TRIBUTE TO MRS. VIOLA BURNHAM From Angela King, United Nations
Mrs. Viola Burnham of Guyana will long be remembered by women of her
country and on the international scene as one of the Caribbean's leading
women in public life.
As wife, mother, teacher, social development planner, women's rights activist
and politician, she reacted to the inequalities in her society which, over a half
a century, was transformed from colony to Republic.
In the Caribbean, a great awakening of political consciousness and basic
human rights started in the 1930s when Viola was a young girl. By the 1970s,
this movement had grown to fruition with women not only thinking about their
rights but seriously creating and implementing programmes which would make
this a reality. Viola Burnham was at the forefront of this movement. Along with
Nita Barrow (Barbados), Lucille Mair (Jamaica), Eugenia Charles (Dominica),
Peggy Antrobus (Barbados), Hazel Brown (Trinidad & Tobago) and others,
she made her mark beyond the Caribbean. She participated actively in shaping
the outcome of the First World Conference on Women held in Mexico City in 1975
and in subsequent women's meetings of the United Nations.
Not only did Mrs. Burnham make an outstanding contribution to women's rights
on behalf of her country, but as Vice-President of Guyana and leader of the women’s
arm of the Peoples National Congress (PNC), she embraced women's groups and
non-governmental organizations and with thier collaboration put into action many
programmes and projects to empower women and girls economically thus enabling
them to have a real voice in national and local politics.
Viola Burnham is remembered not only in the Caribbean, but universally for her
commitment, her leadership, her vision and her humanity and her solidarity with
other women in the Third World.
Angela E. V. King
Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women
10 October 2003
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