Messages from the Resident Coordinator
U N I T E D N A T I O N S
MESSAGE ON UNITED NATIONS DAY 2018
Ms. Mikiko Tanaka
As people all around the world seem increasingly polarised in their differences, Guyana must unite behind the idea of a safer, more cohesive and more sustainable future, with no one left behind. The 2030 Agenda to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) presents an exciting future vision for Guyana - no poverty, zero hunger, access to sanitation and safe drinking water for all Guyanese. These goals and others aim to preserve Guyana’s rich cultural and environmental heritage by promoting a nation whose laws, economy and infrastructure allow everyone to participate equally in them. These goals are ambitious, but they are attainable.
The 17 SDGs are necessarily overlapping and interconnected. SDG 5, Gender Equality, is particularly important for the achievement of the other 16 SDGs. Gender equality is not just about girls and women; it is about fostering a society in which no one is limited by other people’s standards, where every citizen’s strengths are utilized, and where everyone can enjoy the full benefits of free choice and equal opportunities. In Guyana, we are starting from a point in which gender-based violence, social stigmas and unequal access to the job market are important reminders of the task ahead. I’d like to touch on just some of the ways in which the United Nations is putting gender equality at the forefront of all of our work in Guyana.
UN Environment leads the UN Country Team in their role to support the Government in elaborating the Green State Development Strategy, incorporating the SDGs. Gender equality is a cross-cutting principle to ensure a better life for all Guyanese.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has conducted research on gender in the workplace with a view to promote decent work for both women and men. In one area where many women are employed, ILO helped register the Red Thread Domestic Workers’ Cooperative to improve the employment situations for domestic workers throughout Guyana.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is supporting women in indigenous and rural communities in managing community enterprises and being prepared for risks from climate change. Access to early warning systems, access to microfinance and women’s networks are some of the ways in which women’s capacities are being strengthened.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is also placing emphasis on assisting rural women to improve resilience to disasters by introducing agriculture best practices in seven (7) villages where women farmers are most vulnerable. FAO ensures that gender is mainstreamed in all of its programme in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, food and nutrition security and sustainable management of natural resources.
The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) have provided support to mainstream gender in health planning and programming. Work is ongoing with the Ministry of Public Health to ensure universal health for everyone inclusive of access to services and health coverage and healthcare providers trained in responding to Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Violence against Women.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) are all helping to strengthen Health and Family Life Education in schools to reduce teenage pregnancies while making sure that teenage mothers are able to continue studies. UNAIDS helped Guyanese women living with HIV to participate in a Caribbean leadership training to empower women and reduce stigma in HIV programmes.
UNWOMEN is undertaking a prevalence survey of gender-based violence in Guyana that would inform policies and actions to prevent and curb gender-based violence and to support victims and survivors. In so doing, quality gender equality statistics will be made available to meet policy and reporting commitments.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is strengthening national systems to prevent and curb human trafficking, where women and girls are vulnerable targets that require particular attention and protection. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) also works with IOM in protecting women and girls among migrants from exploitation.
These are just a few examples of how gender is being incorporated into all areas of the UN’s work in Guyana, with the aim of assisting the Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana in building a safer, more inclusive and more equitable society. The UN remains committed to working to reduce inequalities in all its forms. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says, and we believe, that we do not give up this work “…because we know by reducing inequality we increase hope and opportunity and peace around the world.”
UNITED NATIONS GUYANA
MESSAGE ON INTERNATIONAL YOUTH DAY
“The hopes of the world rest on young people. Peace, economic dynamism, social justice, tolerance — all this and more, today and tomorrow, depends on tapping into the power of youth.”
António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General
In 1999 the United Nations (UN) General Assembly first designated 12 August as International Youth Day. This day is an annual celebration of the role of youth as essential partners in change. It is used to raise awareness of the challenges and problems facing the world’s youth.
This year’s theme “Safe Spaces for Youth” highlights the need that youth have to come together in spaces where they can freely express themselves. In safe spaces youth can “…engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests, participate in decision making processes and freely express themselves. While there are many types of spaces, safe spaces ensure the dignity and safety of youth. Safe spaces such as civic spaces enable youth to engage in governance issues; public spaces afford youth the opportunity to participate in sports and other leisure activities in the community; digital spaces help youth interact virtually across borders with everyone; and well planned physical spaces can help accommodate the needs of diverse youth especially those vulnerable to marginalization or violence.”
In Guyana, the UN System of agencies, funds, and programmes have been working in partnership with the Government to create “Safe Spaces for Youth” for several years. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has supported the Department of Culture, Youth & Sport to establish a number of Adolescent/Youth Friendly Spaces under an Adolescent/Youth Friendly Community Initiative that allowed young people to interact and to develop key life skills. The spaces are also used to have conversation at the community level on Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) for adolescents and youths. The spaces are managed with the full support of the respective community within which they exist, with oversight by the Department of Culture, Youth & Sport.
Taking into consideration that Guyana has the highest adolescent pregnancy rate in the Caribbean, the UN continues to support the Government to address adolescent sexual and reproductive health through adolescent/youth friendly sexual and reproductive health services. Currently, UNFPA, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) are supporting the Ministry of Public Health to formulate the Adolescent Health Strategy, which will encompass mental health, sexual and reproductive health, oral health, and substance abuse treatment and prevention services. Access to combination HIV prevention services is strongly encouraged by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) for young women to further empower and protect themselves. Reaching and engaging adolescent and youth members of key populations most at risk of HIV is especially critical, since they face additional barriers to services. UNAIDS in collaboration with the Ministries of Public Health and Education has also supported the costing of youth targeted interventions within the HIV and AIDS National Strategic Plan (HIVision2020).
Engaging and responding to the needs of adolescents and youth is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). UNICEF has supported completion of a situation analysis of adolescent mothers in Guyana in order to have the evidence to craft a response to reduce adolescent pregnancy; in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, a reintegration policy for adolescent mothers to have the opportunity to return to school was developed; and an Out of School Study was conducted to garner insight into the children who are most affected and likely to drop out of school. Recognizing that there is need to prevent and respond to violence, abuse and exploitation of children, UNICEF also successfully advocated for the passing of the justice juvenile bill, the establishment of the youth court and the family court.
Youth are consistently identified as being both the primary victims and the primary perpetrators of crime across the Caribbean. There are several risks and underlying factors that are often identified as contributing to high levels of youth crime inclusive of youth unemployment, especially among males, and growing poverty and inequality. High migration rates and family disintegration are primary risk factors associated with youth involvement in gangs, violence and crime. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is implementing the CariSECURE project, which supports strengthening national capacity and systems for increasing the availability and use of standardized and disaggregated crime and violence data on youths. The primary information, through enhanced information systems along with in-depth sectorial analysis, will be used to more effectively identify and measure youth crime and violence trends and resilience factors nationally. The data will be used to better elaborate recommendations for the design and modification of policies, programmes and interventions targeting youth.
Hinterland youth receive special intervention from the UN through UNICEF’s sports and culture for development programme for secondary school children. The hinterland region and all regions also benefit from a Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) in all primary and secondary schools, which was adapted from a life skills-based Sexual Education and HIV curriculum developed by UNESCO, UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO and other partners.
The UN’s work supporting youth also includes programmes for vulnerable girls and young gay men through the provision of life and livelihood skills. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) supports development of livelihood skills by engaging young people in the production, processing and marketing of food in an effort to fight against hunger and food insecurity. To facilitate the enabling environment for young people to improve their food security, improve nutrition, and achieve greater economic independence by gaining decent jobs in the primary sector the FAO in collaboration with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Government is implementing a regional project with a key component being the establishment of a fund to support the undertaking of rural youth livelihoods in market-oriented agricultural and food related activities, including production, small-scale processing, agro-tourism, and input supply and marketing. A total of 78 youth entrepreneurs will receive seed grant funding in amounts ranging between USD 500 and USD 3000. Guyanese rural youths have received the largest number of grants disbursed to any one of the six participating countries under the project.
Globally, the United Nations is guided by the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY), which “…focuses in particular on measures to strengthen national capacities in the field of youth and to increase the quality and quantity of opportunities available to young people for full, effective and constructive participation in society.”
The United Nations in Guyana remains a steadfast partner of the Government and other national institutions to address issues affecting youth in order to elevate their potential as change makers in today’s society. By supporting the creation of safe spaces, the UN is enabling youth to “…effectively contribute to development, including peace and social cohesion.”