I think it’s hard being a Guyanese woman in a society that feels it’s acceptable and more so where it seems to be a social norm to disrespect women on a daily basis. Women work along side men in almost every sector, yet we are constantly being disrespected by the crude words and gestures made towards us as we casually walk down the road. – Raiza Khan
Editor’s Note – Raiza Khan is one of those highly energetic souls who works as hard as she talks and plays. Sometimes it seems like a Raiza-day has more than 24 hours in it. Nothing else explains how this woman fits in all that she manages to do. The following is a summary of Raiza’s responses to a series of questions asked by the More Than Just a Woman Campaign. It is not to be reproduced in part or whole without permission from the Lady Magazine & NGO.
I am Raiza Khan, born and raised in Georgeotown, Guyana. Moved to Toronto, Canada when I was 17 years old to study Social Work at George Brown College. Two years later I graduated with a Diploma in Social Work and shortly after I started my Double Major Honours Degree in Latin American & Caribbean Studies & Psychology at York University, Toronto Canada. I worked within the university and their dormitory system, as as result I have had years of experience in event planning, conflict mediation, informal counseling, sensitivity training, sexual assault training and SafeTALK training (suicide awareness).
These experiences have allowed me to explore many areas of work and volunteering after moving home a year and half ago. I have since been involved in the REDbandaid Foundation as their Manager whilst being the Vice Curator of the Global Shapers Community – Georgetown Hub for the past year. As a Global Shaper I’ve been apart the planning and implementation of capacity building events for our team but also community wide projects, such as the HEADSTART Stationery Drive 2014, Save the Libraries, and my very first proposed project called Mental Health Yourself, which will be commencing in the latter part of the year.
On top of all the amazing work I get to be apart of with the Global Shapers Community-Georgeotown Hub, I just began my first beginners level Samba dance class at the Brazilian Embassy where I’ve been learning Brazilian Portuguese for the past year in the language course they offer.
When I’m not busy with all my extra work, there will always be work-work. I’m currently a Foreign Service Officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I work with a great group of youths and supervisors who are committed to the development of Guyana and the pride and professionalism that comes with representing one’s country.
I think being a Guyanese woman is no different from being a global woman. We all face similar challenges, some more than others, but when I think of Guyanese women the image of a strong, vibrant and cultured woman comes to mind. Images of teachers, politicians, mothers, vendors, shop keepers, bus conductors and lawyers, these are the women I think about when I think of what being a Guyanese woman is.
I think it’s hard being a Guyanese woman in a society that feels it’s acceptable and more so a where it seems to be a social norm to disrespect women on a daily basis. Women work along side men in almost every sector, yet we are constantly being disrespected by the crude words and gestures made towards us as we casually walk down the road. It’s very disappointing and saddening that as we get older, nothing has changed, men will continue to show young men that it’s okay to tell a woman something about her body parts, call her names or even be abusive. And what’s more upsetting is that women have just turned a blind eye and will not say a single thing to protect themselves or more so younger girls who have to be around these kind of foul behaviours. We should as women come together and say no, it’s not okay for you to tell me about my body or call me names, or try to abuse me. Women within communities should be more supportive and protective of their young women within their areas; and be their neighbours keeper.
On contrary, the best thing about being a woman in Guyana is that you have the chance to make a difference where you want to see change happen. I am respected among my peers and I have a voice. Women are represented in every sector as mentioned, it’s just a matter of believing in the power of ourselves and coming together to make a change. I have a voice and can be heard if I need to be, unlike in some other countries around the world. I’m able to dress how I like, walk where I want, go out with friends, be free. The sky is the limit for women of Guyana once they put their minds to it and work for what they truly want. It can be done because we have liberty.
If I could change one thing, I would change the above mentioned area of constant abuse and disrespect felt by many women.