International Women’s Day celebrations – Through an Intern’s eyes

International Women’s Day celebrations – Through an Intern’s eyes
5th April 2018

Participants of the teen voices programme from Townside High School and facilitator Bethan Williams, pictured outside WIL Uganda offices on International Women’s Day


The 8th March has increasingly become a day of marked attention and #pressforprogress. A day of celebration, conversation and advocacy of women’s rights. In Busembatia, participants of Women in Leadership Uganda marched to celebrate and mobilise support – and what a vibrant and visible day it was!


To many here was just a normal morning on a normal day, as the cockerels sounded and the sun began to rise. However, it really wasn’t. A national holiday, no work, no school, but why, I asked myself? International Women’s Day was the reply. I was shocked, stunned almost. To declare a national holiday was such a progressive step, I pondered receptivity in other countries I had worked in and visited, and their attitudes towards such a day.


This wasn’t the first realisation I had had since being in country, however it was a large one, Uganda was progressive, Uganda was ready. Uganda was leading a change, right here on my doorstep. I considered what lessons could be taken back, to my own country of residence. Sure, International Women’s Day is a recognised and celebrated day, but a National holiday – how fantastic!


The celebrations started with a march, led by a marching band equipped with trumpets, horns and snare drums around the town, as children, women and men joined the hub of activity and some even came out of their houses to see what the noise was all about! I watched the in-school participants of the Teen Voices programme dance to the beat as they marched with pride, championing signs that read ‘I CAN! I WILL!’.


I had to take a large gulp and swallow hard, this was what it was all about, the reason I was here. For me, the reason the organisation was in Busembatia, the reason International Women’s Day existed at all, empowerment potential, the need and readiness for change, a spark, a vision, hope. The march ended with a congregation of the band, programme participants and the public gathered at the football grounds of local Busembatia Senior Secondary High School.


To follow were inclusive and accessible activities of yoga and football, open to all participants to enjoy, explore and for some, experience for the very first time. Then it was back to the office of WIL Uganda, where a large tent stood with pride, fully equipped with decorative balloons and a PA system with music being pumped out that had already attracted and intrigued many spectators. The afternoon celebrations consisted of an awards ceremony, a bead rolling competition and musical and dramatic performances. There was also a speech from our inspirational director and founder, Cianne Jones, and from prominent stakeholders and community personnel, as well as heart-warming testimonies from participants of the Adult Literacy programme.


I felt engaged and ignited, overwhelmed and blessed to be in the presence of so many empowered, capable and competent women. Future leaders, the real and live proof, of why programmes and organisations like this really matter. In this case, grassroots really is grassroots, and for Busembatia, it seems that this is what impact really means. Sustainable change from the inside, from the people, for the people.


That night, I read a national Ugandan newspaper over dinner, titled New Vision. I was amazed to see a full ten-paged spread on International Women’s Day in Uganda, it’s importance, reasoning and resonance. I couldn’t help but think, if this is happening and replicated in other towns, districts and countries, then the future really is bright!


As well as International Women’s Day being a prominent day in my own personal and professional calendar, Thursday 8th March also meant that I had been as a WIL Uganda intern for a whole month already. As I sat in bed that night, I flicked through my phone gallery to reflect on the days’ activities. My feet were aching from all the marching, but so was my heart – Full and proud with purpose and prosperity, respect and gratitude to all the strong women and girls who are quickly making me feel at home here. Despite the stress and sometimes overwhelming contrast to life back home, the time difference and questioning of what to do next, I felt optimistic and ready, to embrace whatever the next two months have in store.


Written by Bethan Williams

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