Tanzania celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8. The evening before, Naomi arrived at CHES House with a seamstress who measured us briefly and left. By 8 a.m. the next morning, we were presented with a dress for Catriona and a shirt for me–both using the brown and white material chosen for one and all to wear on this eventful day.
Naomi and Bernie drove us 30 km east to the celebrations in Endagow, where we gathered in large shed with a roof but no sides intended for crop storage. Chairs were arranged in rows, a red carpet led to the decorated head table, and a sound system with superior amplification was in full working order.
A large crowd of women, all wearing different styled dresses of the same material, waited for the arrival of the District Commissioner (DC) on the main road. When he arrived they enjoyed a celebratory dance with him down to the venue.
There were lengthy speeches as all dignitaries and special people (including ourselves) were introduced and recognized. Interspersed with this were singing, dancing ,and even exercise groups from a variety of communities and schools. Catriona and I enjoyed these events somewhat more than the speeches, which of course were in Swahili.
Sitting in the front row in front of the gigantic speaker had its challenging moments but the spirited spontaneity of the occasion overcame any such drawbacks. On numerous occasions, members of the seated audience were encouraged to join the dancers in front of the DC. Few held back.
As there were few left who hadn’t spoken, what I believed to be the final speech came from the DC. Joseph Mkirkiti is a polished speaker and adept at saying what everyone wanted to hear. They loved him. As the clapping died down, I turned to Naomi, wondering if it was time to head to the car. “Just a tiny bit more,” she replied.
An hour later, after some wind-up singing and dancing and several amusing skits, she indicated that only the meal remained on the agenda. It took a while for a group of caterers to bring in tables and food but the wait was worthwhile as the food –lunch in fact, at 4 p.m. — was both welcome and delicious.
We drove home in a car crammed with participants seeking a ride; we could feel the warmth of companionship. It was both a treat and an honour to be included in these unforgettable festivities.
Chris and Catriona Harker