By Tracey Khan – Drakes
[www.inewsguyana.com] – What was supposed to be a night for an artistic presentation from young talented Guyanese to raise awareness in the fight against domestic violence last turned out to be a planned sabotage, according to Dianne Madray, Regional Coordinator of ‘One Billion Rising’ Movement and Programme Director of the Caribbean American Domestic Violence Awareness (CADVA).
The evening [Monday, September 29] started as planned with a cocktail reception at the Theater Guild in honour of International Women’s activist, Eve Ensler who is the author of the vagina monologues and founder of the ‘One Billion Rising’ Movement.
After the cocktail reception, invites converged in the area for the presentation, which was aimed at stirring up emotions as artistic pieces were done on Guyanese women and girls who were killed in abusive relationships.
However, at around 19:50 hours, a power outage occurred, which according to Madray was done deliberately by the government. Madray, in her address to the audience, became emotional as she explained that the power outage was intended to sabotage the event.
She alleged that the Ministry of Human Services & Social Security was against the event. Madray said after the power went off, she received a telephone call confirming her notion of ‘deliberate sabotage’.
She added that a chain of events lead to this act, which began after a meeting with Human Services Minister, Jennifer Webster and Justice Roxanne George, who demanded that the organization change the theme of the panel discussion, which was, “State of Female justice: Social Justice with love.”
Madray told iNews that at the planning stage of the event she met with Minister Webster in an effort to create a better alliance between Government and the various organizations that were in the fight to end violence against women.
“But it seems as though I was pushed in a corner and asked to change things, change my theme of the ‘State of Female Justice in Guyana’ to something else and I guess when I didn’t do that this is the repercussion of what happen tonight, the blackout…it wasn’t scheduled…and I got a phone call and when I have to hear this it is extremely disappointing and it makes me angry and it makes me want to fight even harder…I was told it was deliberate, if you look in the audience the Government took 100 tickets but no one showed…they took the most.”
Madray says she has recommitted herself to this journey to ensure that women in Guyana are given a louder voice.
“We will continue this rising, I am not going anywhere, this is the revolution so we’re gonna start this from now, everything happens for a reason, so were moving ahead with this and on Sunday are gonna bring the women together on Sunday and continue.”
This Sunday, Madray intends to congregate with women from a number of organizations to walk for justice; she is yet to work out the logistics of Sunday’s walk.
Minister Webster clears the air
However, today iNews contacted Minister Webster, who explained that she was unable to attend the presentation last evening because of a gender base event that was hosted by the United States Embassy.
She rejected the sabotage allegations.
“No it wasn’t a deliberate sabotage, I don’t deal with blackout,” Webster told iNews.
She further noted, “It could not be a deliberate attempt because all over the city, there was blackout. That activity I was at had blackout too.”
She also refuted claims by Madray that no one from her Ministry attended the event.
“We sent it [invitations] out, we mobilized people, my Permanent Secretary was there, she was there you could speak with her, she was there…Miss Lorienne Baird was in attendance along with members of the Women Affairs Bureau and a number of other women.”
With regards to wanting to change the theme of the event, Minister Webster said she did not demand that the theme be change, but instead recommended that another theme be used which will coincide with ‘Women & Gender Equality Commission’s forum that focused on ‘access to justice for women.’
“I said to her I do not control justice and I suggested ‘Access to Justice’ and Miss George supported that…so I thought maybe in suggesting that theme, because we had started it through the Women and Gender Commission that maybe CADVA would have been supportive of that but it was with no intention to spoil what they wanted, because they came and asked me to be part of it, then she sent me an email saying that they would no longer seek our involvement, so that is why nobody from the Government was at the panel discussion.”
Two events were held as part of the OBR founder’s tour in Guyana, which included a live panel discussion on NCN. Minister Webster was expected to be a part of this discussion, however after the Regional Coordinator and the Minister met and could not agree, she [Minister] was told she would not be needed on the panel discussion.