A lot of work has gone into the event this morning (6 March) yet as the early sun dawns, we awaken into a state of semi-panic. There are chairs to move and speakers to set up. Last-minute poem editing, practicing for speeches and a presentation. Then an entire sound system needs moving at the last second, to connect the laptop to both speakers and projector.
I sit to one side, behind a table covered in bright paper, glue and pencils. From my corner, I watch the red plastic chairs slowly fill. In ten minutes, Matt and I will be swamped with a dozen children wanting to make Mother’s Day cards, but not yet - now, I have time to imagine what my mum thinks of International Women’s Day.
When she talks about feminism, my mother says, “why would we want equality, when women are so far superior?”
We are so far ‘superior’ that we went effectively unpaid the last few weeks of the year due to a pay gap that will take another half century to close.
We are so far ‘superior’ that in parts of the world like El Salvador, we are left without the option of a career because many men don’t accept responsibility for their children, leaving single mothers dotted in houses throughout the towns.
We are so far ‘superior’ that in the face of the Zika crisis, it was women who were asked to not get pregnant, please - no one asked the men to start wearing condoms.
If that’s what superiority is, then I’d like some equality instead please.
I was worried, a few weeks ago, that the presentation would only show famous people who have done extraordinary things with their lives. Not that we should ignore them - it’s important to have role models - but today isn’t solely for Curie or Brontë.
It’s for every woman, no matter what she does - there’s no one in my life I appreciate more than my parents, who dedicated twenty years to raising not only their own children, but other people’s as well, with equal love and dedication. Normal people, who are nonetheless extroadinary.
Our visual media crew has been running around town all week, asking women just like this to be part of a three minute video that now plays on the stage. It is composed entirely of smiles and laughter as they go about their day. The audience smiles and laughs along, as women and children on screen make pupusas, chat to customers or play at school.
They are just as worthy as the Mayoress of Santa Catarina, the female nurse who saw me when I had chikungunya or the architect of our bio-construction project. Half the national volunteers and more than half the internationals are female. All worthy of celebration.
That’s not to say that the male volunteers are not - so why not celebrate them?
In answer, I can only say that if we celebrated women as much as we do men every day, we wouldn’t need International Women’s Day.
Unfortunately, we do need it - we need to proudly say “I’m as strong as a woman”, to woman up, be a woman about it and make women of ourselves.
It’s a day for us. A day for speeches by and about inspirational women. A day for poetry about mothers and sisters, mayoresses and nurses alike.
It’s also a day for hectic card-making and under-rehearsed choirs, but we didn’t expect every little thing to go to plan. We could only work hard and hope for a successful show.
It was, and we hope that your celebration of women today is also successful - so make sure to tell the important ladies in your life that they are loved and appreciated for everything they do.
Written by ICS volunteer Branwen Hughes