Happy international women’s day?

In Lusaka and other Zambian provincial capitals, international women’s day will be marked by an activity so ubiquitous that it has come to known as the “marchpast.”  It means simply we, mostly women in today’s case, will be provided matching t-shirts and chitenge, or a polyester suit, that identifies our organisational pedigrees and we’ll raise a banner and we will march past our political leaders.

First let me clarify that Zambia there are some activist women and men who question and challenge such traditions, some avoid these marchpasts, and others join in the genuine hope that things will change.

Unfortunately, to many it’s a free t-shirt and lunch paid for from the company’s HIV and AIDS or gender equality budget. Furthermore, at least two indicators regarding gender mainstreaming will have been achieved – “participate in IWD march – tick” and “number of t-shirts distributed –tick.”

Today in Lusaka 10,000 women will parade past our nearly entirely male political leadership, who after a long speech, a few citations and lunch will return to things as they are, and that are not changing fast enough.

When lunch is over we’ll return to our male-led and dominated workplaces to earn less money than those lucky few and at the end of the day we’ll return to male-dominated homes and societies where not enough is being done to end violence against women and men and ingrained societal inequality.

If someone were to convince me that 10,000 women marching today meant that these 10,000 homes have rebelled against millennia of violence and inequality, that these 10,000 women have said “up yours” to sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace, I myself would partake of another marchpast, polyester suit and all.

A luta continua!

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