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The Goma parade was scheduled to start at 8:00am… but this is CONGO! For any big event there tends to be about a two hour delay in start time. Once we got to the main circle, a group of police officers escorted us to the main stage viewing area, and offered us seats on the stage. We felt pretty awkward about that because… well… we’re not important! We’re just some teachers visiting from Kinshasa! So we resisted the stage and joined the mass of people lining the streets.
All the different groups parading were amazing- political groups, religious groups, ethnic groups, professional groups, and children’s groups. Women and girls from all over the North Kivu Province came to celebrate… WOMEN! In Congo, for all big events a fabric is chosen. For women’s day though, each organization chooses their own fabric, and then each individual gets a dress made in the style that they want. Seeing the diversity of dresses equaled the excitement of seeing the myriad of organizations.
After the parade we returned to the HEAL hospital. As we were passing by one of the rooms that houses women awaiting fistula surgery, one of the Muslim women’s organizations was delivering a big donation of food. For lack of better words… it was pretty touching.
We carried on to the Jubilee Center, where all the women workers at HEAL Africa- doctors, nurses, teachers, cooks- were having a party! We ate chicken and plantains, drank Primus beer, and danced to Congolese music! One of the most impressive dancers, and the only other man in the room besides Brad and Jon, was the guy who opens/closes/guards the front gate of the compound… he’s a double amputee- no legs! And he was totally breakdancing and doing hand stands and just… gettin’ DOWN! It was amazing.
The only disappointment of the whole day was watching the evening news, showing a women’s day parade in Poland, and the only news from Africa was about a massacre with machetes in Nigeria! I think that the rest of the world might’ve WANTED to see this elaborate women’s day celebration in Goma… in the “most dangerous place in the world for women,” and it would certainly help the rest of the world to understand that Eastern Congo IS NOT ALL BAD!