Sunday, March 8, 2015

International Women’s Day – March 8, 2015

International Women's Day is a MUCH bigger deal in Cameroon than in the USA.  We have much to learn!

Festivities actually begin March 1 with various activities.  One big one was a food festival from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. outside town hall here in Garoua Boulai.  Many women prepared foods from around the country – they were labeled by region.  I tasted several, including some Ndolé and plantains made by Merilee – pictured here.  (I know her from other food preparation she has done for meeting for us.)  Many of the women used regular plates and metal silverware.  I was glad to see so little plastic (even though my food was on one such plate.)  There was also (loud) music – and the men sold beer… 

Saturday, there was a dance at the Sous-Préfet’s building.  Lots of music and people.  There was also a lot of music and dancing into the evening at local bars.  Celebrations galore.

Cameroon makes a commemorative material each year (with a choice of two color variations).  You can buy the material in six yard pieces to make something or ready-made dresses.  I got a ready-made one.  Here’s a picture of me in my living room – by a painting I bought recently – I almost match, no? (But not quite…)

So if you had such a dress, when would you start to wear it?  I debated, but decided to put it on when I went to the food festival Friday, March 6.  By my house, I saw one friend who complemented me on the dress.  Then, two minutes later, two strangers told me I had to go home and change.  They told me that no one wears the dresses before March 8.  In fact, they said, if I were in Yaoundé, women would throw stones at me for the breach!  It is permissible to wear dresses from previous years and many do wear them often in early March.  So, I went home and changed.  Live and learn.  Note:  I took the photo today, so I am “legally” wearing the dress.

Today there was a parade that officially started at 10 a.m.  Church was shorter than usual with French and Gbaya in one service.  It was over by 10.  I walked into town in the direction of the parade, but ended up chatting with some friends.  Then I decided that parades never start on time – 2-3 hours late is the norm, and it was hot and sunny.  The next decision was that I would not go to the parade grounds.  I am told that many women’s groups march/dance together wearing dresses of the official material.  I am sure they had a good time.

I was invited to lunch with friends (Solofo, Joely, and Brian).  We had a great visit and had our own private celebration.

It feels very humid today although my little indicator only says 52%.  It is hot and I feel sticky.  Ah, well, it is equatorial Africa at the end of the dry season.  We actually had about 10 drops of rain 45 minutes ago, but except for the cloudy sky nothing else seems to have changed. 

Marthe, Me, Gertrude, Pastor Abel
I have spent three intensive days working with two women and a man on four planning documents for each of four Central African church programs.  They worked diligently and long.  The documents that needed the least revision were the ones for Pastor Rachel’s Lutheran Center!  A fitting way to end a blog for International Women’s Day.

What change do you think women need and want that will advance all humanity?  I can’t narrow my opinion to one, so I say an end to abuse and human trafficking.  Peace would be good, too, but that is for everyone. 

Celebrate the women in your life.  Happy International Women’s Day – March 8.

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