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SAY HER NAME - Oma Devi Virasamy

Written By: Natalia Surujnath

Oma Devi Virasamy. Oma translates to "giver of life," and Devi translates to ”goddess”. A name with such high remarks is not found in headlines but is simply noted as "wife." Similar to the previous headlines throughout the year 2022, acknowledging women who are victims of domestic violence as having a certain role in society. Whether it be a sister, a girlfriend, a wife, or a mother. Are women's concerns only heard based on their proximity to others? Must we continue to ignore their cries and desensitize ourselves to every article we read until another incident occurs? Within the first six months, 360 domestic violence cases were reported in Guyana. This is not a new topic, in fact, 1 in every 2 women in Guyana has experienced or will experience Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in their lifetime. This is higher than the World Health Organization's global average of 1 in 3 women experiencing IPV. The statistic does not end there; more than half (55%) of all women in Guyana have experienced at least one form of violence; this violence extends beyond partner-inflicted violence. According to the Guyana Women’s Health and Life Experiences Survey (WHLES), 1 in 5 women has experienced nonpartner sexual abuse in their lifetime, and 13% have experienced this abuse before the age of 18. Unfortunately, Oma is one of the many that make up the statistics. Yet these women should not be known as numbers or another headline; we have to say their names.

Oma Devi Virasamy was only 30 years old when her life was taken from her. Her husband, Mahendra Paltoo, was intoxicated while they argued about whether he was faithful or not. Virasamy shoved him during the altercation, which infuriated Paltoo, who then attacked her with a cutlass, wounding her ankle among other parts of her body. Virasamy slept while still suffering from her injuries, and in the morning, she was pronounced dead. Many articles fail or briefly acknowledge that Virasamy was pregnant during the argument. Heartbreaking images of Virasamy's funeral can be found all over social media; she is stunningly dressed in a wedding gown, and a premature baby is perched above her stomach. The system has failed not only women but also their children. For decades, Guyanese women have persevered through toxic and abusive relationships, creating an endless cycle through the generations. As a result, this impacts the social, economic, environmental, and health factors that contribute to society. It is time we end this epidemic of gender-based violence in Guyana and speak up.

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence begin on November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and conclude on December 10th, International Human Rights Day. The global initiative UNITE! Activism to End Violence Against Women & Girls is the umbrella organization created by the United Nations for this year's campaign. In order to support the cause and speak out for women and girls, it's critical to:

  1. Everyone, regardless of gender, is invited to become an activist in the fight against violence against women and girls.

  2. Build political will among leaders and policymakers to speak out.

  3. Invest in women's organizations

  4. Advocate for the strengthening of protection mechanisms to prevent and eliminate harassment and violence.

  5. Call for action on particular laws and policies that address violence against women and promote gender equity.

  6. Donate to non-governmental organizations (NGOs), research, and organizations that strengthen health, education, and social services that address violence against women.

  7. Promote the leadership of women and girls by educating them and continuing the discussion of violence against women and girls.

Maya Angelou once stated, "Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women."

Guyana needs all of our voices, regardless of gender or background. Whether we live in rural areas in Berbice, or an urban area such as Georgetown, or even across the sea, everyone needs to hear our voices. Oma Devi Virasamy will not be forgotten, and we must continue to say their names. The number of fatalities rises over time, and there are many victims of gender-based violence whose names we have never heard. As a community, it is our responsibility to ensure that Guyana progresses, that women and their children are safe, and that we build towards a brighter future. Are you ready to become an advocate?

On these 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence against Women and Girls, lets remember the names of women who died this year in Guyana. Let us continue to keep their families in our thoughts. Loretta Simon- 24, Vanna Girod- 30, Lauren Smith-Fields- 23, Savitri Raj- 57, Shenese Walks-19, Waynurnattie Permaul- 53, Deissy Anthony Perdomo- 49, Omega Ault- 41, Miriam Edwards- 25, Agnes Dillon- 86, Donalesa Park- 29, Cindy Ramchandar- 25, Tasina Dazzle- 28, Nirmala Sukhai- 33, Analee Gonsalves- 20, Sharon Scott- 53, Oma Devi Virasamy- 30, Kelly Charlotte- 22.

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