Wednesday, March 08, 2006

International Women's Day

Ok well I know it’s been quite a while since my last posting after saying that I would be writing more regularly but things have been super busy here as usual.

I celebrated my first International Women’s Day on March 8th which was great fun! This basically involved loads of women getting dressed up in the international day 'pagne' (cloth that you buy and have made up) and marching around Motourwa singing feminist songs! Te proposed assembly time of 7am at the Mayor’s office for the start of the parade of course didn’t materialise ad therefore we were left to march in the sweltering heat at midday ( to give you an idea it was 56 degrees the other day!) The sad thing about it was that the reason for the lateness of ever activity involving women in the community is because they have so many tasks to complete before they can even think about leaving the house. Te most taxing of all is the task of fetching water not least because here I Motourwa there is such a problem with water. Incredibly there are only two pumps for the whole of the village (around 6000 people) so it’s no surprise that the women often go to collect water in the morning and don’t return until late at night.

The whole week running up to women’s day, and the actual day itself was a real eye opener for me. Since I am the only female teacher in my school I spend most of the time in male company as women are not allowed to go out on their own and are rarely seen outside of the house. This being the case the majority of my time is spent with my male friends apart from some of my female students although I could ever go out to a bar with them or anything like that. My only other close women friends are two of the women who own the bars where I go. There is a women’s group in Motourwa and what with it being women’s week they were holding daily meetings about the activities planned during the week and on the big day itself. I was invited along to participate which was a fantastic experience. For the first time I got to spend a decent amount of time with the local women and was able to chat with them (those that speak French anyway as my Fulfude isn’t as yet all that fluent by a long stretch!) and listen to their opinions and thoughts. Lots of events were organised in the run up to the day including a round table conference, a football match (where I came on for a brief outing!) and a cultural evening where all the women made food (I just ate it) and came and sold it whilst others performed dances. The most striking thing however is the negative image of the event by the men. There were very few male attendees to any of the events, (apart from my close male friends who came along to support me) and it’s hard to see how in the near future the disadvantaged position of women can change here. The round table conference for example generated lots of discussion about women’s position in society, but the fact that none of the women had brought along their husbands meant that ultimately all that was said was not heard by those that have the real power to change things i.e. the men. The role of education is of massive importance, and it is hoped that increased schooling for girls will go some way to increased emancipation for women.

The day itself though was great fun, even if it is uncertain if many of the women really understood what the day was meant to be all about. When we finally did start the march, it was a great sight to see all the women out in their coordinated outfits parading round the village (even if I did have to stop three times n the way to chug water down my throat!)

After the march, I headed off to continue the celebrations with my principal and colleagues in my friend’s bar before we all met again at 4pm for the ‘cocktail’ party at the Sub-Division officer’s house. This was followed by another trip to the bar, a quick rest back at the house before heading out to the soirée to dance the night away! No embarrassing opening of dances with students this time as no students were allowed in….instead I had the awkwardness of having to dance with the sub-divisional officer himself – the President’ representative in the district of Moutourwa! Not quite sure how I always get roped into these things but hey! Nine beers later and the only ones left in the venue were my two female friends who were selling the beers and Sardi, myself and another colleague along with the DJ. Benefits of this was that any requests were quickly adhered to – hence the same song got played at least 20 times over! I was rather pleased that what with Thursday being my free day at school, I had no need to set the alarm after my nine beers and 5am bedtime!


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