Shama Latchman – an outstanding Guyanese woman
Kaieteur News
July 26, 2004

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CORRIVERTON, BERBICE – The other day I was having a conversation with Dr. Roy Ibbott, the proprietor of the Channel 19 Television Station up at Corriverton. He said to me, “Melissa, there is a very interesting woman I would like you to speak to. She is a woman who stands out.”

I was introduced to Mrs. Shama Latchman, an employee of the Guyana and Trinidad Life Insurance Company at Corriverton. The woman leads a full and rewarding life.

“Women do not want to be left back now; they want to be in the forefront.” She lives at Line Path ‘B’ Skeldon, Corriverton. She is involved in making life easier for people.

As a counselor, her first job involved a 23-year-old man who was HIV positive. When asked if she had problems doing this type of service, she responded, “At first I thought I was not cut out for this since most of the time I would get too emotionally involved. This would usually affect me even in my sleep.”

She said that after carefully examining the situation, she pulled herself together and continued. Today she is the President of the East Berbice Life Savers’ Club. She is more confident and comfortable being an HIV Counselor in the villages between Crabwood Creek and Number 59 Village.

She strongly believes that the rights of women should not be abused. According to her, women need to be more vocal.

Mrs. Latchman spoke of an incident in which a husband, after getting home from work one day, found out that the wife had prepared curried boulangers. He became very upset.

The counselor recalled that without asking any questions, the husband physically abused his wife and threw her out of the home.

The man later justified his actions by saying that he was not aware of what he was doing at the time and offered an apology.

The apology came about when Mrs. Latchman and fellow counselors visited the home. “The man told us that he did not think the woman would take the matter that far (to counselors).”

She said that many women are now becoming more aware of their rights and know where to turn for help. “I would not want to appear to be biased but men, too, could get help in cases of domestic violence.”

To women, she had this to say: “Educate yourself and be more independent rather than sitting back idly.

There are lots of places you can go for help in skills training.”

Her first encounter with a case of rape was the most touching. She said that the victim was a 12-year-old child who had her innocence taken from her by a 69-year-old.

“She was raped by this man who was teaching her to play music. He had asked her to go to the upper flat to get something for him. In the meantime he had sent the other children home. He went up, pushed her in his room and committed the act.”

She said that the child was forbidden from telling anyone of the incident. He also offered her some money.

“That makes me feel sad because when we were about to take the story further, that is to court, the parents accepted compensation. That makes me really, really sad!”

Now the child is well and about after undergoing a period of counseling.

In Berbice where the incidence of suicide is high, Mrs. Latchman said that she has her hands full. “Almost everyday the doctors would call us or the relatives of those who attempted to take their lives would.”

When she takes a look at these people who would have wanted to commit self-murder, she said, “I see depression, frustration, confusion, lack of affection, loneliness and desertion. It brings tears to my eyes. It is a lot of hard work to convince them that life is very precious and should not be taken by their own hands.”

The youngest attempted suicide she met was 17 years old. This person was not successful at her examination last year and as such, felt that she had not reached the expectation of her parents. She ingested a toxic substance.

“She recovered and we spoke to the parents. They agreed to allow her to repeat. This she did and is now awaiting results. The last time I spoke to her she told me that she is definitely coming out with flying colours.”

About the actual attempt, Mrs. Latchman said that the teen was quick to point out that she really did not want to die and would not do it again. She said that the youth described the experience as very painful.

Mrs. Latchman recently handed over the baton as the President of the Skeldon Primary School Parent/Teacher Association.

Her daughter Hannah attended that school and wrote the Secondary Schools Entrance Examination where she gained 532 marks. This earned her a place at the Bishop’s High School and an offer for President’s College.

Mrs. Latchman said that she has decided without a second thought to allow the child to take up her place at the school of excellence.

“It was very hectic and it really used to take a lot out of me but I think all praise and thanks should be given to God for Hannah’s study. Her father was also instrumental. He is the one who ensured the girl’s success.”

Mrs. Latchman is a member of the Upper Corentyne Utility Committee, which came into being in March 2002.

This is a body that was formed to deal with issues relating to the power situation in those areas and to assist consumers in reading and calculating their bills.

“I feel really blessed assisting people and the consumers are very satisfied.”

The group, headed by Dr. Roy Ibbott, held weekly meetings where persons were free to drop in and air their concerns. These concerns were passed on to the Guyana Power and Light Company.

Shama Latchman is an avid cricket fan. “I follow cricket because of my father, the late Hansraj. He would usually leave early in the morning for work in the Skeldon Estate Backdam and ask me to keep track of the game. Whenever he got home I had to report every detail to him.

“At that time I was about 18 years old. I love cricket and I am a die-hard West Indian fan even though they failed us several times.”

The woman said that she is hoping that the West Indies team would be on top again. But the amazing thing is that she hates going to see the actual game; she prefers to listen to it on the radio or just watch it on television.

“I do not like being in crowds. This comes from the fact that I am a staunch Christian. The simple reason is because the men would consume alcoholic beverages and use indecent language. The atmosphere is not one that I would like to be in, even though I love cricket.”

She never attempted to play cricket. “No! Never!”

She made several appearances on the Channel 19 Television station on the Corentyne as a guest commentator for the programme, Cricket Talk Back. This programme is hosted by Mr. Sydney Jackman, who was a one-time national wicketkeeper.

Mrs. Latchman pointed out that it is a plus being a woman involved in what may be generally termed a ‘man’s game’. “It just shows that women are moving on. In my younger days women did not like cricket. But now I think quite a lot of women are into the game and lots of women call in on the programme we have.”

She said that she became a ‘born again’ Christian 20 years ago. “All 20 years were served at the Corriverton Baptist Church and currently I am the Church Secretary. I do not have any worldly activities, just Christian activities and I love it that way.”

But how does she fit her role in as a wife? “I feel that is normal and look forward to it when I get home to do my part of the chores as a wife. It is a daily something for me. I do not have a maid so I do everything for myself.

“I wash, not with a machine of course! My hands do it better than a machine. I cook, clean and when I leave home to go to work at 07:40 hours my house is spic and span.”

At the end of her day she gets assistance from her partner in life, Mr. Arjune Latchman.

Mr. Latchman is good with her hands. “I sew for myself and daughter and a few friends but sometimes when I want to be lazy I pay a seamstress.” Embroidery, smocking, cushion making, cake decoration— all these she handles on a regular basis.