As I have outlined in a previous blog entry, women’s roles here fall into very traditional and stereotypical responsibilities. This is something that has frustrated me; therefore, I have vowed to dedicate a significant amount of energy to the area of women’s empowerment. It is important to me to focus on the promotion of women’s rights and equality during my next two years in Fiji!
I took the opportunity on International Women’s Day, March 8th, to talk to the girls in classes 5-8 at my primary school. On that Sunday afternoon, I made popcorn and juice and invited all the girls over to my house. First, we read the story of why and how God created women- the religious context is very important in Fiji. I found this great website that highlighted 30 women who changed history or had a significant influence in the promotion of women’s rights and equality. It featured pictures of women such as Amelia Earhart, Michelle Obama, Margaret Thatcher, Rosa Parks, Hilary Clinton, and Mother Teresa. Above each of their photos it gave one of their quotes and below it outlined a brief description of their impact. My favorite quote was by Amelia Earhart, she said, “ Please know that I am aware of the hazards. I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do the things as men have tried. When they fail their failure must be but a challenge to others.“ The girls absolutely loved looking at the photos, interpreting their quotes, and learning who these women were. After looking at this website, we read a short story about Amelia Earhart which outlined her willpower and her ability to succeed even when many people doubted her.
I had plans with the teacher who was on hostel duty for this past week to continue with our conversation on International Women’s Day. On Monday, I spoke at the assembly to all the students. I identified the importance of women’s empowerment, recognized the ground women in the United States have gained toward the battle of equality, and acknowledged that International Women’s Day is an important day for women across the world. Looking back now, I wish I’d talked for longer, given them a few quotes, and more examples, but at the time, we were dealing with a slight issue. One of the class one girls pooped her pants on the tarp where all the students were sitting. It was running down her leg and left a pile on the tarp as one of the teachers carried her to the bathroom. The assembly continued during all of this after the surrounding children scooted a few inches away from the feces on the tarp. Nobody seemed concerned, but I must admit I was very distracted during the talk I was trying to give.
Unfortunately, I was unable to carry out the rest of the activities I planned due to the cyclone, Pam. I was pulled out off the island on Monday afternoon, because the category 5 warning seemed rather threatening. I will have to make my “women hold up half the sky” banner with kids hand prints and names all over it, have the girls movie night, have zumba night, and have the craft night at my house another time-maybe next week! I am disappointed because I was really hoping to do all these events in honor of International Women’s Day, but it is never too late to celebrate the challenges that women worldwide have faced.