Yakkers Corner: Muriel Talks with Magda Pollard Who Shares Her Fervent Desire of “Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value” as Regards To Women
At the height of the second wave of feminism the world saw Magda Pollard emerge as the face of Guyana and the Caribbean in the struggle to end all forms of discrimination against women, for which, it can be agreed, she has left a lasting legacy.
Despite the prevailing mindsets believing that the world operates on the psyche of men, Magda Pollard believes, some progress has been achieved in influencing this mindset, though women are yet to hit the glass ceiling as they should.
In 1993, it was the recognition of her work to create a liberating and sustaining environment for women that earned her the Caribbean Community’s Triennial Award for Women, which she shares with other Guyanese greats such as Justice Desiree Bernard and the late President Janet Jagan.
At home, she received two of the country’s highest national awards – the Cacique Crown of Honour and the Arrow of Achievement.
It was in 1980, one year after the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was adopted by the UN General Assembly, that Ms Pollard was appointed the first Women’s Affairs Officer at the CARICOM Secretariat and worked to get Caribbean government to agree to sign on to and ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). It was Ms Pollard’s task to get governments in the region to put in place such national action plans.
She moved into the arena of women’s rights after a similarly admirable career in another area – home economics. Magda Pollard was born in Buxton, East Coast Demerara to Fitzgerald and Muriel Pollard, both teachers, with her father being the head teacher of the Buxton Congregational School.
When she was seven years old, the family moved to Georgetown. She later enrolled at Bishops’High School which would prepare her for the future. “It stood for a high level of academia as well as a full understanding of one’s social responsibilities,” she says.
Music, drama, religion, and community service were all part of the life at Bishops’. In fact, music is still part of her life. She joined the legendary Woodside Choir and participated in the first British Guiana Music Festival, which was held in 1952. Today, she continues as a choral singer with the Woodside Choir.
Ms Pollard began to demonstrate a penchant for loyalty, discipline and for influencing the status quo and this elevated her to the status of Head Girl (Head Prefect) in the last two years at Bishops’. She would leave school with the coveted Fidele Collier Medal, which was given to students who had contributed significantly to the ethos of the school.
When she left school in 1950, Ms Pollard followed in the footsteps of her parents and after four years of teaching, she went off to Scotland to attend the Glasgow and West of Scotland College of Domestic Science.
“It was a case of everything had to be perfect that you produced,” she related. If a biscuit was burnt or slightly tinged with the wrong colour, you had had it.” While there, she earned two special prizes.
She later pursued the Postgraduate Certificate Course at the Queen Elizabeth College, London University, in Home Economics related to Community Development, gaining a distinction. She enjoyed a close relationship with the girls at the college, and right up to two years ago, 11 of a group of 16 attended a special meeting.
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