Last week saw events held across the region to mark the 100th year of International Women’s Day. There has been a lot of progress in these 100 years and there are a lot of economic, political and social achievements of women to celebrate. But there is still a long way to go. Colleagues from DRC, Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya witnessed some of the events and celebrations:
Pierre Peron in DR Congo:
Thousands of women celebrated in the streets. In keeping with tradition for any important occasion in Congo, groups of women brought “pagnes” of cloth and had their dresses sewn in the same colourful designs.
In Goma in North Kivu, women marched proudly in the town centre carrying symbols of their roles and professions in the Congolese society and economy.
Amidst the much publicised sexual violence in the Congo, this was a reminder that women here are not just victims: they are also hard-working professionals – nurses, policewomen, saleswomen, and teachers alike.
Marc Wegerif in Tanzania:
In Dar es Salaam we celebrated “Siku ya Kimataifa ya Wanawake Duniani” (International Women’s Day in Swahili) with a march in the city centre.
Women came from all over the country: Tunza Ali Shaali – a clove farmer from Unguja Island, Zanzibar – was one of many who spoke at the event:
“This one hundred years has been important for women in Unguja, as for a long time the only role for women has been to stay in the house and take care of their husbands. But now here I am all the way from Unguja to give you greetings. In the past this would never have been possible, my husband would not have allowed it. Now we are participating economically and doing well in politics. Soon we will be heading for the Presidency”.
People wrote on cards how women contribute to Tanzanian society – thousands of these cards were then presented to government officials. People at the event called on the government to improve support to women farmers, strengthen women’s land rights and end gender based violence.
Dieudonne Rutware in Rwanda:
About 500 people gathered in Muhanga district to celebrate Rwandan women. The day began with communal work, constructing a new house for a woman who was still living in a basic thatched house.
Community service – known as “Umuganda” in the Kinyarwanda language – is important in Rwanda for supporting others and building a strong nation. Many women, men, soldiers, police, Oxfam staff and partners helped to build the foundations for the new house.
There was dancing and songs explaining the importance of women in Rwandan society, and certificates were handed out to rural women who recently completed IT training, learning how to use computers to help them in their small-scale businesses. Cows were donated to the poorest families and women’s groups, and the day ended with a traditional meal of roasted maize – cooked by the men as their conbtribution to the day!
Rwanda has some very good laws for women, and also the world’s highest representation of women in parliament. But for ordinary people, there is still a lot to do. We all need to respect, listen to and believe in women in our homes and communities. We need to ensure that women are earning decent money for their work, and have access to education and land, and are able to live free from violence.
Linda Ogwell in Kenya:
You can read here about events in Nairobi – where women traders campaigned for an end to council harassment. But we also held events in rural Kenya.
In Wajir, there has been an extremely worrying rise in rape cases recently. Women in the town held a procession and radio talk show, bringing together the police, religious leaders, peace groups and activists to try and raise attention to the problem.
In Turkana, events aimed to improve local women’s participation in politics. Under the theme, “Political participation – where are Turkana women?” a procession and round table discussions with female politicians were held in Lodwar town.