Karen de Souza is a women’s and children’s rights activist from Guyana. She is the co-founder of Red Thread, an advocacy organization which provides service and support, education, and advocacy for victims of rape and domestic and other forms of violence and for the lowest-waged sectors of women.
Ms de Souza and Red Thread also conduct research and have contributed to the drafting of laws and training for judicial officers to support protection of women and children and victims of human trafficking. They also participate in national, international and regional agency programmes on areas of interest, as well as taking education directly to the people.
Since co-founding Red Thread in 1986, Ms de Souza has worked tirelessly for the organisation and in an entirely voluntary capacity. Her leadership has enabled the provision of services like face-to-face counselling in a drop-in centre for women and children and survivors of rape and abuse, and enabled the rescue of victims of domestic violence. The organisation participates in court proceedings, legislative initiatives and international conferences on women’s and children’s welfare.
Ms de Souza is also a pioneer in public education. She has scripted and produced videos and dramatic performances on the subjects of domestic and sexual abuse. These programmes have been disseminated widely through the country. With Red Thread she conducts “speak out” events where rural communities are apprised of the ways of dealing with violence against women and children. The organisation also provides computer literacy and library facilities for children. It has produced “Household Guides” which explain the domestic violence and sexual offenses acts (Guyana) in simple language for the benefit of ordinary people.
It has taken educational and informational programmes across racial and geographic divides, into Guyana’s vast hinterlands working on the coast as well as in the interior, in the North Rupununi.
Through research and investigations, in which she was the principal researcher, Red Thread’s work has been funded by the British High Commission, UNICEF, UN Trust Fund, UNIFEM, USAID and the Japanese Embassy. Red Thread has provided the most extensive data on domestic violence in Guyana via its own original research and compilation. Ms de Souza was the lead researcher for articles and reports on child abuse, human trafficking, domestic violence and women’s reproductive issues published in The Guyana Review, for the International Office of Migration in Guyana, the InterAmerican Development Bank, and the British High Commission in Guyana. She is regularly cited in international publications on those issues.
Karen de Souza has been recognized by various international organizations for her work. She has been a Fellow of the Commonwealth Understanding Fellowship Scheme (London/Barbados), and was the US Embassy (Guyana’s) nominee for the 2012 Woman of Courage Award.