CI indigenous fellow Beatrice Lempaira explains how communities in rural Kenya are working together to improve livestock management and reduce land degradation. (© Conservation International/photo by Kame Westerman)
Earlier this month, the world celebrated International Women’s Day, which honors the achievements made toward the advancement of women throughout history and around the world.
The observance began in 1911 as part of the women’s suffrage movement in North America and Europe. But growing up in rural Wisconsin, we never learned about it in school or celebrated it in any way.
It was only when I became a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Madagascar that I realized the inspiration and celebration that the day generates in other parts of the world.
In the remote northeastern Malagasy village I lived in, Ambinanitelo, International Women’s Day was one of the most eagerly anticipated days of the year. As I walked through the village, strains of music, dance and laughter spilled out of houses where groups of women practiced for the big day.
The feten’ny behivavy (women’s festival) brought the whole village to a standstill. People took a break from their ubiquitous rice farming, dirty clothes were left soiled until tomorrow and students had the day off. Young and old gathered in the center square to watch the colorfully dressed women sing and dance about their lives. I felt honored to be a part of this exciting day.
A decade later, I had the good fortune to spend this most recent International Women’s Day back in Africa — this time in rural Kenya, where I was visiting one of CI’s indigenous fellows.