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How the Media Saved 3 Women From Discrimination

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Derwayne M. Wills
Member since April 2, 2015
  • 19 Posts
  • Age 25

© Derwayne Wills

© Derwayne Wills

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 activists.

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.





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