More support for women, girls as Canada, UNFPA extend EQUAL SRHR project in Guyana

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See below the full statement issued:

Canada’s High Commissioner to Guyana, His Excellency Mark Berman and the United Nation’s Population Fund (UNFPA) Deputy Director for the Sub-Regional Office for the Caribbean, Jenny Karlsen, signed a two-year extension of the Canada-funded “Enhancing Quality, Access and Logistics of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights” (EQUAL SRHR) project on Tuesday in Mahdia, Region 8.

The ceremony, at the Roger Hinds Hotel, was conducted in the presence of representatives of the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, Regional Chairman Headley Pio, Regional Health Officer Dr. Thalita Cort, Mayor Eslyn Romascindo-Hussain, Toshao of Campbelltown Jillian Williams, as well as officials from Global Affairs Canada and UNFPA, and scores of residents of Mahdia and surrounding areas.

The EQUAL SRHR project was launched in October 2022 and hinges on the strengthening of systems to address Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and to respond to instances of Gender-Based Violence (GBV), most frequently experienced by women and girls. More specifically, the project applies a holistic approach to support national efforts to reduce the prevalence and incidence of adolescent pregnancy, GBV and sexually transmitted infections, that is inclusive of all persons regardless of social status, location, gender identity, disability, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. The two-year/CAD$2.250M project was part of Canada’s wider response, in 2021, to addressing the ongoing Venezuelan displacement crisis, particularly in the communities that were their hosts.

However, during this period of implementation and following consultations with key implementing partners, it quickly became apparent that the initial two-year timeframe would not be sufficient to adequately tackle the issues. UNFPA subsequently approached the Government of Canada for an extension and additional resources, both of which were granted. The extension, to December 31, 2026, will now allow for both a realistic timeframe for completion of originally programmed activities in Regions 1,7,8 and 9 as well as for an expansion of coverage into regions previously unserved by the project- Regions 2 and 3.

High Commissioner Berman, in his remarks, stated that the extension and accompanying financial resources, builds on Canada’s already well-established footprint in the local and regional health sector and aligns strongly with the Human Dignity pillar of its Feminist International Assistance Policy, which seeks to close persistent gaps in sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls. He added, that with this extension, Canada will now be providing more than CAD$15M in bilateral international assistance to support the wider health sector in Guyana, in areas such a mental health, maternal, newborn and child health, early childhood development and forensic evidence gathering for victims of sexual assault. This, he added, is in addition to regional Canadian-funded projects and the recent CAD$120M sovereign loan to improve social services in Guyana through the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security.

Jenny Karlsen, speaking on behalf of UNFPA recognized the launch ceremony as a tangible demonstration of the commitment of Global Affairs Canada to the cause of advancing women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights as well as their empowerment. Ms. Karlsen thanked key government partners, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, as well as civil society partners, such as Help and Shelter, the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association, and Blossom Inc., for their continued collaborative efforts. Ms. Karlsen highlighted that the EQUAL SRHR project is essential in supporting Guyana to reach its development objectives. She highlighted that the EQUAL SRHR project ensures that we place people’s dignity and rights at the heart of sustainable development; reaffirming that inclusive sustainable development is not possible without prioritizing human rights, including reproductive rights, empowerment of women and girls, and addressing inequalities as well as the needs, aspirations and rights of individual women and men.

Ms. Hamwantie Bisesar, Deputy Director of Social Services at the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, in her remarks, highlighted that the Ministry is committed to working along with the Region to ensure service delivery to all villages of Region 8. The need for the expansion of the knowledge base of citizens on programs such as EQUAL SRHR was emphasized, along with the work of the Ministry’s Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Policy Unit. She also highlighted the importance of ensuring that women and girls have the power to make their own choices when it comes to their sexual and reproductive health, through the services made available to them.

Dr. Johnathon Dudnauth, Deputy Director (a.g.), Regional Health Services, representing Minister of Health Dr. Frank Anthony, in addressing the GBV component of the project, stated that GBV is not merely a women’s issue, but rather a human rights violation that corrodes the very fabric of our humanity. He added that it is every citizen’s responsibility to stand up, speak out, and take action against GBV in all its forms and challenge the toxic attitudes and beliefs that perpetuate it, while working to dismantle the systems of oppression that enable gender-based violence to thrive. This, he added, means challenging patriarchal structures, promoting gender equality, and ensuring that everyone has access to the resources and support they need to live free from violence and fear. Together, he concluded, we can create a world where every individual is treated with dignity, respect, and compassion regardless of their gender – a world where love, not violence, is the norm.

Following the ceremony, UNFPA and Canadian officials interacted with villagers to learn about their experiences and how the project has benefitted them thus far.

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