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Janet Jagan: Champion of women’s causes, pioneer of Guyana’s development

Janet Jagan: Champion of women’s causes, pioneer of Guyana’s development
President Donald Ramotar lays a wreath in remembrance of Mrs. Janet Jagan
Janet Jagan: Champion of women’s causes, pioneer of Guyana’s development

FORMER President Janet Jagan was remembered as a champion for women’s causes and pioneer of the struggle for Guyana’s development at an annual wreath laying ceremony at the Babu John, Port Mourant last Saturday.

Guyanese came out to pay tribute to Mrs Jagan.

The ceremony was hosted by the Women Progressive Organisation (WPO)-the women’s arm of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) to commemorate the life of the first female President Guyanese came out to pay tribute to Mrs Jaganof Guyana.

The various speakers extolling her struggle for a just society, described her as the Mother of the Nation.

The fifth anniversary of Jagan’s death featured a reflection on the life and works of Mrs. Jagan, with tributes pouring in from leaders of the Progressive Youth Organisation (PYO), the Women’s Progressive Organisation (WPO), People’s Progressive Party (PPP) as well as President Donald Ramotar.

The President in his address called on women to emulate the life of Mrs Jagan, and continue the struggle for a better Guyana. He also explained that Mrs Jagan is a co-founder of the PPP and founded the WPO with the aim of mobilising women in the fight for a better Guyana.

President of the WPO, Mrs. Indranie Chandarpal reflected on the life of Mrs Jagan and the time she spent with this great woman. She also enlightened the gathering about the struggles Mrs. Jagan encountered, the organisations she fought to establish and how these assisted women and still are assisting them.

General Secretary of the PPP, Mr Clement Rohee, spoke about Mrs Jagan as a political leader who has many firsts in Guyana and how she contributed towards the development of women.

Rohee said: “She fought to give women the right to vote without having to own a property, to have better working conditions, increased wages and the right to an education.”

He noted that in the interest of peace, she vacated office and gave up two years of her administration. He described her as a fearless leader.

Janet Jagan was born on October 20, 1920 in Chicago, Illinois, USA. She was educated at the University of Detroit, Wayne University, Michigan State College and Cook County School of Nursing. She married Cheddi Jagan on August 5, 1943 and in December that year came to British Guiana. During her first 10 years in Guyana, she worked as a Dental Nurse in her husband’s clinic. At the same time she became active in labour and political affairs.

In 1946, Janet Jagan founded the Women’s Political and Economic Organisation (later renamed the WPO). She co-founded the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) and edited the PAC Bulletin. Mrs. Jagan was the first editor of Thunder, the official organ of the PPP.

In 1950 she co-founded the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), and was elected the party’s General-Secretary; she held that post during 1950-1970 Mrs. Jagan held numerous positions of note. She was also the first woman elected to the Georgetown City Council. Following the suspension of the British Guiana Constitution and the removal from office of the PPP Government, she was jailed for six months.

In 1957, she won a seat in the Legislature representing Essequibo, and was appointed Minister of Labour, Health and Housing. Later she served as Minister of Home Affairs and a member of the Senate. She served as a member of the Opposition from 1964 until 1992, when the PPP won the elections and Dr. Cheddi Jagan became the President.

After the death of Dr. Jagan on March 6, 1997, she served as Prime Minister of Guyana. In December 1997 Mrs. Jagan was sworn in as President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana after successfully leading the PPP/C to victory at the Polls.

Janet Jagan became the first female president of Guyana on December 19, 1997. She had been sworn in as Guyana’s first female Prime Minister on March 17, 1997. She was awarded Guyana’s highest national award, the Order of Excellence (OE).

The event was also attended by officials from the WPO and the Progressive Youth Organisation (PYO), PPP Executive Secretary Mr Zulfikar Mustapha and Regional Chairman for Region # 6 Mr David Armogan.

By Rebecca Ganesh-Ally (Guyana Chronicle - April 1, 2014)