08 March 2006

International Women's Day

One of the lasting memories I will have of Mali is the seemingly strength of the women here. With out a doubt they work 2 times as hard as the men do: collecting water, cooking, taking care of the children, selling goods at the market, and even working in the fields. All the while they have a constant smile on their face, laughing and joking around with other women.

So I thought it was fitting that they celebrated International Women's Day with a grand conference and party. President Amadou Toumani Toure attended the event along with other dignitaries at the Palais du Congres in downtown Bamako. A unusually light day at the clinic (10 patients all morning) and nothing else to do after 10 am allowed us to watch the proceedings on TV (the one “luxury” we have in the village, despite the fact that it is only 1 channel, the government run ORTM). Some of the great singers of Mali came on and performed, skits were performed in the local language, Bambara, and the biggest thing, the president spoke. He gave his usual address, marking the great strides Mali has made in women’s rights, and made some blank promises to improve their lives even better.

The one theme that is common not only to this one day of speeches and mild celebration but to most of the functionaries (i.e. government workers) and politicians in general here is “empty promises.” They always promise to do better, to do good for this one particular group they are speaking at or attended a meeting at, and in the long run, nothing will really change. Even some of my Malian colleagues noted their dismay at this, and I could not agree more. I guess we will all just have to wait and see what will really happen with all of these promises aside.

So, this last digression really toke away from the message that I got from the day’s celebrations: that women, the Givers of Life, deserve some recognition from their hard work and sacrifice in the name of family. But this begs the question: does that mean that the men of the world will ever lift a hand and give his wife a break and do her choirs for her?????


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