|Dr. Faith Harding
Former Cabinet Minister, Guyana
Dr. Faith Harding was a prominent academic, child psychiatrist and former Minister in the Peoples National Congress Government.
Early Life and Education
Faith Harding was born on 5 October 1947 in Georgetown, Guyana to Egbert and Beryl Blackmore and is the sixth child in a close-knit family of three brothers and three sisters. She attended St. Ambrose and St. Stephen’s primary schools and British Guiana Education Trust High School and was an enthusiastic learner who enjoyed English Language, English Literature, Religious Knowledge, History and reading Nancy Drew books. Fascinated with the power of words and their meanings, at nine, she emphatically encouraged her friends to increase their vocabulary on a daily basis. Further intrigued by one of her aunts who wrote poems, she gained a deep love and appreciation of poems and even participated on radio programs, Ovaltine and the Teenagers Choice.
She completed her advanced education at the prestigious Teachers College at Columbia University. She earned in a Master of Arts degree in curriculum and teaching, a master’s degree in education and a doctorate degree in education. She also completed her Bachelor of Science degree in education at Mills College of Education in New York City.
Faith was introduced to politics at an early age through a close bond and relationship with her uncle, the late Andrew Jackson who was the president of the Post Office Telecommunication Workers Union. He played a significant role in her life after her father died when she was only nine years old.
Appointed as Minister of Public Service in 1989, Dr Harding led the restructuring of the Guyana Public Service and achieved significant success in decreasing inefficiencies, lowering redundancies and elevating overall effectiveness of all Government programmes. She implemented standard policies for a wide variety of matters relating to public service salaries, rules and regulations, ministry management, government scholarships and student loans. In this multifaceted role, she worked very closely with President Hugh Desmond Hoyte and headed the negotiations with the international financial and bilateral institutions to ensure adequate financing for major public service projects including the Public Service Reform, Human Resource Development, and Scholarship Grant Aid. Additionally, she also spearheaded the nationalisation of kindergarten education that institutionalised cost-free education for all children over the age of three.
For six years, Dr. Harding served the Chairman for the Guyana Management Institute and was at the forefront of approving policies on management training for professionals in both public and private agencies. In her role as the Minister of State for the Ministry of Planning and Development, she was very active in setting guidelines for social sector policies and provided guidance to the Ministries of Education, Health, Government Information Service and Water & Environment on key policy directives and their overall impact on the national economy. During her tenure, she served on the Social and Economic Council, Supervisory Council for Public Utilities and the technical advisory team of the State Planning Secretariat.
In the late 70’s and early 80’s, Dr. Harding made significant contributions through her roles with the Ministry of Education in Guyana. As the Assistant Curriculum Coordinator, she spearheaded the nationalization of kindergarten education that allowed cost-free education for all children over the age of three. In addition, she was instrumental in formulating the national program objectives, designing curricula and training teachers and educators in the early childhood curriculum development. As the Assistant Chief Education Officer, she managed the National Nursery Education Program including 300 employees and established national standards for teacher performance and behavior indicators.
Following her stint as a minister of the government, she then moved on to travel around the world on behalf of the United Nations and other organisations. Dr. Harding spent more than a year in East Timor and held several roles with the United Nations Transitional Administration. In the office of the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Governance and Public Administration (GPA), she drove the initiation of a Gender Affairs Bureau, developed the structure of GPA, and planned relevant policies and strategies for governing East Timor. As the senior advisor on social affairs policy and management, she created national teacher performance standards and national content standards for kindergarten through secondary educational institutions. In addition, she designed the policy framework for the education sector - comprising nursery through university levels. In a previous role as the Director of Capacity Building in the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (OSRSG), she prepared strategy papers for the SRSG and Cabinet members on the capacity building program; liaised with the donor support group, multilateral agencies, UN bodies, international and local non-governmental agencies.
When her tenure with those agencies were over she returned to Guyana and again became active when she entered the race for the presidential candidacy of her party, the Peoples National Congress Reform which she claimed cheated her of her true number of votes.
Harding later settled down working with communities, children and women’s issues and spoke out on several issues that she considered pivotal to the development of Guyana and its people. Harding was also an advocate for rights of women and children, suicide prevention, and LGBT rights. She was heavily involved in counselling cases of domestic violence, abuse and rape.
Throughout the years, Harding, had been involved in a number of initiatives, including the One Billion Rising Campaign and her own Quick Impact Programme (QIP). Among other initiatives, the latter entailed the planting of sorrel in small communities for export.
In 2011, she had contested to be the presidential candidate of the PNCR and lost to Granger, which caused her to leave the party because she believed she was sidelined.
Dr. Harding was married to Patrick Harding, President of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners’ Association. She had one son, Patrick Harding Jr..
Death and legacy
Harding died on 22 January 2015 at the St Joseph Mercy Hospital after a period of illness. She was 67.
In March 2015, Dr Faith Harding was named the 2015 International Woman of Courage by the United States Embassy in Guyana after having been recognised for her exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for human rights and social progress. The posthumous award was received by her husband, Patrick Harding.