Two weeks following Men’s Day is Women’s Day. This holiday, much like Men’s day, has turned into a ‘hallmark holiday’ for Russia and its former Soviet Union. Originally founded to recognize the development of women’s rights and to encourage further achievement, Women’s day has turned into a national holiday where sons, husbands, brothers and boyfriends thank the women in their lives for all their hard work. Over decades of this flattery and gift giving, the holiday’s true meaning has been lost in the flurry of flowers and chocolate.
Between the two organizations that I have been working with, I have witnessed two very different viewpoints of this holiday; one being the progressive, feminist approach from my NGO in Jalal Abad and the other being the sweet, appreciative sentiments of our beauty and sweetness from the bank in Osh.
This topsy-turvy week began when my NGO hosted their Women’s Day event. This event was actually a dinner that took place about a week before the holiday in a restaurant in the center of the city which they had rented out. To create atmosphere; on one wall we created a photo gallery of active women in the community, on an adjacent wall we hung a giant poster stating “Женщины могут Всë,” (which directly translates to “Women can do all!”) and in the center we built a mini-theater where we were to present our event. To add to the excitement, my director invited several local government officials, community leaders and even the governor’s wife to watch this event. We began the dinner by introducing why Women’s day was founded and why we shouldn’t forget the historical significance of this day amongst the gift giving and celebration. From there starters were served and a video that portrayed the global progression of women’s rights and development of women’s right in Kyrgyzstan was shown. After the movie, some students came up and gave presentations on the history and relevance of women’s rights in Kyrgyzstan and as the evening began to wind down some guests started standing up and giving speeches, including two diplomats, a representative of the President’s party and the governor’s wife. The dinner went really well and after all the guests left and we had removed our decorations, we took the remaining party to the back of the restaurant where we shared a bottle of vodka and toasted to the success of the evening.
In a different city, at the end of the week, I celebrated Women’s Day over cakes, juice, and wine with the Microcredit Company. That afternoon, with the day’s work done, all the men gathered in the main office, gave toasts to “the most beautiful women in Osh” and handed out gifts. I received a pretty “yurt hat,” it’s called a yurt hat because it is a traditional piece of Kyrgyz headwear whose shape closely resembles that of a yurt. The full-time female employees of the office received a big gift basket with a set of towels, set of glasses and a juice pitcher.
This day definatly reminded me that I am a woman who was raised in an American culture. I have certain perspectives and ideas and many of them do not correspond with life in Kyrgyzstan, but as a volunteer I am learning where the fine line of sharing my opinions and accepting life as it is in Kyrgyzstan. Happy Women's Day to all, let us be thankful for all the progress towards human equality that we have made, and be aware of all the issues we still have to confront.
9 years ago