World Women’s Day

Before I came out here I’d been told about the status of women  – I’d find they have very little. So I was  delighted to hear last Thursday, March 8th, that our offices were coming together for a joint celebration to mark World Women’s Day.

I made my way over to the hall with another female colleague.  We carried our own chairs (no men carrying them for us and why would they when women carry water while men carry a stick) then had to choose our places. On the left of the hall were women already seated and on the right were the men.  I’m too embarrassed to say where we sat.

Almost all the women were wearing dresses of a similar material and style – pretty pink flowers on a white background. They don’t normally wear those to work. Work clothes can be anything from jeans to skirt and top or smart office suits depending on the person’s role. There must have been a decision at some point to adopt this as the uniform of the day. My office boss (the only woman in such a senior position) changed out of her usual smart tailored suit into one of these dresses – I’ve never seen her in a dress before. The woman leading the event, her role in the office being the “Gender person”, did the same.

The proceedings:

  • an introduction by the organiser, woman
  • a short speech by the invited guest – the Chair of Women’s affairs of Tigray – a hands  on  female ex- fighter – who showed what local women could do by helping overthrow the previous communist government, woman
  • a PowerPoint presentation on the progress of girls in school , man
  • a coffee ceremony – coffee made, then coffee and popcorn distributed, women
  • a cake brought in, woman
  • candle lit, man
  • music system set up, man
  • dancing, the women

At the end, having thanked the organiser for marking the day, I asked her how her work on gender (in Education) was going. She replied, “So much work and so so little progress”…..

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Well, just in case you’re wondering if I’ll get a dress for next year… Will give that some thought. It very much depends if I can learn the dance.

So have I done anything myself re moving things on re gender. My colleagues (almost all men) do ask about the roles of men and women in the UK. I’ve introduced them to the idea of “new men” and as I’m in the only office with women in senior positions, the men are addressed as “old men” from time to time.

I caused several near heart attacks at a meal at one of their houses when “tella” or home-made beer was brought out. In my naivety I asked the guys next to me if they made beer at their houses as well. When one had recovered from a severe spluttering attack, I learnt the hysteria was caused by the very thought of men making beer  – Duh  – that means going in the kitchen!

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