Magda Lois Muriel Pollard, CCH, AA
Magda Lois Muriel Pollard, national of Guyana, and stalwart women’s activist was fittingly bestowed the honour of the fourth CARICOM Triennial Award for Women in 1993. Throughout her country of birth and the wider Caribbean region, the name Magda Pollard is synonymous with the movement for women’s empowerment and women’s rights. The creation of a liberating and sustaining environment for women is the passion which fuels her lifelong and consistent service in the arena of women’s development.
Early life and education
Magda Pollard was born at Buxton, East Coast Demerara, on 29 March1931, the youngest of five siblings born to parents Fitzgerald Hilbertus Pollard and Muriel Loretta Pollard. Both her parents were teachers, with her father being the head teacher of the Buxton Congregational School.
When she was seven years old, the family moved to Georgetown when her father was appointed head teacher of Smith Congregational School in Hadfield Street. By that time, her older sisters were at the elite Bishops’ High School while her brother was at Queen’s College. In 1941, she enrolled at Bishops’, the same year the family moved into a Victorian style house on what is now Bourda Street.
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.
She wrote the Oxford and Cambridge Exams in fifth form and the London Higher School Certificate offered by the University of London, which gave exemption into university.
When she left school in 1950, Pollard followed in the footsteps of her parents and became a teacher, having the status first of Untrained Teacher at the Broad Street (now Dolphin) Government School.
After four years of teaching, with the financial backing of her parents, she went off to Scotland to attend the Glasgow and West of Scotland College of Domestic Science, to receive training as a Grade 1 Teacher.
She later pursued the Postgraduate Certificate Course at the Queen Elizabeth College, London University, in Home Economics related to Community Development, gaining a distinction.
A significant part of her post University years were spent on return to her home land at the Carnegie School of Home Economics as both lecturer and Principal. Her appointment as the first Women’s Affairs Officer at the CARICOM Secretariat opened vast opportunities for her to impact the lives, not only of Guyanese women, but women throughout the Region. With boldness, she accepted the challenge of spearheading the development of a programme for women within CARICOM. The many initiatives and programmes that emanated from the Women’s Desk gave impetus to the process of gender mainstreaming within CARICOM and set the agenda for the integration of actions and policies to benefit women in regional programmes.
Ms. Pollard’s invaluable contribution to women’s development in the Caribbean captured regional attention and earned her several honours and awards in addition to the CARICOM Triennial Award. She has received the 1992 CARIFESTA Award for Women, two national awards, the Cacique Crown of Honour and the Golden Arrowed of Achievement as well as the special award of the Caribbean Association of Home Economists of which she was a founding member.
Her career of service extends to membership of various commissions and bodies with women’s welfare as the primary goal and she is currently Chairperson of the Guyana National Commission on Women. Ms. Pollard was at the helm of a regional project to prepare model legislation for the removal of all forms of discrimination against women which addressed rights of citizenship, inheritance, domestic violence and sexual offences. Significant hallmarks of her career included her contribution to the establishment of focal points in government departments to address the issue of the advancement of women. During her tenure she organised for the creation of Women’s Bureaus in the OECS. Ms. Pollard spearheaded a three-year programme – Management for Development: Effecting Change whose target included senior women administrators. Her illustrious career spans participation in the emerging network among UN specialized agencies, representation at various regional and UN Fora; and the creation of inroads in strengthening relations between governments and non-governmental organizations. She has to her credit two publications on Home Economics which she has co-authored.
A woman of grace and dignity, Magda Pollard is highly regarded by her peers and the wider community. Her continued active engagement in work to raise the level of consciousness about the status of women and to engender necessary reform attests to a deep and unswerving life commitment to creating a better environment within which women would live.
Honours and awards
Magda Pollard was fittingly bestowed the honour of the fourth CARICOM Triennial Award for Women in 1993.
Her invaluable contributions over the years led to her receiving two national awards in Guyana: The Cacique Crown of Honour and the Arrow of Achievement.
She also received the 1992 CARIFESTA Award for Women and the special award of the Caribbean Association of Home Economists of which she was a founding member.
Magda Pollard died on 9 May 2019. She was 88. Her body was laid to rest on 16 May 2019 following a service at the Smith Memorial Congregational Church on Brickdam, Georgetown.