 2019) and during this period several community projects were implemented in the communities such as building of footpath bridges, cleaning, and clearing of canals and installation of streetlights, to name a few, that created economic opportunities and up-liftment for persons.
I have been a Member of Parliament since 2012 and have given spirited representation in the National Assembly to matters affecting my constituency, holding the PPP/C accounting, in government and opposition accountable, and standing alongside my APNU+AFC colleagues fighting for an equitable, better and fairer Guyana for all Guyanese.
Q- If you’re elected, you would be coming immediately after another woman. What should women, who the Party Founder Forbes Burnham said are the backbone of the Party, expect from you in nurturing the Georgetown District, and by extension the party, in the next two years?
A- First, permit me to acknowledge the work done by Cde. Volda Lawrence, MP, the outgoing Chairperson for Georgetown District of the PNCR, who served with distinction over the past years and kept Georgetown strong and solid for the PNCR.
While women are the backbone of the party, we also need to recognise that men do play a pivotal and vital role in the sustainability of the party. Youth also have an important role in the party evident by the fact that many of the senior leaders emerged from the Party’s Youth arm, the Guyana Youth and Student Movement (GYSM).
Approximately 80 % of the Party’s membership comprises women, while twenty percent consists of the male population. When elected, my first order of business is to engage and consult with women across groups in the District, including the Executive of the National Congress of Women (NCW) and men, to ascertain and assess from them what are their needs. When determined, these will be prioritised and implemented.
There will be continuous assessment of programmes by the District leadership to ensure a results-oriented environment. This in my view is the best approach, since with the evolution of time, things have changed drastically. There will also be the development of programmes and projects to help bring awareness to issues and challenges faced by both males and females. This will assist all in knowing their rights and responsibilities and how they can get involved in decision making; whether at the local, regional, and national levels. Providing that the programmes and policies have generated excellent results, then this can be replicated in the broader policies at the level of the Party, which can be done across the regions, then nationally.
Additionally, many women are single parents, and it’s a core constituency that is deserving of more attention. My desire, as Chairperson, is to secure soft grants from financial institutions for them to start businesses of their choice. In my interaction and engagement with members, they have bemoaned the fact that much work should be done at the level of the Georgetown District to create an atmosphere where assistance should be given for economic sustainability for groups. Therefore, this will be included in my plan and vision which I am prepared to unveil publicly.
Q- How would you support the regional and national leadership in positioning the party to retake government?
A- What is foremost on my agenda is that of capacity building and training. This is critical towards the sustainability of the political organisation. Once members are trained continuously, it becomes easy for right suited persons to be placed at the varying levels. With such an approach, we can guarantee the APNU+AFC regains the seat of Government.
For instance, Georgetown District has fifteen constituencies with approximately thirty-five (35) functioning adult groups of the PNCR. Under my leadership, groups will be expanded with a focus on encouraging and ensuring the twinning of adult and youth groups. With such an arrangement, it will allow for increased numbers on the ground, which will serve as an asset to the overarching structure and additional arms of the Party. Once this is achieved it will enhance the presence of the PNCR which will eventually aid in making our political advocacy easier, leading towards the political party being victorious in the 2025 Elections.
I would also work in ensuring regular and consistent outreaches and community meetings in the constituencies. The utilisation of this method will form the basis of information sharing, and keeping the members and community abreast with what is happening at the party level.
There will be engagement through consultations. It is my opinion such an approach would sharpen my focus at Local, Regional and National levels. Thus, I would be a chairperson with an open door policy, including being receptive to recommendations and suggestions from community leaders, religious bodies, NGOs, women, youth NDCs, the business community, trade unions, and all stakeholders in society willing to provide support for the development and enhancement of Georgetown and the people. The utilisation of synergies will also help to position the District towards its preparations for winning elections, whether at the local or national level, or both.
Q- What should party comrades/supporters and society expect from you as Chairperson?
A- Fellow comrades should expect strong and resilient representation as Chairperson. They should expect honesty, fairness, commitment, dedication, transparency and accountability. The society should expect leadership of high representation on issues affecting them. Under my leadership an atmosphere of inclusion will be created, which will include a day for the “Public,” that non-members of the PNCR could visit and present their issues for representation at the level of the Party or nationally. I am ready to get to work from Day One!