Today was the International Day of Women or in Kinyarwanda, Umunsi w’Abagore. Twenty-three women from my neighborhood gathered together to celebrate the day. There were some men as well and more children than I took time to count. The day was celebrated with sodas, goat kebabs and boiled matoki as well as many speeches given by both women and men.
The women took the opportunity to dress up traditional Rwandan style, they looked beautiful! My neighbor, Beatrice, came over to my house and dressed me up in some of her clothes before we went to the celebration. I was so glad! For a few moments during the day I forgot I was white and felt like I blended in.
I want to share one story told by the lady who made the first speech of the day. This woman is a young mother who has earned a masters degree in economics and works for a bank. She started her speech by encouraging women that getting an education is very important. She had to work hard for her degrees and earned them without her family’s support. She went on to remind the women that even though they get an education and a job, there first responsibility is in their homes. She told them to make sure that they keep their homes nice and that their children are well cared for. She told them that even if they have a job and perhaps earn more money than their husband, he is still the leader of the family. She shared an interesting Rwandan proverbial story with the group.
Here is the story:
One day a man came to a widow’s house wanting to have sex with her. She told him to come back to her house later. While he was gone, she cooked many dishes for him. Even though she used a variety of ingredients in the various dishes, the main ingredient of them all was beans. When the man returned, he noticed that she had prepared some food for him. He began lifting the lids off the different dishes and what did he find? Beans, beans and beans. The woman said to the man, “Even though we women are all a little different, really we are all the same. Go home to your wife and leave me alone!”
I thought that it was a profound story and very interesting that it was told on a day like today and in a group of women. I have found it to be true from the United States to rural Togo to urban Rwanda! Woman are women, we just come in many different flavors. I enjoyed the day observing these women encourage and empower one another. I feel honored to be living among them for this season of my life.
Here are a few pictures from the day…