International Women’s Day

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.

kind friend and her sister, a seamstress, making a house call for my fitting

kind friend and her sister, a seamstress, making a house call for my fitting

dressed up and ready to roll

dressed up and ready to roll

all us international women on the bus

all us international women on the bus

"no to premature marriages for girls"

“no to premature marriages for girls”

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US Army photobomb

US Army photobomb

fancy a rest?

fancy a rest?

a hairstyle unique to Congo, I think

a hairstyle unique to Congo, I think

pretending to take a photo of me taking a photo of them

pretending to take a photo of me taking a photo of them

selling sugarcane

selling sugarcane

a phone cabin, and peanuts for sale

a phone cabin, and peanuts for sale

colorful veggie stand

colorful veggie stand

what better ad for a hair salon than MJ?

what better ad for a hair salon than MJ?

charcoal for sale, and friendly waves

charcoal for sale, and friendly waves

it's starting to get crowded

it’s starting to get crowded

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whew! we made it to the end

whew! we made it to the end

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!

7 comments

  1. Jen, you look very pretty in that first pic (with the two ladies at your house for the fitting). The fifth pic down with the lady making the hand motion while talking is my favorite people pic. Thank you for the post.

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    1. Thanks Carl! I agree, the 5th photo is great. I also like the one with the woman under the umbrella with the baby on her back. Africa’s Next Top Model.

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  2. Jen, you look fabulous! Love the colors. What a great event to be part of. As always, thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks hon, the fabrics here are so incredible. We toured Uganda last year, a neighboring country, and the only disappointing thing about it was their fabrics PALED in comparison to bright Congo’s!

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  3. Jen, I also wonder why this day is not celebrated in the US like it is in other countries. I remember receiving an email from one of my employer’s female developers in India, wishing me a happy Int’l Women’s Day; I had no idea there was such a day.
    Thanks for the photos; I always enjoy them, especially the captions!

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