My birthday always come around and I am reminded less of myself and more of all the wonderful strong women I share this world with. International Women’s Day (IWD) falls on March 8th each year and is “a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. [IWD] is all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action – whatever that looks like globally and at a local level.”
These celebrations and calls to action started in the early 1900s as a working women’s movement, and has expanded to include all struggle and achievements in gender equality and human rights.
I was excited to celebrate the day this March with my V4Y team! We started our day at the East African Communities (EAC) Conference Center in Arusha and marched into town to a local market. A military marching band lead they way and anyone was welcome to snag a t-shirt and join the walk for women’s rights. Hot sun greeted the group downtown as about two hours of loosely organized programing began with speeches and a dusty clean up of the market. The heap of tools and protective equipment was then donated to the market for the women who work to keep the streets clean of dust and trash. Most important was the protective equipment (dust masks) which will hopefully protect the lungs of those charged with the upkeep of Arusha.
The the march returned to the EAC for tea and hours of presentations, speeches, and performances related to the achievements and shortfalls of women’s rights in Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and Burundi – the East African Communities. The program lasted hours longer than planned in typical African fashion, but the speakers had great energy and it was fascinating to learn of the new gender equality legislation in place and how much cultural work needs to be done to bring that legislation into practiced reality. There was also an inspiring air of celebration as youth dance and music performances showcased female talent, as well as EAC NGO’s, including V4Y, shared how their work is advocating and empowering local women.
This was the first time I’ve ever formally celebrated IWD. My awareness of the day truly only surfaced in the last handful of years. I don’t know how such and important day got left out of my primary and secondary education, but I look forward to being in communities that take IWD as one more serious opportunity to advocate for positive change. This year’s IWD theme is #BeBoldForChange, and I am gladly taking up that challenge as I work in Arusha, move to Mugumu, and return home for my Masters of Public Health. How are you being bold this year?