Bissau Celebrates International Women's Day

Today is international women's day! And in Guinea Bissau, the day is taken very seriously.  The government has organized a march, parade and a series of speeches that the Prime minister will attend. Since I left early, I can't say for sure whether the prime minister was able to attend, but I really think he probably did.

I haven't lived in that many countries, but if you live in the US, or in Europe, chances are you've barely heard of the day. My cynical theory is that the worse the situation for women in the country, the more international women's day is celebrated. This isn't necessarily because members of the society have a strong desire to guarantee women's rights and improve access to necessary services, but rather to pat themselves on the back for dedicating one day in the year to celebrating women. Phew, that was cynical and awful of me. I'm sorry. Really, I am. But the cynicism comes from a growing familiarity of women's concerns here. Magdalena Sepulveda, the UN Rapporteur on extreme poverty said it better than I ever could:  “Women and girls are Guinea-Bissau’s foundational pillar, yet their reward is a neglect of their rights and needs. [...] They have limited access to services such as education, health and justice and are victims of sexual violence, exploitation, forced marriage and adolescent pregnancies, despite their tireless effort to secure the wellbeing of their families and communities,”  Compared with men, women suffer from less access to health services, higher incidence of HIV/AIDS, lower levels of school enrollment, lower literacy rates, reduced incomes, higher rates of unemployment and greater difficulties in overcoming poverty." As if that weren't bad enough “the incidence of women living with HIV/AIDS and rates for maternal mortality in Guinea-Bissau are among the worst in the world".

I'll leave you with that, and with some of the beautiful, brave women of Guinea Bissau who came from all over the country to participate in the parade.

Save for a few guys working crowd control, the men were the spectators.

I love that whole families came out to watch the parade.

The sign reads: We the women of the United People's Assembly want peace and Stability

Large groups of women came out to participate in the parade

Amazing reminder that women are the ones who produce, transport and sell the fresh produce we eat in Bissau

These ladies look nice and all, but I wouldn't mess with the one holding the hoe... 

This woman came carrying her purse and her watering can

I hadn't seen female soldiers until today, and didn't realize that I hadn't seen them until they came out in force today.

UNFPA staff were on hand to distribute condoms to men and women in the crowd

This munchkin saw me taking pictures and demanded I take his. He said his name was Babe and he was 7 years old. 

Compared with men, women suffer from less access to health services, higher incidence of HIV/AIDS, lower levels of school enrolment, lower literacy rates, reduced incomes, higher rates of unemployment and greater difficulties in overcoming poverty. “The incidence of women living with HIV/AIDS and rates for maternal mortality in Guinea-Bissau are among the worst in the world,” she warned.

“I am leaving the country with a profound sense of admiration for the resilience and courage of Guinea-Bissaun women,”

- See more at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14291&LangID=E#sthash.c4OlPYjV.dpuf

“They have limited access to services such as education, health and justice and are victims of sexual violence, exploitation, forced marriage and adolescent pregnancies, despite their tireless effort to secure the well-being of their families and communities,” the expert underscored.

Compared with men, women suffer from less access to health services, higher incidence of HIV/AIDS, lower levels of school enrollment, lower literacy rates, reduced incomes, higher rates of unemployment and greater difficulties in overcoming poverty. “The incidence of women living with HIV/AIDS and rates for maternal mortality in Guinea-Bissau are among the worst in the world,” she warned.

“I am leaving the country with a profound sense of admiration for the resilience and courage of Guinea-Bissaun women,” the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights said.

- See more at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14291&LangID=E#sthash.c4OlPYjV.dpuf

Joanna Busby1 Comment