A mother is everything to her child. She is their first teacher, their doctor, their nurse, their chef, their role model and so much more. A mother is a child’s first line of defence and that child knows that no matter what, “mommy will be there.”
It is with the understanding that mothers are their children’s everything, that Immaculata Casimero began tackling motherhood. She incorporated some of what her mother taught her and is today mothering four children.
Casimero comes from humble beginnings in the Indigenous community of Aishalton in South Rupununi and credits her upbringing for the way that she parents her children.
Backtracking to her childhood, the 39-year-old said she was born in the village of Aishalton but spent the first few years of her life out of the community since her father’s work took him elsewhere.
“When I was 5 years old, I returned to Aishalton and went to school here. My childhood was more of the normal community life that we have here in the Indigenous communities. My parents allowed me to farm, bake. I did everything that a normal Indigenous girl would do. I went to fish, look for crabs with my grandmother and so. I did all that you can think about as an Indigenous girl,” she said.
After she sat the Common Entrance Examinations, Casimero was awarded a place at the Central High School in Georgetown. At the age of 12, she left her village and moved to Georgetown to attend secondary school.
Casimero, upon completing her secondary schooling, returned to Region Nine and shortly after moved to Brazil. However, unable to cross the language barrier, she would return home and take up employment with the Guyana Elections Commission.
“I lived in Lethem almost for 12 years where I found my partner and I got my children there and on and off I was (working) with GECOM. I was part of their permanent staff when they opened their office in Lethem. I also worked with the Bureau of Statistics doing census and so on,” she said.
Casimero’s 4 children in their younger daysNow Casimero’s children are 19, 17, 14 and 11 years old.
In 2014, after her mother fell ill, she packed up her family and moved back to Aishalton to take care of her.
“I am the only daughter for my mom and she was not well and I wanted to be with her. I think I had spent a long time away from home so I came home and I also wanted my children to have this simple life and experience the life that I had so I came back home in 2014,” she explained.
When she got back, the mother immediately began registering her children in school and became quite active in the Parent Teacher Student Associations at the schools. She started to ensure that funds were raised for the various activities so that not just her children but every child could have the benefits.
In 2015, she was also elected to the Village Council and from there, she moved from being a “house mother” to the “village mother.”
Today, if you visit Aishalton and even other communities in the Deep South Rupununi almost all of the youngsters know “Mackie” as she is popularly known. She played and continues to play an integral part in the development of the youth so that they can take up positions of leadership and exploit every opportunity for personal development.
“When I became a Councillor that was when I became really involved in everything. I was the Secretary of the Aishalton Village Council too so I had to be there on a daily and make sure I dedicate my time to the village. That is how I became really involved in the village/community affairs and helping my people. I started going on trainings, attending meetings and so on to build my capacity to help,” Casimero related.
“I wanted to see the village affairs as important and I wanted to make some change. I became involved in the SRDC (South Rupununi District Council) meetings and there I met different people. I had known a lot of people in the community working with the Guyana Elections Commission so I just met back the people there and became really involved with the SRDC as a leader, as a mother, as a woman and I always try to encourage young girls and talk about all the challenges they would face. I encouraged them to finish school, encourage them not to become pregnant early and I would tell them outright because I would tell them that I consider myself being a teenage mother, I don’t want to see other women falling into those circumstance,” she added.
Casimero and her motherThe mother said that she would often think about the challenges she faced while raising her four children and would share that experience with the young girls.
“So, I would encourage other young women to finish school and get an education. That is what I tell my children too. I tell them do not forget your culture, your language as well and that is important and we need to balance that also. When we became involved in the SRDC we had this youth conference where I met a lot of young women and I would encourage them to not afraid to take up leadership position. Up to today I encourage them to do that.
“I feel when you have a relationship with young people it is the best. As mothers, some people would be so harsh and tell children things out of the way and get them annoyed but you have to have this approach where you can see them or try to put yourself in their shoes and that is what I tell my children. I does put myself in their position to see what I would do. That is what I do in my job even today as a women’s rights advocate,” the leader said.
Casimero is no longer on the Village Council and now takes up the position as Chair of the Aishalton Women’s Association which has about 15 women. Together, they would organise income generation activities so that the mostly unemployed women can have some form of income and not be solely dependent on their husbands.
When asked about what being a mother means to her, Casimero said “Being a mother is being everything. Growing up my children I was with them all the time despite having my job. You are everything, you are the mother, you are the doctor when they are sick, you’re their father when the father is not in the home, you’re the teacher in the home, you’re their first teacher and children learn from their mothers. Whatever foundation the child has, it comes from the mother.
You’re there for them, you can speak with them, you have this unbreakable bond and I do that with my children so the lines of communication are always open. I always tell my children that they have to know how to use what they have to be of service to others. That is something I have learnt that no matter what you do, you always try to provide service to others and in that way, you are serving your purpose in the community.
I try to protect my children from the bad things that are happening in the outer world and ensure that I teach them to be kind, to look after the elderly. I would send them out there to help the elderly because I want to build it in them that they need to care for the elderly and so on.”
Casimero also extended Mother’s Day wishes to all mothers. (This article was first published in the Guyana Times)