So March 8th is International Women’s Day in Burkina Faso. Around here it is a big deal. The government creates a pagne for the event, with the year’s theme. This year’s theme “Donner la vie sans perir” (Giving life without perishing) focuses on maternal health and infant and prenatal mortality prevention. This year my commune hosted a big fete for my province. The Deputy of the Assemblee Nationale and the Haute Commissaire of the provice, as wells at the Prefect and Mayor of my commune were all on hand to attend.
Although 8 mars is very exciting, it can also be viewed as controversial. When I visited my friend’s site in the Sourou Valley, her College director said that he doesn’t like 8 Mars because it is too commercial, and that it’s just an excuse to spend lots of money, have a big fete, and that the next day, people are going to go back to the way things were. Just because it’s international women’s day doesn’t mean that behavior change is eminent. For example. I helped all the femme fonctionnarires (female teachers, CSPS workers, etc) prepare the food for the fete, and peeled and chopped a lot of potatoes. They also served the food for the dignitaries and other functionnaires at the event. I was shocked and appalled at how they did not even say thank you to the women as they were serving them food.
The patriarchal society here in BF is not necessarily as oppressive as one may think. The women do most/all of the work, fetch water, prepare food, raise the children, clean the house, do laundry, breastfeed, and serve food. The men basically just sit around and talk. However, if you want to work with a group, the women are definitely the ones to work with. Unlike the men, they will show up relatively on time for meetings, and make an effort to be there. The women in my village are extremely motivated and made 45 liters of liquid soap for the celebration to sell to help raise money for the primary school, and also promote hygiene.
At least 8 Mars makes people stop and think about the women in their lives, and perhaps we can use it as an opportunity to see the gender disparities here in BF.
At a friend’s site, her life skills club did a gender relay with the girls carrying pagnes, a “baby,” a bidon, (20L container), a pot, a broom, and soap and the boys carrying a soccer ball and a daba (local hoe). The boys obviously had an easier time the first time around, until we made them switch and carry all of the women’s things. This made the students aware of the responsibilities that each gender has in this society, and perhaps the boys could do a little to help out the women in their lives