The US Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah-Ann Lynch believes that Guyanese teachers deserve to be fairly compensated for their job.
She made the comments at the opening of the Women and Girls Summit on Thursday, while advocating for women in the Public and Private Sectors to play an even greater role as Guyana undergoes major economic, social, and infrastructural transformation.
Ambassador Lynch said the Public Sector in Guyana has a big task to provide women, and everyone else, with quality education.
But while applauding the Government for increasing the 2023 budgetary allocation to the Education Sector, she said more can be done to attract and retain talented teachers.
“Guyana’s hard-working teachers, most of whom are women, deserve to be fairly compensated for their work and have appropriate incentives to continue their work or they may seek other jobs, and you don’t want to lose those talented teachers,” the US Ambassador said.
Though increasing the salaries of healthcare workers, police officers, fire fighters and soldiers in 2022, the Government has not increased the salaries of teachers, outside of the 8% across-the-board increase offered to public servants, despite persistent calls by the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU).
For Ambassador Lynch, appropriate pay and incentives should be applied in other sectors as well. She applauded the move by the Government to increase the salaries of healthcare professionals in 2022, saying that it was a significant step for healthcare providers, the majority of whom are women.
The Ambassador noted that the Public Sector is critical to the development of both the Education and Health Sectors but the Government cannot do it alone.
“The Government can’t do this work alone. The private sector has a key role, and I would argue a responsibility, to play in “advocating” and enabling the contributions of women. This is a critical time in Guyana’s development. With such an urgent need for talented people, Guyana cannot afford to leave anyone behind, especially its talented women,” the US Ambassador said.
Importantly, she said women need a safe, welcoming place to work that is free from harassment, inappropriate comments, and from any form of discrimination.
On the legal front, the Ambassador said in the United States and, increasingly in Guyana, women are protected with certain legal provisions.
“Many private sector firms, including some of the leading international firms operating here in Guyana, have specific reporting provisions and support to address any claims of sexual harassment,” she observed.
However, Ambassador Lynch said there is still work to do.
Pointing to the recent Guyana Labour Force Survey, published in 2021, the US Ambassador said women account for 52 percent of Guyana’s working age population, but only 42 percent of the total labour force. On average Guyanese women earn 14 percent less than their male counterparts for similar jobs.
“There is work to do here. And, Guyana is not alone. Countries all over the world, including the United States, struggle with gender equity. But at a time when we constantly hear about the struggle to find quality staff, “advocating” for the equitable treatment of women is an important step that will help Guyana better sustain its economic growth and help ensure its success,” Ambassador Lynch reasoned.
She said access to finance can also be a crucial barrier with women-owned businesses often times not able to get the finance they need to get to the next level. However, she said in Guyana, the Women’s Chamber is playing an increasing role in mentoring women entrepreneurs.
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