How the Media Saved 3 Women From Discrimination
Derwayne M. Wills
- 19 Posts
- Age 25
The media is called “the Fourth Estate” for a reason. When three women Constables attached to the Georgetown City Constabulary, commonly known as the City Police, were sent home with immediate effect because they became pregnant while on the job, the media went into overdrive.
Immediately coverage of the issue was widespread, and
conversation was sparked across the capital city of Guyana about
the treatment of women in state agencies. I just couldn’t wrap my
finger around the idea that in the 21st century, women were still
being persecuted for being pregnant.
The news was broken by a young
reporter from the daily Stabroek News newspaper, named Thandeka
Percival. Percival was able to obtain the dismissal letters for
the three constables, approved by the Chief Constable, a male.
The next day, the media house I work for picked up the issue, and
so did all the other media houses.
Before you knew it, there were letters to the Editors of the four
daily newspapers in Guyana and people were buzzing with opinions.
While there were some who agreed with the position to fire the
constables, I just couldn’t see the rationale.
I can’t count how many times I reminded myself of that Voltairean
principle that says: ‘I might not agree with what you are saying,
but I will defend, to the death, your right to say it.’
I managed to contact the city’s town clerk and the public
relations officer, who both complained that their phones had been
ringing off the hook regarding the matter. I smiled to myself
because I knew that public pressure and a smidgen of reasoning
would cause the city administration to rethink the position, and
even get rid of the discriminatory policy that prohibits women
having children before their first two years on the job.
The whole situation was a bitter-sweet one for me. The bitter
part was that these three women, one of whom already had five
children, were being ridiculed for their decisions to bring life
into this world. Their faces were the subjects of great debate
and it was unfair to them, since they previously enjoyed a great
deal of privacy in their lives before the incident.
The extremely bitter part was that these women lived challenging lives already, considering their socio-economic backgrounds. And the municipality was about to place them all on the breadline. It was inexcusable!
Rather than addressing the need for comprehensive sex education and family planning in communities and schools, these women were tossed to the curb in a much undignified manner by the state apparatus.
The sweet part of the ordeal was that despite their
socio-economic standing, those women received support from every
faction of the Guyanese society: the Women and Gender Equality
Commission, Women Lawyers Association, Government Ministers, and
even some prominent gender advocates, women, and human rights
Due to the public outcry those women were placed back into their
jobs within two days, a decision that I couldn’t be happier with.
That decision was taken by the Town Clerk of Georgetown who had
legislatively-guaranteed power over the City Constabulary.
Although I was pleased with the Town Clerk’s decision, I
explained to him that his decision does very little to stop that
discriminatory policy from being enforced again. His commitment
was that he would pilot an amendment to the policy that would see
the rights of women protected from those draconian laws that have
been in place in Guyana since the 1800s.
I am convinced that the media has the power to not only spark dissent and shape public opinion, but also to effect social change. I promise to do my part.