Before moving to Mozambique, I had never needed to be this aware of my gender. So far, I have not been able to spend a weekend without being reminded that Sexta e dia do homem, Friday is the man’s day. I have been told that if I want to get married, then I better hurry up and learn how to cook, clean, and take care of a man. I have been told that I shouldn’t be living alone because I need a man to guard me. I have been told that my man’s bike (who knew that was such a thing?) makes me look both masculine and promiscuous. I have been told to wear more skirts, more dresses, more makeup. I have been told not to accept drinks from men because it is seen as a promise of sex later that night. I have gotten out of threatening chats with police officers by making false promises of one day showing them the United States. I put up with kissy sounds and whistling as I walk to the market in the equivalent of PJ pants, and have to tell the market men, that no, I do not want them to come over so I can cook for them.
Being a woman in Mozambique is difficult. Not just an American woman in Mozambique, but being a Mozambican woman in Mozambique is difficult.
Today, Friday, April 7th, we celebrated Mozambican Women’s Day. A day of commemoration of the death of the first first lady of Mozambique, Josina Machel. I spent the morning at various ceremonies around town with my female colleagues, (6 out of the close to 90 professors at my secondary school are women) wearing matching capulanas, looking chiquey, and watching various dances, theatrical pieces and songs being preformed. Some of my male students and other professors have stated to my face that its’ ridiculous that there is a day dedicated only to celebrating women. So here’s a list of reasons why women (here but also everywhere) need to be celebrated (and not just once a year!)
- Mozambican women wake up at 3am, cook, clean, get water at the well, wash clothes, wash the dishes, bathe the kids and some then go to work. The cycle then repeats. Multiple times a day, every day.
- Almost 50% of girls in Mozambique will be married off before the age of 18.
- Last week, Malema’s administradora strongly recommended women to denounce their husband to the police if he was physically abusing them, but NOT to divorce them, because women are the glue that hold the family together.
- The female literacy rate in Mozambique is 28% compared to 60% for men.
- It is a common occurrence for school professors to sleep with female students in order for them to pass a class.
It has been proven time and time again that empowering women can be the solution to developing countries’ economic growth. But it all starts the population acknowledging the hard work that women all over the world do. In the words of the quintal music blasting around town, “ha uma coisa que voces tem que saber, e que a mulher tem força.” There is a thing you need to know, women have strength.
Currently blasting out of my bluetooth speakers as a subconscious reminder to my whole bairro.