Rewind! Rewind! Stop! Play! Shake head! Rewind! Rewind! Stop! Play! Smile! (insert whirring sound of VCR player after each ‘Rewind’)
It was March 8th 2008. Every woman in my household was awake before the clock struck 6am; even the youngest who was only 7 years old. There was the usual bustle and very audible whispers, to the dismay of the male folk, who were still stuck on some street in Dreamland. In an hour, we were all dressed in outfits made from the same peach-colored material with details of the Gambian flag, drawn on a white dove, surrounded by the Women’s Bureau logo. The chepehs were clad in long, flared skirts with sleeveless V-neck tops and tiny strips of cloth for scarves. The moms and aunts went in for less figure-hugging dagits with wrappers and musorrs tied with exquisite skill. The grandmother glowed in her fine grand boubou and simple musorr to cover the grey strands of hair that had known braids and twists of all shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, old age wouldn’t let her leave our home to show off her sanseh; yet she was glad to be one in spirit and appearance with two generations of women down her lineage. You are probably wondering what I’m blabbing about and I’m guilty of sharpening your curiosity(I hope) with my not-so-descriptive descriptions. Wait for it! 😀
It was International Women’s Day and the Women’s Bureau had organised a march past at the July 22nd Square in Banjul. This was just one part of week-long activities including conferences, a trade fair etc, to mark the day. My mom, being a part of the organising committee, had made sure we all had the ashobee and attended the event, getting us to march past the President with her colleagues. The park was filled with women and a handful of men who had come out to show solidarity to their better halves. The ambiance was great and everyone was excited as the event was the first of its kind on such a grand scale. Women groups had traveled from all regions of the country to celebrate the day together. Speeches were given and a few women were ‘decorated’ in honour of their services to the nation and their fight for women’s empowerment. My sister,cousins and I took the chance to roam the nearby streets, looking for food to satisfy our growling tummies. Finally the festivities were over and we had to wait for my mom to get things in order before setting out for home.
In the car, there was laughter and hearty discussions, each one explaining her favorite moments of the event. As soon as we crossed the Denton Bridge, the 7 year-old cousin stood and pointed out the window, where a few women were busy working in the quarry-like expanse of land. She turned to my mom and said in Wolof(I translate) ‘Aunty Mofi, why aren’t those women in ashobee too? Why didn’t they come to the celebrations?‘ A sudden silence engulfed us as we all reflected on her innocent yet thought-provoking question. My mom had to cook up a response for her but the look on her face showed she wasn’t convinced. I spent the rest of the journey in complete silence, her words echoing in my head. I wondered how a child her age could be that observant. The picture of the women covered in old clothes with rags tied over their faces as a form of protection as they sifted rocks from the soil, wouldn’t leave my head. I wondered if they were aware of the existence of this day.
Today, I look back at that beautiful day and realise that my question remains unanswered. Millions of women in all parts of the world might not even know about International Women’s Day and its significance. Some of them are too busy trying to make ends meet and catering for their families. Others know about the day but might not be able to join in the celebrations because every minute is precious in their quest to make their lives better. The gender activists are up and about, spreading the word about women’s empowerment and seeking an end to gender discrimination and other unfair treatment of women. Young activists are even more determined to get their voices heard as they carve a niche for all women in our societies. Some members of the opposite sex are treating the women in their lives to an extra dose of love and appreciation for their efforts and selfless sacrifices. It feels beautiful to see the world come together in celebration of the most wonderful of God’s creatures. (Refer to my Valentine post)
Linguere feels a renewed energy as she joins the billions in celebrating and singing the praises of Djiguen nyi. I’ve been blessed with strong, dedicated, caring and selfless women in my life, the rock among them being my mother. Through them, I’ve grown to know and appreciate my worth, recognize and chase my dreams, stand as solid as a rock and refusing to falter when the weather gets rough. I’ve learnt to stand up for my beliefs while respecting everyone I come into contact with. At my age, I wouldn’t say I’m as successful as I would like to be, but I’ve known enough success to keep me content. This free spirit is what I wish for every woman out there today and always.
On this day, I would like to honor every single double X chromosome-carrying human on Earth. Know your worth. Celebrate yourselves. Leave your mark in society, no matter how small. Be women that younger ones will look at and gain inspiration from. Keep your heads up and continue the fight for success and comfort. Learn as much as you can. Stand up for your beliefs. Dare to dream and to love. Djiguen bu moun goor is a reality and YOU can be one of them. I share these lines from one of my favourite Dolly Parton songs, ‘Eagle When She Flies’. You should listen to it too.
Gentle as the sweet magnolia, strong as steel, her faith and pride.
She’s an everlasting shoulder, she’s the leaning post of life.
She hurts deep and when she weeps, she’s just as fragile as a child.
And she’s a sparrow when she’s broken, but she’s an eagle when she flies.
Happy International Women’s Day to the very dynamic LINGUERES out there, making a difference with each step they take! 🙂