Red Thread and Mother's March

Trip Start Oct 30, 2010
Trip End Aug 27, 2011

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Flag of Guyana  ,
Sunday, April 10, 2011

It is Sunday, and earlier as I was talking to Nicola I mentioned a conversation I had with her "the other day" which I felt to be two or three days ago, but she quickly brought to my attention that the conversation I was referring to occurred before last weekend.  This week has flown by faster than any other already fast moving week I have had since arriving here, and it is because I have been working or engaging in some activity from sunrise to sunset. At one point in the week I also found out that I had been misinformed regarding my place within the Master's program at York, and that in fact I am only on the waiting list, so that kept me occupied as well in terms of what my next steps would be (I had just let another offer from Ottawa fall through two days before, so it was a little bit of an unpleasant surprise). Luckily despite my lack of interest in religion, I do to some extent believe in fate. So, I feel as though I planted a seed but it is up to the universe as to which direction it will grow (and I have felt that way since I even decided I wanted to go back to school).

Anyway, on Monday Red Thread held a picket in front of the Police Commissioners office to protest the neglect on the part of the police in upholding the laws protecting women from domestic violence.   Every month in Guyana, a woman dies at the hands of her abuser, we hear about gruesome acts of violence against women daily, and many violent acts are not even reported. Despite the existence of a law which deems domestic violence as a criminal offense, police are doing nothing about it in terms of both responding to emergency calls or even charging perpetrators once they have been apprehended. The chain of command is more like the chain of corruption and thus too often, justice isn't being served.

This picket was not only different in content and objective from the our Mother's March on March 19th, it was also politically different in that we were targeting a specific organization (the Police) as more or less accomplices to these crimes. Because of this picket's more contentious nature,  Leeann and I were not allowed to picket for fear of unwanted tensions that could potentially see us deported out of the country (something that had never occurred to me in my wildest dreams since it is within the constitution to peacefully protest. But hey..  if opponents of political parties are currently being kicked out of rallies in Canada of all places, I guess anything can happen). I guess I have been living under a false sense of security for far too long, and am learning day by day that I must not take my rights for granted. 

True to their fears, the picket of 10-15 people caused the police to pull out all the stops -questioning the protesters, forcing them to move further down the road, creating a blockade to prevent cars from coming to see what was happening, and even executing a police drill directly in front of our protesters... coincidence? I don't think so.... it looked like police intimidation to me (by the way, I was there taking pictures on the other side of the road, I just wasn't part of picket itself). Overall I think the picket was successful because it caused such a stir and also garnered the attention of numerous media outlets. After an hour or so everyone peacefully disbanded and we were on our way back to Red Thread to work on other projects coming up that week,,, i.e. a follow up meeting to the March 19th Mother's March, and a Youth Network fundraiser that was to happen over the weekend.

  Once we returned, Pere, Leeann, Esther and I delved head first into revamping the downstairs library and classroom for both the upcoming fundraiser and to spruce the place up for the children.  Our library looked more like a storage unit because of the repairs Red Thread had been doing over the course of the last few months, so we had to do a real cleanup.  We simultaneously discovered a few pens and pencils that we could be using for the literacy program, created some visual aids and Pere and Leeann purchased some maps and sciencey posters to put up. It all sounds very easy, but with a lot of heavy lifting and clearing to do and only few resources for making the place look more conducive to learning, it took us the whole afternoon and the next day. 

On Wednesday three women from the Guyana Book Foundation (the organization which donated the books, tables and chairs at the Red Thread library)  came to visit to check out our Literacy Program and how the library was looking, so our efforts went to good use. Pere and I also went out to different organizations to drop off posters for the Movie Weekend fundraiser we were hosting and to distribute donation envelopes. Esther and I also worked on a presentation to educate our movie viewers about the goals of the Youth Empowerment Network, the Literacy program and the Summer Camp we are planning, so they would know where the ticket proceeds are going.

On Thursday we had some last minute admin work to tend to in regards to the follow up meeting for March 19th and the meeting was held at 4:30. The discussion basically centered around plans to hold an actual march to further propel the cause of March 19th.  This time the plan is to walk with placards and distribute information leaflets regarding the connection between low waged work, exploitation, the cycle of violence and childhood delinquency (i.e. to really bring home how everything is connected and that each individual has a role to play)  but during a public holiday. The timing would potentially diffuse the political tension which is often associated with marches because everyone is usually out and about already, so basically we would be marching within the crowds and not creating them. 

The turn out for this meeting was surprisingly high based on Red Thread's modest expectations and each person came with a different but interconnected goal in mind (ending domestic violence,achieving fair wages, fair working hours and pay, improving the state of education and the unsatisfactory health care system etc.). Coming together as a network, makes the underlying cause more achievable and provides a jumping off point for advocacy for all of the other issues.The more social cohesion there is between groups, the more likely it is to initiate meaningful social change.

Before I go any further, I don't think I have actually written much about Red Thread and what they do in terms of Women's empowerment specifically, so I think this is as good a time as any to do so. I recently discovered a brochure about Red Thread and its objectives, so to make things easy I will simply quote it:

Goal: Red Thread's goal is to organize with women, beginning with grassroots women to cross divides and transform our conditions. We provide services to women and children exploited in unequal power relations and simultaneously work to change those relations.

Specific Objectives:

To work for women's unwaged and low-waged caring work to be re-valued and properly remunerated and for equal pay for work of equal value.

To work against all forms of violence, especially against women and children, beginning with domestic violence and violence during racial and/or political conflict, and to support victims of such violence.

To build solidarity among women across divides and to oppose all forms of discrimination including discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, class, dis/ability, age, sexual identity and HIV status.

Wherever possible, to provide individual women and groups of women with the information, skills and other support they need to fight against economic, social and political injustices.

To develop, evaluate and share the lessons of small projects addressing key issues including grassroots women's income generation, women's health and children's literacy.

I guess it remains to be seen how the actual march will turn out, but I will keep you posted on that (it will be coming up in the near future), but it seems as though the interest is definitely there. In the meantime I will update you about our fundraising campaign which kicked off on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and earned us just over US $100.  It is late now however, so I will post about that tomorrow and let you know how you can help and why it is awesome if you can.

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Hana on

Mys, I am sooo proud of you to work along these courageous women towards their empowerment and equal rights.

Jessimesh on

No wonder your weeks are flying by!!..such great work youre doing and you should be so proud.. dont think about york too you said its all fate.

mishkabobala on

Thanks ladies! I will see what happens from here! For now I have accepted to Humber which should also be great!

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