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Recently, my attention was drawn to the atrocities committed against African women in Mocha, Guyana. Outraged by the violence and abuse they faced, I sought to understand the cultural norms and beliefs that may have contributed to such behavior. It is unacceptable that any woman, regardless of ethnicity, would be subjected to public abuse in this manner and it is inconceivable that an East Indian woman would ever be targeted for such abuse. The Mocha situation is a crime against humanity and demands immediate action from those who stand for justice and human rights. The world must not remain silent and allow this injustice to go undocumented for the sake of future accountability.
In Guyana, discussing public issues is a challenging task as it often involves political undertones. However, an image of an Afro-Guyanese woman from Mocha being forced to the ground, handcuffed, and abused by Afro-Guyanese individuals drew attention to the issue of trauma faced by Black women in the country. This traumatic display of abuse by individuals who also appeared to be in pain highlights the impact of trauma experienced by Black women in Guyana. Black women in Mocha faced loss of businesses, homes, and physical abuse, while also being blamed for their own mistreatment by government supporters.
In Guyana, cultural norms and beliefs may have contributed to this behavior, and it is crucial that we understand these factors in order to address them effectively. The traumatic display of abuse also raises questions about the impact of trauma experienced by Black women in Guyana. Despite their significant contributions to society as teachers, business owners, security workers, and more, Afro-Guyanese women are often unprotected, unconsidered, and under-valued in society. Additionally, the pressure to remain strong and self-reliant can be overwhelming for Black women who must also, on a daily basis, often create a healthy mental space for themselves in government workplaces controlled by many reportedly oppressive, unprofessional and unqualified political operatives.
There are also a few reported cases where Black women in ‘high positions’ of government feel compelled to support the government’s actions, even if it means supporting the abuse of their own people. There are also many Afro Guyanese youth who when thinking about the future believe that acquiescing to an abusive regime is the only way to survive. Society must show them a better way, we must not allow these behaviors to become normalized.
As a mental health professional, I cannot stress enough the vital role that Black women play in our lives as mothers, aunts, sisters, teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, role models, and friends. We are all interdependent and must prioritize their well-being in order to create a better society. Unfortunately, Black women often face significant challenges and barriers, and are required to exhibit remarkable resilience despite limited support systems. It is imperative that society recognizes their experiences and provides the care and support they deserve.
I am also aware of the research indicating the impact of cultural stereotypes, such as the “Strong Black Woman,” on Black women’s willingness to seek help for traumatic events. This stereotype, which includes traits such as emotional invulnerability, self-reliance, and caretaking, can perpetuate a harmful narrative that deters Black women from seeking the support they need to heal from trauma. It is therefore essential to address the systemic issues that contribute to the oppression of Black women in Guyana and globally, and to create a supportive environment that enables them to heal and build resilience. This requires a nuanced approach that acknowledges and challenges cultural stereotypes while also promoting help-seeking behaviors and providing access to resources and support. By doing so, we can help to ensure that Black women receive the care and attention they need to thrive.