International Women’s Day
This week Amy and I were bemused to find out that we had an extra day off: to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD). What was funnier, though, was that the Ugandan people we spoke to were equally as bemused that we did not honour the day sufficiently in the UK!
IWD has been observed since 1909 and is now an official public holiday in many countries such as Afghanistan, China, Cuba and Uganda. It is celebrated each year on 8th March and the tradition sees men honouring their mothers, wives, girlfriends and friends with flowers and small gifts. Additionally, thousands of events are held worldwide to inspire women and to celebrate their achievements. However, I was certainly entertained to hear from one Ugandan man that I had it wrong and IWD is really a celebration of men and is pronounced “We-men’s Day”…. not convinced!
Women in Uganda
But what does it mean to be a woman in Uganda?
A woman born in Uganda today has a life expectancy of 57 years old, according to the World Health Organization.
About 6,000 women in Uganda die every year during childbirth, and a woman stands a one in thirteen chance of dying during her lifetime when giving birth.
According to the Uganda Women’s Network, at least 60 percent of women will experience domestic violence during their lifetime. This is one of the reasons that children run to the streets in Jinja and beyond.
However, other victories can definitely be claimed. In 2009 a bill launched by MP Chris Baryomunsi was passed banning female circumcision, a lethal rite of passage in rural communities in Uganda. Though we recognise that changing the law is often just the first step in the process to changing attitudes around the issue.
Additionally, at the 2010 graduation at Makerere University, 50.1 percent of graduates were women– far up from 25 percent in 1990.
S.A.L.V.E certainly believes that education of everyone, (and often particularly of girls), has the power to enable people to make choices to create better lives for themselves and to fight poverty and injustice.
Joining the celebrations
So, what better way to spend our public holiday than celebrating the day at the national IWD event in Kampala? There were lectures and debates on life as a Ugandan woman: past, present and future, as well as local artists, musicians, sporting stars and female-focussed NGOs.
One long matatu (minibus) ride sat next to a woman holding a chicken and one nerve-shattered Amy later and we were home and inspired to work with Ugandan boys, girls, men and women alike for a better and more equal future for all.
P.S. Although IWD has the equivalent status of Mother’s Day in Uganda, for those of you reading in the UK, Mother’s Day is this Sunday (18th March) so don’t forget to send your card and celebrate an incredible women in your life!