What did you do on International Women’s Day? Did you celebrate? We did.
African women are strong. They carry babies on their backs and baskets on their head. They also carry the burden of supporting a family and being unnappreciated and getting their behinds squeezed by strangers.
Women plant seeds. Women cook beans and rice for passers-by and they sell mangoes and air-time and single cigarettes. They make babies and take babies, when the men move on to other women. There are women doctors and teachers and ministers, but equality is a foreign concept, rooted in faraway countries that have quotas and affirmative action and McDonalds.
Because even though the women look strong and independent to me, they don’t know they are. And so they fall into early marriages and a life of toil and succumb to being used and abused. I’m not a radical feminist. I spoke to women and this is what I learned. Those who can go to university and put off the married life, do.
So on Women’s Day, a national holiday, we celebrated being women with our students at Muse School.
At first we spoke about which attributes are male and which are female. Turns out only women can be caring and only men can be intelligent. I was pleased when they said women can be smart, but soon learned that smart here means good-looking.
Then we spoke about strong women. We told them about Oprah and Rosa Parks and Rihanna (She was mine, actually. There’s a lot more to her than you think) And then we asked them to tell us about strong women in their lives. One girl told us about her doctor sister, but then one boy told us about his brother. It made me remember that they probably understand about twenty percent of what we say…
We moved to simpler modes of communication. We danced. They drummed with their God given rhythm and danced with their agile bodies. We had a professional dancer from the Ndere Dance Troupe show us some moves (I claimed I was incapable of following because I didn’t have the proper Ugandan butt).
They’re about fifteen. But they have more curves and more flair and more womanness than I’ll ever have.
I don’t think we sparked the feminist movement in Uganda, but I did see a little change in their faces as the day went by. From nervous giggles and embarrassment their eyes filled with sincere hope, and their skin glowed with the realization that being a woman could have more to it than cooking and cleaning. An acceptance that maybe there was something to be celebrated.