While everyone back home has been talking about marriage equality, here in Ethiopia us Peace Corps women lended our voices to a call for gender equality. While I’m feeling a little like I’m missing out on some big news and change back home, I feel priviledged to be part of the movement for women’s health and education out here in sub-Saharan Africa. Though it makes me sad that these are still issues here. Poverty can be blamed for many things: no access to a health center, no time or incentive to get an education, malnutrition. But it can’t be blamed for those times when women are not seen as “worth it.”
When people say gender equality in America they usually mean equal pay for equal work. When we say gender equality here, it means that, but it also means equal worth of life. A daughter should be educated because she is worth as much as son. A mother should be taken to the health center to give birth because she is worth more than her ability to give birth. A sister should not have to be harrassed on the street because she is more than a walking sex object. Changing minds is harder than changing laws. The laws exist here already.
But one of the ways to change minds, is to show the world that women care. They will stand up for themselves. And when they do, they can be a pretty powerful force.
So in mid March, around International Women’s Day, the women of Peace Corps joined in with the women of Addis Ababa and ran a 5K through the city to show that women can, and will come out in droves for themselves.
It was one of the best days in country so far. To see that many women come together and know that we were able to cheer them on as they fight for gender equality in their own country was a really inspiring experience.
But it wasn’t just about the women. The Peace Corps men came out to cheer us on too (and brought beer- good on them!). It was great to see support from our menfolk too.
We are hoping to lobby Peace Corps to sponsor us to bring girls from our towns to Addis next year to run in the race, maybe tour Addis Ababa university, and speak with some inspirational women. Fingers crossed! Because let’s be honest, it isn’t about the race (I barely ran it), it’s about the movement and the solidarity and being surrounded by women who want change. For a young girl, that can be powerful.