TELL THE INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY CELEBRATION STORY THE WAY IT SHOULD BE

Sally maforchi Mboumien
Posted March 7, 2017 from Cameroon
Women's day fabric for 2016. Photo courtesy Nakinti B
Women's day fabric 2015. photo courtesy of www.bamendaonline.net
Women's day fabric 2015. photo courtesy of www.bamendaonline.net (1/2)

"The ideals of the International Women’s Day Celebration are far from the reality in rural Cameroon."

Round table conferences, radio talk shows over the national station, weeklong activities carried out within urban areas, women dressed in beautiful IWD fabric, and beautiful and meaningful themes characterize the celebration of the IWD in urban Cameroon. However, in rural Cameroon, the picture is quite different. The beautiful IWD fabric which is distributed for free in the urban areas is sold to rural women at an exorbitant price. According to radio reports from local stations, it is believed that this period accounts for high rates of sexual abuse since most women and girls are under a lot of pressure to get the money to buy the fabric and to go drinking and merrymaking. Many vulnerable women and girls get infected with varied diseases during this celebration because they prostitute themselves to have money.

As a social activist within my community, I wonder all the time why such a well conceived international celebration for the empowerment of women should be misconstrued within my country in such a manner. The only way rural women within my community know it is celebration time (8th March) is the IWD fabric that is being sold everywhere and different fees charged in their meeting houses for entertainment during the celebration. The local event organizers, the delegation of women’ empowerment and the family, does nothing really impactful on the life of a rural woman but to collect registration fees from female groups.

It is not normal for a day like this, intended to empower the underprivileged, to be turned into a weapon of exploitation. Creating Awareness and Empowerment of Women is what makes the celebration have value. It is for this reason I feel a celebration of this magnitude should be characterized by outreach programs: health campaigns, talks on important topics, economic empowerment activities, exchange visits and more. I believe if this is done, it will go a long way to reduce the vices cited above and leave the women and girls empowered and educated as well. There are moments I feel those in charge of the celebration have not had time to think on how much money is being wasted on renting five star hotels and fueling of cars for round table conferences from which a rural woman gains nothing. I think it would be beneficial to the celebration if such money is used for a weeklong training of rural women to empower them with knowledge and skills to survive their daily challenges. I dream of a period in my community when the IWD celebration will mean: free screening of women from different diseases, counseling of women and girls on their pressures from the society, networking with other community women to exchange views on common issues affecting them, and a period of frank discussions between men and women to ensure better family settings and more. The government of my country should therefore realize all of what I have mentioned above can’t be achieved just by the efforts of local community organizations for development but with a combined effort of all stakeholders. The celebration of the IWD in my country Cameroon should be for a rural woman’s empowerment instead of a time where rural women are cruelly taken advantage of in their purse and in their bodies.

This post was submitted in response to Women Rising.

Comments 10

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jlanghus
Mar 08, 2017
Mar 08, 2017

Hi Sally. Thanks for sharing your story. Yes, this definitely needs to change. Is their a governmental office that can be written to ask them for change or to call them and ask for change? Or, a change.org petition started to change this?

Sally maforchi Mboumien
Mar 23, 2017
Mar 23, 2017

Hello sis. As usual you are there to listen and share with me me. Truly i appreciate it.

Concerning this issue within my community we have the governmental offices that can be written to which i know some others have done that already. but the real problem is over assumption on what rural women needs are as well as too much central centralisation in the organisation of the celebration at the level of the nation's capital. Thanks very much for suggesting the use of change.org petition which i believe is the solution

jlanghus
Mar 24, 2017
Mar 24, 2017

You're so welcome:) Glad I can be there for you. Let me know if there is something I or we can do to help.

Jill Minneman
Mar 09, 2017
Mar 09, 2017

Thank you for telling your story! 

Sally maforchi Mboumien
Mar 23, 2017
Mar 23, 2017

Hi Jill I am encouraged and also very grateful for encouraging me tell my story. You are a wonderful mentor

JulieG
Mar 21, 2017
Mar 21, 2017

Dear Sally,

Truly, what a sad exploitation on what should be a day of hope and change.  You have great ideas about what it could be, and I wish you much momentum and I hope your ideas fall on open ears.

Sally maforchi Mboumien
Mar 23, 2017
Mar 23, 2017

Hello Julie thanks for this positive remark. I will not relent until meaningful change in this domain is achieved

Natasha L
Mar 23, 2017
Mar 23, 2017

Dear Sally -  I am very curious and interested to learn about the IWD fabrics - is this a new tradition in your country?  When did it start?  Who or what organization started it? Who makes the dresses? The dresses the women are wearing in the photos you posted are beautiful - and I can just imagine how expensive they are for rural women.  Is dressing in IWD fabrics a social expectation for women in your country, or more so something that is enjoyed as a fun celebration with friends?

As an outspoken, articulate, and determined activist I know that you will be working strongly and advocating passionately for the money that is used in urban areas for travel & hotels to be used for an IWD training to empower rural women with knowledge and skills that would make a huge difference to their lives and their futures. You are unstoppable. 

Sally maforchi Mboumien
Mar 23, 2017
Mar 23, 2017

Natasha the fabric has existed for as long as the celebration has been taking place in my country. It has become a yardstick to measure riches, class and others among women.

I am confident we will make a change

Natasha L
Mar 24, 2017
Mar 24, 2017

thank you, Sally, for explaining the meaning of the fabric as a yardstick.  Now I understand more of why the IWD fabric does not have a positive meaning for rural women.

I became more interested in this topic after reading your story, and did some internet research to learn about IWD fabric in Cameroon.  I saw an article written on World Pulse in 2012 by Cameroon woman Nakinto, who adds her voice to this topic: https://www.worldpulse.com/en/community/users/nakinti/posts/19736

I read another article that said that some women in Bamenda chose to wear Northwest traditional or attire or their group uniform instead of IWD fabric at an IWD event in 2015.  This is interesting.

In Canada, IWD is often a day that is ignored or only celebrated by a few.  In my city there is no public parade or celebration event where women dress in special clothing.  Sometimes there is is a public talk or a speech or a poetry reading on March 8th, but there are only about 30 people who attend.    I suppose that here in Canada, Mother's Day on the second Sunday in May is our holiday celebrating women. It is a day to show appreciation to our mother, but it does not address the systemic injustices and lack of equality for women in society.  My mother does not want my sister and me to celebrate Mother's Day for her, because she thinks that it is just a meaningless holiday that makes money for the greeting card companies, the flower companies, and the chocolate companies!