I had no idea how important participating in the International women’s day celebrations would be, until I asked my women building group: “what about women’s day?” and they all started talking with excitement. It was as though they’d been waiting for the question.
Yes they wanted to march! They would need a banner. And what about a uniform?
We painted a banner: “Ecovillage women builders” in colorful lettering on the back of an existing Better World Banner. Having a new one printed was beyond our non-existing budget.
We wore our headscarves that were given for the wedding reception, identifying the group as “we’re together”. Having uniform dresses made was also beyond our collective and individual budgets.
On the morning of international women’s day my husband and I took the taxi to the playing field in Bafut where the event was to happen. Canopies were set up for shade, and groups, or representatives of groups, were trickling in. We picked up our designated 14 chairs and found a good spot under a canopy to set them up with the banner leaning in front of them to bring in the group.
As usual things came together slowly until the place was filled with approx. 1500 people – including dignitaries like the mayor, several political representatives, and the fon.
Finally our women arrived. “How do we want to march?” Short discussion on holding the banner for good visibility, on what to do with our hands and arms as we march. (I realized that I had never marched in any formation before- not part of my education)
But first: speeches- “Women eh!” The call is answered “EH!”
Dignitaries speak, some musical performances and finally the call to line up by sectors for the march. There were more than 40 groups, some with large memberships, ready to participate. We were divided into geographical sectors and would return to our seats after our march-by.
Marching music and cheers from the audience accompanied the women marching in colorful uniforms identifying their groups. When our call came Scholastica and Mercy lead with our banner, Dorothy followed holding a builders level like a torch and we all followed two by two.
Back in our seats I expected everything to wrap up quickly- but there’s more!
“We have to see who gets the prizes” – oh- there are prizes ?
I don’t know what is judged here- but we didn’t win a prize. Maybe a little more practice next time?
And then a truck brought in sacks. :”Everyone gets seeds” “This is where we get our corn” –
Ah, another piece I didn’t realize but everyone there was waiting for.
Jump ahead a few hours and back in Bamenda, we’re going out for dinner- maybe a quiet meal somewhere.
NO WAY! Every bar and restaurant was filled with mostly women, shouting, singing, celebrating.
Our chosen spot was packed too- we squeezed into a couple of chairs and enjoyed the loud crowd and joyous atmosphere.
International Women’s day in Cameroon is an important event as women look to take their place in government and business, in schools and at work.
“A woman’s place is not only in the kitchen, a woman’s place is not only at the farm” was the refrain of a catchy song we heard- Lets keep singing that one, for the women in Cameroon and elsewhere!