Normally it’s pretty difficult to take a camera into town. If someone sees you photographing the wrong person or place, they can make life rather unpleasant. Not so long ago it was illegal in Congo to take photos in public without a permit.
So it’s nice to get a “freebie” day every now and then, like International Women’s Day. Lots of people have their cameras out, and no one seems to mind. My first holiday here, 2011, I went kind of crazy. It was fun to photograph the kids, the beautiful ladies, the typical shops and the green, green surroundings.
International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 every year, worldwide, though it varies from region to region. I don’t remember hearing much about it in the U.S. Which is a shame, because it began in the early 1900s and appears to have had a lot to do with women’s suffrage around the world.
Here in Congo, it seems to be a pretty big deal. Each year the company gives all the female employees (even the expats, and even us expat wives) matching fabric plus money to have a dress made, then we march in a big parade in town.
The parade lasts for hours, featuring lots of different groups from all over the area, each in their own matching fabric. Church X, shop Y, wives of policemen, activist groups, etc. It was super fun but also a little overwhelming being IN the parade. I remember being totally surrounded, by children especially. The crowd got thicker and thicker as we approached the main podium. Just after passing the podium the crowd was so dense that where 5 of us had been marching abreast, we now had to snake single file through the crowd, grabbing each other’s hands not to be left behind. And it was a hot, very hot day. But a good one.
I wasn’t in Congo for the event in 2012, and the security situation in 2013 kept us close to the house, sadly. Tomorrow is the 2014 parade, we’ve got our new fabric and dresses made, and we’re raring to go!