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Women’s Day

September 30, 2013

There has been a covered statue sitting in the middle of my town since I arrived in May. From my understanding, it has been covered for quite some time. Apparently the Rural Commune of Ampondralava was waiting to throw a

Statue prior to unveiling

Statue prior to unveiling

party to inaugurate the statue. This is no run of the mill statue, but a statue dedicated to the women of Ampondralava. On Wednesday the 18th of September 2013 this statue was officially unveiled, with much ado!

Parties are a main attraction for people in my village, and the Women’s Day Party was no exception. I was excited that my friends and neighbors were getting honored by the community, and happily joined in the celebration. A couple things struck me- first only one of the guests of honor was a female. Second, the women did all the cooking, cleaning, and general preparations for their own party. They even ate after all the men.

They got their day in the sun, they got to drink, and visit with one another, and generally enjoy being women together- I’m not sure how far “women’s empowerment” needs to go for things to be considered truly equally. For the women in Ampondralava it was enough for them to be able to gather together; to cook and drink and enjoy each other’s company. The women responsible for hosting the event continued the festivities for a couple of days. They got their party in the end.

I was a little shocked and perturbed at first that a woman’s day celebration would involve almost exclusively male guests of honor. But that’s just the reality of things here. Maybe there isn’t anything wrong with that-maybe the spirit of celebrating

women is enough. Men don’t get a special day, but they also get to get drunk whenever they want with almost no social consequences. Getting just one day to let their hair down and share in the spirit of being all that is woman was fulfilling for my friends and neighbors.

This differs from the 90’s-child view of gender equality I was brought up with. Women are almost emasculated in the gender equality debate in the west. Seeing things from a different point of view brings a little more clarity to the perceptions I’ve been taught about gender roles. It’s causing me to question a lot of the things I’ve taken as axioms on this issue, and re-think what equality really means.

I think that in the US gender balance is a little bit out of whack. I think that women’s empowerment has come at a cost of displacing our male counterparts. Equality means that both men and women would have a say in the roles that both hold in a household, in communities, and in society in general. This debate can get very ugly at times. I fear that the pendulum might be swinging too far- we are

overcorrecting the gender biases and risk discriminating against men: our brothers, our fathers, our nephews and cousins.

Some would argue that women in the states are still fighting an uphill battle And there are definitely areas of women’s rights that are the focus of hot debate and are justifiable battle grounds. But I think that some parts of the battle has become more about women conquering men and less about us gaining equal footing. Where do we draw the line? Do we want to replace men? Do we want to become men?

The statue that was inaugurated is a woman with a child riding on her back. I think it’s a beautiful homage to the unique ability that women have of being mothers. Celebrating being a woman is just that: they don’t want to be like men or mask their femininity. Instead they celebrate the feminine. The cooking and cleaning are simple tasks they do every day. It’s their contribution

to their household and they are damn proud of it. Women here are happy to be honored for the work that they do- are boys somewhat more privileged here, Yes. But you can be damn sure that women get their fair share of input into the way their families and households are run. There is a lot more progress to go before things in Mada

CIMG2920

Dancing with baby!

gascar are really equal, but the same can be said for lots of places.

I appreciate though that change here is coming slowly here. Women are not asked to give up their feminine traits to be leaders or waging war on men. There is no feeling of women wanting to conquer or displace men. In a lot of

ways gender equality in Madagascar feels more equal than in the states.

So it is with my skirt on, hair done, and glass raised high that I toast all the women of my village. They do work. And they do it well. And I am glad to have shared in a couple days of celebrating all that it is to be a woman here, kids, cleaning, cooking and all!

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