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On May 14, Guyana observed Mother’s Day. Our country is one of more than 40 territories that has a special, nationally recognised day on which we honour and pay homage to mothers specifically, and women generally. On that day, the importance of the role of the woman in the family is acknowledged and emphasised. And considering the unique nature of that role, it is fitting that such recognition be given to it.
Unfortunately, while individual families may give much recognition to women, those in the corridors of political power do not do that. In fact, women are too often abused, denegrated, and insulted by the made-dominated power-system in Guyana.
In the context of this article, the word “role” refers to the actions or activities assigned to, required, or expected of a woman within a family. One would agree that a woman’s role may be one of the most difficult and complex assignments with which a person may be tasked.
One may correctly say, too, that a woman’s role is in fact, many different and diverse roles. Let us examine a few of those roles.
A woman’s role starts from the moment that she becomes pregnant and continues through the process of maintaining a human life for some nine months, and eventually giving birth to the child with the risk, at any time, of losing her life.
It must be underscored, that childbearing is a uniquely female undertaking. Further, it is essential to the continuity of the species. Therefore, without this activity – which only a woman can carry out – the human race could not exist.
Whether she is in a traditional family, an extended family, a single parent household, or otherwise, a woman may need to be the family manager.
This role is necessarily complicated considering the numerous dealings and decisions she must handle in the household. She must not only maintain the physical aspects of her family’s day to day life, but also the intangible elements such as creating and maintaining a healthy environment for her husband, children and any other people who may be part of the home. That healthy environment includes one that fosters both physical and mental wellbeing.
Every good woman and mother is a teacher. She must be able to be the teacher for her children. Women must be able to educate their children appropriately by being good role models. They are required, too, to be able to effectively communicate their values and expectations to her children.
The demands of this role may truly be appreciated if we think about the fact that professional teachers spend years to learn and hone their craft. Yet, the average woman has to teach herself how to do it.
In Guyana – as is the case in the majority of cultures worldwide – the woman is the chef in her family. This aspect of her responsibility involves learning about how to keep her family fed and well nourished. Additionally, the woman of the house is usually the hostess; she is the person who will cook for visitors including her husband’s guests.
Consider the demanding and tough responsibilities that a professional nurse must endure. And think about how that role is usually taken by the woman of the house. And think about the fact that her “working shift” never ends; she is on duty 24/7. She has to monitor what her family eats, change the diapers of her baby, attend to the toddler’s small cuts and bruises, remove the splinters, and be vigilant for any sign of serious illness in her family that may require professional medical care. And she often must monitor the health of the man of the house because many men have a macho attitude and refuse to adequately take care of themselves.
The woman is usually required to help to manage and control her family’s financial situation. In some families, she may be the breadwinner as well as the sole financial controller. The elements that must be managed range from the money spent for basic needs such as food, bills, lunch- money for the children, transportation costs, recreational plans, and also savings.
It is clear that being a woman in Guyana is challenging. It is equally evident that every aspect of the role is both physically and mentally demanding. Yet, the woman must competently fulfil each one if she is to achieve the desired outcome: a happy, healthy, family, and well-adjusted children.
The fact that the woman of the family plays a pivotal role in the development of the family unit must be better recognised by people in authority. They must acknowledge that the family is the basic unit upon which communities are built, and is the foundation on which society rests. People in positions of political power – particularly men – must refrain from attacking and belittling women from the political podium. Apparently, some of those men may have forgotten who brought them into the world.