100th International Women’s Day – a story of hope
If there’s one thing that living in a developing country has hammered home, it’s that patriarchy is alive and very, very well. And, while it limits and defines and conditions and screws over men and women alike – in developed countries too, lest we forget – on the whole, it does it much worse to women.
I spent most of today at an event celebrating the day, which showcased the progress that is continually being made in Ethiopia in empowering women – enabling them to earn and control an income, and have a voice, and shout with it.
‘My husband used to beat me like a donkey’, said Ansha, a farmer from the central Rift Valley, explaining the effect the development projects of SEDA, a local NGO focusing on environment and gender, had had on relationships in her family. Now, not only is she treated like a human being, but she sits with him at the table to discuss family matters – before this would be unthinkable – and even attends community meetings. ‘Before, I would tell her to put her hand down’, says her husband, who has come down for the event too.
I leave full of hope – or at least the faith that, even in the face of the increasingly evident effects of climate change, the strength and passion of women like Ansha will help them make the best of it.
I take the minibus back to the office, like I’ve done a million times before. But today I see something that I’ve never seen before in my seven months here. I see a man beating a women up. Kicking her from behind, hitting her, shouting, chasing her down the street. It’s broad daylight.
Today of all days – how fitting. Progress, hope, solidarity – and with them, a reminder of the work that’s still to be done. That things change slowly, so slowly, and in bits, here and there. But – take a look these stories from around the world – they can, and do, and will.
I’ll spare you statistics or lectures, and leave you instead with a piece I wrote for today for Oxfam about the amazing things women’s collectives in Eastern Ethiopia are doing, changing their lives and changing society.
Happy 100TH International Women’s Day, everyone!
[Edit: my piece is now also up on the main Oxfam blog at: http://www.oxfam.org.uk/applications/blogs/pressoffice/2011/05/13/ethiopia-men-cant-control-us-nobody-controls-us/?v=newsblog :)]