Happy Belated International Women’s Day!

Erin, Cheryl & Sheila
Erin, Cheryl & Sheila

International Women’s Day is one of my favourite days of the year! This year was no exception. Although the events that  I attended were held on Saturday, March 9 instead of Friday, March 8th it was no less of a celebration. As you can see from the picture above I also spent the day in the company of women who are both my friends and whom I admire very much!

The event that we participated in was organized by BONELA, The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS, which is a non-governmental organisation committed to integrating an ethical, legal and human rights approach into Botswana’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The focus of this year’s event was an International Celebration of Sex Workers Rights Day and International Women’s Day.

The objective of the event was to raise public awareness on issues that affect women who engage in commercial sex work and those who are involved in same sex relationships, ultimately empowering women on their Sexual Reproductive Health Rights. The event also promoted access to justice and healthy lifestyle among the vulnerable groups including HIV and STI Prevention. Out of all the International Women’s Day events that I had to choose from attending, there was no doubt in my mind that this was the one I wanted to celebrate.

The day began with a march at 6:00 am and followed with a full slate of activities up to about 1:00 pm. The main activities took place in a tent at Main Mall in the centre of Gaborone. Every one of the human rights events that I have attended since arriving in Gabs almost six months ago, which has been held in a tent at Main Mall has exceeded my expectations. Yesterday’s event was no different. The tent was packed with both women and men! There was music galore, dramatic performances by incredibly talented artists, moving and motivating speakers and a sense of celebration and unity which quite frankly I have never felt at similar events back home in Canada.

My friend Erin, who role in the Maatla Project is a combination of ODA (Organizational Development Advisor) and Gender Advocate performed during the event. She sang one of her own songs honouring women’s day and read/sang the following poem:

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Maya Angelou

All in all it was a perfect day!