March 8th is International Women’s Day. It’s a day for women around the world to have a day just for us. Granted I think everyday should be Women’s Day but that’s just me. Kyrgyzstan takes this day very seriously and it’s my favorite holiday in country. Women in Kyrgyzstan are the hardest working women I’ve ever met. They clean, cook, take care of the children, handle the money, feed the animals, take care of the shopping, handle the garden, do the laundry and sometimes have a full or part time job on top of that. This is of course not including them taking care of every family member, friend, neighbor or stranger who comes over to the house and making sure they’re treated like a guest. Women here deserve this day. It’s a day where the men take care of things, they cook, clean and handle things around the house. Everyone gives each other flowers and jewelry and it’s just a day to celebrate women.
We celebrated with a large brunch with my favorite women in the Issyk-Kol area and sent messages of love to the ladies who aren’t here. When I say this is my favorite holiday I don’t mean it just because it’s a day for me and for women. It’s the whole atmosphere of the city. On most holidays people will tell you happy holiday but today everyone says something to the women and thanks them for what they do. Taxi drivers usually give free rides, the women in the bazaar give you a little something extra when you buy from them and the city just feels good. It’s happy and full of life. It’s so cute to see the boys getting presents for their Moms or sisters or girlfriends and even sweeter to see the older men buying flowers and chocolates.
When I talk about how big and special Women’s Day is here a lot of people are surprised. They think because I live in a Muslim country that women are oppressed and walking about being disadvantaged. Now of course there are issues here still with equality and women’s rights. While bride kidnapping is illegal that doesn’t stop it from happening and people still don’t know their rights and maybe won’t report it. There are plenty of men and women alike who still believe that a women’s place is in the home rearing children and taking care of the house but there are some who are moving past that. Those numbers grow every day and I’m proud to be friends with a lot of those women. They don’t want to get married right away their education is important to them and they have goals and ambitions. So something to understand, women aren’t oppressed because they’re Muslim. They’re oppressed because of the social structures and culture around them. But those walls are beginning to come down. Today is a day to celebrate the women who want more than marriage, the women who dream of being a mother, and the women who are unsure of their path. Women’s day and feminism alike is about celebrating the choices of every woman whether you agree with them or not. I’m immensely proud of the women in my life and am inspired by them every single day. So cheers to you and cheers to us.