Monday, March 9, 2009

Portrait #74: Happy Women's Day!

I have recently come to the conclusion that Kosovo is one of the most progressive countries in the world.

You are probably vaguely aware that the 8th of March is Women's Day. For many years, I have given Women's Day a passing thought each March as I consider that it was my brother's good fortune to be born on International Women's Day. Then I call my brother, wish him a happy birthday, and move on with my life.

Kosovo has changed that. Here, my new women friends and I celebrated in style. Saturday was a big church event for women of the church and their friends, complete with flowers, cakes and dancing. On Sunday, the actual holiday, I spent the afternoon with a friend and her sisters, cooking and eating a big feast - you know, women's stuff (to be fair, we would have done this even if it weren't a holiday, but we did preface it with "Happy Women's Day!" well wishes). Many of the women I've spoken to told me they exchanged gifts yesterday with their sisters and mothers. Then, today, our office treated all the women to a nice lunch at a local restaurant.

And catch this: after lunch, the women were given the rest of the afternoon off, while the men kept working! I kid you not. How awesome is that?!

(OK, that last point might be considered gender discrimination in the workplace, but it's a nice change of pace that in a society generally considered to be quite patriarchal, as I'm told Albanian Kosovar society is - the stories I've heard about that may one day be worthy of their own blog post - that the discrimination was in favour of the women.)

Anyway, the reason all of this felt progressive to me is that, at our girls' feast yesterday, I learned that Mother's Day is not celebrated in Kosovo. Women's Day is the equivalent. But you don't have to become a mother to celebrate. Single women, married women without children, women whose children are far away and don't care... we are all equally validated on Women's Day. We don't have to follow a certain life course to get the flowers at church and the lunch at work. We just have to be ourselves.

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