Former member of Parliament and Central Committee member of the People’s Progressive Party Philomena Sahoye-Shury has passed.
Sahoye-Shury popularly known as Philomena ‘Fireball’ Sahoye-Shury was 91 years old.
The People’s Progressive Party on its Facebook page posted: “…deepest condolences to the relatives and friends of Cde Philomena Sahoye-Shury following her passing. Cde Phil served in many capacities, including as a Member of Parliament and in the Central Committee of the party.”
Here is an article published by Guyana Times on March 8, 2014 in celebration of International Women’s Day
The “Fireball” still lives
“I would do it all over again” – Philomena Sahoye-Shury
At age 83, Philomena Sahoye-Shury, who is regarded as Guyana’s “Fireball”, is till playing an integral role in the development of women and communities across the country.
Sahoye-Shury is presently the National Director of Community Development Councils in Guyana, and remains very active in the realm of local politics. She is enjoying her new role, which she described as “satisfying”, explaining that she feels honoured to serve the people of Guyana because of the ‘joy” derived from seeing improvements in their overall lives. As Guyana observes International Women’s Day this year, this iconic woman said she was proud of the gains made by women and the zeal they have shown thus far. Sahoye-Shury said women today have much to celebrate when one considers the hardships that they have endured during the pre-independence and post-independence eras. She recalled the role Janet Jagan played in the colonial days in motivating young girls and women like herself to get involved in the decision-making processes, as the patriarchal society back then discriminated against womenfolk. The “Fireball” said the former President was the reason women could celebrate the freedoms they enjoy today.
Proud to be a woman
“Women have gained a mighty lot. We are now experiencing equality, because we could hold lots of positions across the country. In all spheres of life in Guyana, they are doing all that they should do and much more. I am proud to be a woman in Guyana today,” Sahoye-Shury declared. She said women must celebrate the fact that today they are more empowered and respected. “They can vote… they can get married (civil servants)… they can participate freely in poli-tics…they can speak frankly. We could not do these things back then,” Sahoye-Shury stated. Her life was not made easy when she made the decision to enter the world of work and the realm of politics. A registered nurse at the time, Sahoye-Shury stated that she and other female civil servants were made to work as many as 12 hours per day and were debarred from becoming formally educated in various subject matters.
She said while in her twenties, she ventured to a public meeting where she heard Janet Jagan speak for the first time. Sahoye-3hury remembered Jagan’s bravery and how she genuinely addressed the issues affecting women at that time. “I entered politics because of Janet and Cheddi Jagan… those times, women did not have any initiatives and they felt inferior. She inspired me… after hearing her speak, I told my mother I have to become like Janet Jagan,” she said during the interview with Guyana Times.
She immediately started to work with Mrs Jagan on a campaign around the country aimed at getting families to start investing in the education of girls. “We went from door to door and from com-munity to community,” she noted while underscoring that the fight then was for equal rights. Asked what were some of the major challenges she faced when she entered the political environment, the “Fireball” remarked “resistance from men” and non-acceptance from the colonial elites. Sahoye-Shury later went on to become the General Secretary of the Guyana Sugar Workers Union and worked feverishly to change the name to the Guyana Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU). She faced severe hardships, along with her colleagues, back in 1964 as they attempted to bargain for recognition of GAWU.
According to Sahoye-Shury, her next struggle was to fight alongside her comrades for the independence of Guyana. She later be-came President of the Women’s Progressive Organisation of Guyana. Sahoye-Shury, who enjoys reading and giving inspirational talks, was appointed as a Member of Parliament for the People’s Progressive Party/Civic during the peri-od 1968 to 1971. She was later appointed the Parliamentary Secretary for the Local Government and Regional Development Ministry and the Housing and Water Ministry.
“I am hoping that we will have another female as President of this country before I die,” she said passionately, noting that the future of women looks even brighter. “I don’t have disappointments,” she responded when asked about the criticisms women face today in their quest for gender equality and recognition. “Women have handled it superbly so far”, and cannot afford to stop the journey just yet, Sahoye-Shury stated.
The only woman charged and jailed for sedition in Guyana, Sahoye-Shury said: “I have no regrets and if I have to do it, I will do it all over again, because I am a woman.” She also paid tribute to all of the other sterling women who have played fascinating roles in shaping Guyana today, while paving the way for younger girls to take over the mantle.