Meet Carolyn Rodrigues, new Minister of Amerindian Affairs

By Rohmena Chung
Guyana Chronicle
April 21, 2001

GUYANA Information Services - Carolyn Rodrigues, 27, was sworn in as Minister of Amerindian Affairs on April 12, 2001 by President Bharrat Jagdeo. Ms Rodrigues is from Santa Rosa, North West District, Region One, and is the youngest Minister in the Cabinet, and the first female Minister of Amerindian Affairs. In an exclusive interview with the GIS, she spoke about her life and her family. The new Minister has four sisters and two brothers and she is the second child of the family.

She attended the Santa Rosa Primary School and later was employed there for one year. She migrated to Georgetown in 1989 to further her education. This included private studies for the CXC tests.

Rodrigues was eager to become a career person and her first working experience was at Mazaharally and Sons. There, she learnt that diligence was the key to success. She said she was extremely thankful to the company for assisting her in preparing her future.

In 1991 Rodrigues was awarded a scholarship by the Canadian Government to Saskatchewan Federated College, which is part of the University of Regina in Canada. There she studied Amerindian affairs and administration for one year. During her stay there she visited several indigenous communities and interacted with them.

On her return to Guyana in 1993 Rodrigues worked with the Social Impact Amelioration Programme (SIMAP) as the Assistant Coordinator for Amerindian projects. She was promoted to Coordinator after six months, and was responsible for over 100 projects in Amerindian communities. Rodrigues had the opportunity of meeting with Amerindians from all districts of Guyana. She noted that she earned respect from her Amerindian brothers and sisters in almost every community she worked.

When asked about her feelings when she was informed about her appointment as a Minister, she said her first thought was about finding ways to improve her people's lives. Ms Rodrigues entered politics four months ago.

"It's challenging, but yet exciting," she exclaimed.

While she was attached to SIMAP, several Amerindians were given assistance when they approached her for help.

Rodrigues wants her Amerindian brothers and sisters to be assured that politics will not change her relationship with them.

Already deeply involved in her job, the Minister noted that the most depressing problem facing the Amerindians is the remoteness of the areas in which they live. This, she said sometimes have an impact on education, health care, cost of living and transportation.

She has pledged to do an assessment of the needs in every Amerindian community to have get a comprehensive picture of projects to be addressed.

Among her main concerns are land demarcation, education of Amerindian children and health care.

The Minister said that one of her priorities is the hinterland scholarship students who have finished their CXC exams. In her view, there should be programmes to cater for such students to help them to build careers.

Minister Rodrigues stressed that she would not like to be seen as an "air-conditioned Minister who only gives out chain-saws because this would sometimes lead to dependency". Rodrigues is conscious of President Jagdeo's charge that Ministers must go out and reach the people and remember they are the people's servants. She intends to go out to several communities every month to keep Amerindians informed about her plans and programmes.

The Minister assured Amerindians that she will always be willing to listen to their problems and help them find solutions.

She intends to work closely with Amerindian associations.

The Minister urged Amerindians to aim high because nothing is "unreachable".