WHERE IS AFRICAN MARGINALIZATION?

BY PREM MISIR
Guyana Chronicle
September 23, 2003

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Democracy was restored to Guyana in 1992, bringing with it all the fundamental civil rights that were previously removed. In todayís Guyana, however, only Africans have been presented as the marginalized people, and apparently, according to this thinking, they experience some kind of

marginalization. The marginalized person has been described by Park (1949) as ďone whom fate has condemned to live in two, not merely different

but antagonistic cultures.Ē This movement, however, toward democratization should enable all Guyanese, regardless of ethnicity to progressively

participate at all levels of the institutional decision-making process.

More fundamentally, democratization will facilitate vigorous participation of all citizens at different levels of the decision-making processes.

Today, I want to address the falsity of the claim of African marginalization. We can talk about social and political marginalization as it relates to Africans in this commentary.

Social marginalization of Africans means that Africans do not participate fully in the

Occupational structures in Guyana. This is not true. I have ample evidence from my publication on Social Marginalization & Ethnicity, A Preliminary Study.

Let us review some evidence from this study and others.

Specifically, here, we examine the levels of participation of East Indians and Africans in the administrative decision-making process, and the

PNCRís input into the political process. The level of participation in decision making is a useful indicator of the level of marginalization in a

society.

Our focus primarily will be on the Public Sector, Education, State Boards, Neighborhood Development Council (NDC) expenditures, State Media

Boards, the University of Guyana, and the distribution of National Awards.

In later studies, we shall examine Guyanese participation in financial institutions,

private sector corporations, and the judicial system.

The Ministries reviewed are Human Services, Security and Labor, Health, Home Affairs, Public Works, Agriculture, Information, Foreign Affairs,

Education, and Finance.

Ministries not included at this stage were Housing, Legal Affairs, Culture, and Trade. Their inclusion would have sustained the general conclusions herein outlined because of similar demographics shared

with the Ministries reviewed.

Where is African marginalization in the Public Service?

The Ministries have comparable numbers of East Indian and African Permanent Secretaries. But Africans control all other senior administrative and executive positions, such as, Deputy Permanent Secretaries, Principal Assistant Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, Accountant Heads, and

Senior Personnel Officers. Further, about 90% of all GS1 through 5, comprising clerical and office support, other technical and craft skilled staff,

And semi-skilled and unskilled operatives, has African ethnicity.

The Public Service with a 90% African workforce has enormously benefited from minimum wage increases in this Administration. In 1989, the public service minimum wage was $595 (US$59.50). At the end of 1990, this minimum wage was reduced to US$25.98. In 1992, it was $3,137 (US$25.08). Today, the public service minimum wage is $20,045 (US$105).

Where is African marginalization in Education?

The University of Guyana has 40 East Indian Faculty members compared to 140 African Faculty members in the Faculties of Agriculture, Arts, Education,

Health, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and Technology, and African participation is prominent at the senior levels.

Most Heads are Africans in all three types of school - nursery, elementary, and high. Only in elementary schools do East Indians show some

competitiveness with Africans for Headships. In the Peopleís National Congress (PNC) Administration, it was not unusual to find on average that 70 percent of the Regional Education Officers (REDOs) were Africans.

Today, the ethnic imbalance has be are Africans, followed by East Indians with 40%.

East Indians predominate in the senior positions of School Heads and Deputy School Heads only in Regions 2 and 3. Africans occupy these positions

In Regions 4 through 10. The magnitude of Africans in these senior positions, therefore, is higher than that of East Indians. Some schools only have

An Acting Deputy Head partly because currently no Teaching Service Commission exists.

Most school heads in Regions 2, 3, and 6 are East Indians, while the majority of school heads in Regions 4, 5, and 10 are Africans. East

Indian school heads are found in the largest majority in Regions 2 and 3.

African school heads predominate in Regions 4 and 5.

Where is African marginalization on the State Boards?

Africans dominate the State Boards in Education. These are the National Library, Cyril Potter College of Education, Government Technical

Institute, and Presidentís College. In a review of 27 other State Boards, Africans are in a majority on 13, East Indians in a majority on 12, and two have equal numbers from these two ethnic groups.

GBC, GTV, and Guyana Chronicle are the three State Media found in Guyana.

Of the three, only GTV is partly financed through the Consolidated Fund.

Africans and East Indians are equally represented on the GBC Board of Directors, constituting together almost the total Board membership.

Africans make up about two-thirds of the GTV Board of Directors, and most of the Directors on the Guyana Chronicle Board are East Indians. Again,

The data does not support the prevalence of African marginalization on State Media Boards.

Where is African marginalization on National Awards?

Over the years 1993 through 2000, East Indians and Africans equally received the Medal of Service and the Golden Arrow of Achievement Awards.

Africans received most of the Order of Roraima, Order of Excellence, Military Service Medal, and Discipline Service Medal Awards. In totality, Africans bagged more than half of all the National Awards since 1993. The distribution of National Awards has not demonstrated marginalization among Africans.

If anything, East Indians may have been peripheralized in the National Awards' process.

Where is African marginalization on the poverty question?

We need to point out that most East Indians live in rural areas and the majority of Africans reside in urban areas.

According to the Guyana Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, the lowest incidence of poverty lies in the urban neighborhoods.

The Household Income and Expenditure Survey and Living Standards Measurement Survey 1993, administered by the World Bank, UNDP, and the Government, found that the highest incidence of poverty was in rural areas, including the hinterland regions.

In addition, The Living Conditions Survey 1999 indicated reduced poverty levels among all ethnic groups.

Economically disadvantaged communities and the poor are beneficiaries of a large number of funding programmes for 2003.

SIMAP III and BNTF V are in the process of disbursing $5.7 billion over the next 5 years for

projects as roads, health, education, drainage and irrigation, and environmental enhancement and waste management; there is the Poor Rural Community

Support Project; the locally-funded poverty program of $200 million; the Linden Economic Advancement Project (LEAP) where $ 200 million are being used

for a micro-credit scheme; there is an Amerindian Development Fund of $50 million; the Youth Choice Initiative ($35 million); a textbook program for both primary and secondary schools ($310 million); and a school-feeding program ($100 million). These programs aim to economically and socially empower the affected communities.

Where is African marginalization in capital budgetary allocations?

Region 4, with a large African population, obtained $148 million budgetary allocation in 2002, and this Region 4 allocation does not include Georgetown

with a substantial African population.

The Regional Administration of Region 4, apportioned $85.7 million to mainly African areas, including Beterverwagting, Annís Grove, Bagotstown, Melanie Damishana, Paradise, Bladen Hall, Victoria, Golden Grove, Plaisance, Buxton, Vryheidís Lust,

And Nabaclis.

Again, Region 10, with a huge African population, received a budgetary allocation of $219.7 million in 2002. This sum is intended to increase the provision of social services in Region 10. These budgetary allocations, indeed, do not demonstrate any marginalization experienced by Africans.

Clearly, people who are marginalized are not beneficiaries of sizable sums of budgetary allocations.

General findings on social marginalization Social marginalization where people are deprived of full participation in the occupational structures, unquestionably, is not a characteristic feature

in the Guyana public sector. Today, with a greater ethnic mix in the public service, and comparable socioeconomic status between East Indians and

Africans, the talk of African marginalization is totally absurd.

Where is African marginalization in the political process?

Just as social marginalization is fictional among Africans, likewise

political marginalization is unreal. I want now to merely briefly reiterate what I said on previous commentaries on the question of the inclusiveness of the existing political system.

Joint Committees as one component emerging
out of the Dialogue achieved substantial gains. These Joint Committees were Joint Committee on radio monopoly, non-partisan boards and Broadcasting legislation, Joint Committee on depressed communities needs, Joint Committee

on Border issues and National Security, Joint Committee on the distribution of land and house lots, Joint Committee on local government reform, and the Joint Committee on the bauxite industry resuscitation. They are merely evolving at this time. With a continuance of the dialogue through the new constructive engagement, greater gains can evolve. Itís an evolving process.

Give the constructive engagement a chance.
The Constitutional Commissions represent another component making for inclusiveness, and these are the Ethnic Relations Commission, Indigenous

Peopleís Commission, Commission for the Rights of the Child, Women and Gender Equality Commission, and the Human Rights Commission. In addition,

there are the Sectoral Committees in Parliament and the Parliamentary Management Committee. All of these measures - Constructive engagement,

Constitutional Commissions, Parliamentary Sectoral Committees, and the Parliamentary Management Committee - can substantially contribute to

developing institutionalized structures of inclusiveness within the existing political system. And of course, the role of a responsible opposition

is a trump card still waiting to be played and to make Parliament the true debating forum that it should be.

Women must be respected
Among the most intensely discussed issues of today is the upliftment of women. The issue has attracted attention from all walks of life, creating both controversies and emotional response. The basic problem facing this is the absence of an exact solution. Due to cultural variations in different parts of the world, each society requires a unique treatment of uplifting its womenfolk.

From time immemorial, women have been subdued in one form or other by the society dominated by men. The Roman law, which was model for many modern European nations, gave woman no right in property. 'In the year 586 of the Christian era, a conference was called in Europe to decide whether a woman possessed a soul or not. The conference, however, decided in a too liberal spirit that woman was a portion of humanity and as such possessed a soul. But her sole duty was to serve man'.

In accordance with the victory of materialism, woman of the present is also utilized by the male-dominated world as an object of material gains only. As a person, she has not received the attention she deserves.

To add to this problem, the modern media has contributed to her identity crisis. She is forced to take up the profession as dictated by the society. In the fight for equality, she has become close to man in independence with respect to income and living. But psychologically, she is still ruled by the dictates of a patriarchal world.

Thus the issue of upliftment of women has taken serious turns, some of which that were never expected even by the feminist movement. The important question is whether the upliftment of women should be done regardless of her psycho-physiological nature or without any such considerations.

Some countries provide special reservations to women in job opportunities. They also enjoy a certain provision in political institutions of the country. But despite such concessions, ladies produce little results. They are not actively involved in the decision making process, whether at home or office.

Although women have maintained a better career track record in the West, very few top companies have female executives. This indirectly exposes the real nature of modern civilization. And in spite of the hue and cry about women's rights, the harassment at workplaces is on the rise.

Therefore upliftment should not be a mere legislative exercise. It is in fact to teach 'Her' the real value of her own self as an individual. She herself has to discover her own position and honor. From the land of whims and fancies, she has to migrate to the land of action and spiritual awakening. Her upliftment lies inside her, not in the hands of governments and media. She should rise above the status of a mere 'object of desire' to a respected and honored individual. Material upliftment alone is not sufficient for this. A purified heart also plays a crucial role.

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