musings on travel, international living, development aid, politics, turkey (the country more than the meat) and anything else that comes to mind...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Gems from International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day. I work with a few strong women in South Sudan, including a women's/human rights activist, so when asked if I was going to do something for the female staff on international women's day I immediately said 'yes'. Looking back this reactionary response was more out of self-preservation than any initial knowledge of the significance of the day.

Originally called International Women's Working Day (somehow I don't think that would fly these days...), turns out International Women's Day was first celebrated widely in 1977 after the UN made some sort of proclamation that it was, in fact, important to celebrate women. It only took them 30 years after their formation to figure that out. I'd say that's about par for the course with the UN.

So, slightly fearful of what was to come, I set out with seven of my female colleagues this afternoon to celebrate. We ended up on the patio of a local hotel drinking mango juice and talking about women. What could be better?!

Some gems from the hour:

  • After showing up a bit late, one lady was asked if she knew why we were meeting for drinks outside of the office: "Yes. It's Women's Day. What is HE doing here?"
  • Same lady: "He can just pay for the first round of beer then go." No filter. If it enters the brain of this particular woman (who I really like by the way), it's coming out of her mouth.
  • The societal role of Dinka women? "We dig and have babies." Still don't exactly know what that means.
  • "This is good," one lady said referring to the drinks and perhaps the atmosphere. "Next year food."
  • "I'd like a passion fruit juice please." A simple request from one of our most stellar employees. "Fashion juice? Ok. Immediately." The waiter, bless his heart, didn't quite get it despite several different attempts and even after he pulled in backup (another Ethiopian whose English was equally missing). She ended up with a fruit salad. 
  • "Last year was the first in five years that I didn't suffer over Christmas." And why is that? "You gave us a bonus." Note to journalists and well-meaning aid workers everywhere: when someone in South Sudan says they've 'suffered', ask a few follow-up questions.
  • After exactly 1 hour of celebration: "Can we go home now?"