The National Congress of Women (NCW), the women’s arm of the People’s National Congress Reform celebrates its 48th Anniversary as a national women’s organisation, which has made a significant contribution to the development of women in Guyana.

The PNC Women’s Auxiliary (PNCWA) was formed on October 5, 1957, through the foresight of foundation members like Jane Phillips-Gay, Dorothy Taitt, Winifred Gaskin, Hyacinth Godett, Lucille Cox-David and Margaret Ackman. Since then this women’s movement has been led by Jane Phillips-Gay, C.C.H., Viola Burnham, O.R., Yvonne Harewood-Benn, Urmia Johnson and its present Chairperson, Cheryl Sampson.

During the foundation period of the organisation, the women rendered yeoman service, as they struggled with their male counterparts to achieve political independence for Guyana. Their community outreach activities included social work among the poor and needy, campaigns for, among other things, improved working conditions for women who were employed as domestics and unskilled workers. The organisation’s membership expanded in the 1970s and the PNCWA assumed the character of a national organisation.

By International Women’s Year in 1975 there was an awakened consciousness about the changing role of women in the society and the Founder Leader of our Party, Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, challenged the PNCWA to play a more dynamic role in working towards the removal of discrimination against women in the society. It was against this background that in January 1976, the organisation was renamed the Women’s Revolutionary Socialist Movement (WRSM) with the late Viola Victorine Burnham, O.R. at the helm, leading this vibrant group of women for the next fourteen (14) years.

From the late 1970’s, through to the 1990’s, the WRSM influenced the policy direction of the country and led the campaign for women to achieve equality of opportunity in the political, economic and social life of the country. In almost every field of human endeavour, through the encouragement and active support of the WRSM, women embraced the opportunities to improve both their education and skills levels. The organisation championed the cause for using local fruits and foods, local materials produced by Sanata Textile Mill, tie-dye and appropriate technology et al. Important legal changes were made to grant women equal status with men, from the State Paper on Equality for Women in Parliament in 1976 to the enshrinement of Article 29, on the Equality for Women, in the National Constitution of 1980.

The WRSM itself trained Women in non-traditional skills as drivers, carpenters, electricians and bricklayers. Through the Movement’s efforts women became postal delivery attendants and gained equality in the professional and technical fields of the public service. More women entered the legal, medical, engineering and other non-traditional fields, due to the policy of free and co-education, and the granting of Government scholarships for study at home and abroad. The Movement along with other women’s organisations such as the Conference on the Affairs and Status of Women in Guyana (CASWIG) advocated for the establishment of the Women’s Affairs Bureau.

Many Guyanese women, like former CARICOM Women’s Affairs Officer, Magda Pollard and recently appointed judge to the Caribbean Court of Justice, Madam Justice Desiree Bernard, have received awards for their contribution to women’s development in Guyana and have had their work recognised by international organisations such as the United Nations and the Caribbean Community.

Thanks to the valuable work done among our womenfolk over the decades many today are able to survive the worst effects of the present climate of political, economic and social instability in our country.

Today the successor organisation, the National Congress of Women, continues to build upon the successes of its predecessor. Promoting gender equity and leadership training seminars for our women prepare them for the varying roles and opportunities available to them as they prepare to enter the local government and other arenas. Since the PNCR has already consented to complying with the international request for greater participation of women, thus having one-third of the list as women, many more women of the NCW are now equipped for nominations and the organisation stands ever ready for consultation as it presents its women. The NCW encourages its women to remain organised and use traditional skills such as sewing, handicraft production, tie –dye, catering and food preservation for self-employment.

As we celebrate 48 years of the life let us remember those who laid the foundation and have gone to the great beyond. Let us remember those others who are not here with us for various reasons. Let us remember the pledge made during the just concluded deliberations at our 14th Biennial Convention, to revitalise our organisation to play an important role in the development of women. Let us work our pledge to campaign hard to help our Party, the People's National Congress Reform, win the upcoming General and Regional Elections in order to make Guyana a better place for all.

Happy Anniversary!