A message of Ms Dignité Bwiza for the Celebration of the International Women’s Day 2018
This Year’s theme for the celebration of the International Women’s Day is “the Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”. We celebrate, for the 23 rd time, the Beijing declaration and the tremendous positive impact it brought in the lives of women worldwide. Subsequent to the Beijing conference, laws and policies all over the world were reviewed to provide stronger protection to women against sexual and gender based violence.
Today, we celebrate the women who contributed to the alleviation of women’s lives. The list of these women of all nationalities and all ages is long and continues to expand as younger women and men join the quest towards an equal world, free from violence done to women simply because of their gender.
Today however, next to this long list of brilliant urban men and women, past and contemporary; is a long list of unsung extraordinary rural women who restlessly fought for equality in their own ways, with their own means in the rural setting. These unsung and often unheard rural activists gave birth and raised the current generation of urban activists like myself: women who can speak, women who have a platform on which to denounce, women who can be heard.
Today, while 23 years old urban women can dare say #MeToo and be heard, 23 years old rural women in countries like mine – the DR Congo – continue to silently endure inequalities and abuse that remain uncovered by the media. In Ituri for example, about 70% of the girls born in 1995 when the Beijing conference was held, did not finish their primary education. These women, the Beijing girls of Ituri (if I may call them so), are themselves mothers to young girls whom they can’t afford to put in school and whose future does not seem to hold better promises of a life better than that of their mothers, the Beijing girls of Ituri. As I speak, some of the Beijing girls of Ituri will sleep in internally displaced camps, exposed to violence of all sorts. Today, these rural women will continue to fight inequalities notwithstanding the fact that their achievements will remain unreported.
But today is a day of celebration. Therefore, I will abstain from listing all the obstacles rural women continue to face today. Today, I choose to celebrate the bravery of rural women. I choose to celebrate the silent dignity with which they have so far led their fights. Today I choose to celebrate the unsung numerous victories of rural women and call upon urban women’s rights activists to learn from the experience of rural women.
I call upon urban women’s rights activists to look inward at the rural women in them, to the rural woman they once were, the rural woman they could have been and endeavor to understand the perspectives of that woman because I firmly believe that we urban activist have a lot to learn from rural activists: their knowledge experience, expertise, dignity and bravery.
Long live to you rural women, we celebrate you today!