Society Magazine

DRC Gender Minister Geneviève Inagosi Goes to War Against March-8 Sarongs

Posted on the 01 March 2013 by Aengw @alexengwete

DRC Gender Minister Geneviève Inagosi goes to war against March-8 sarongs

DRC Gender Minister Geneviève Inagosi goes to war against March-8 sarongs

(PHOTO 1: A March-8 commemorative sarong on display at a store in Kinshasa)
*
(Photo 2: Geneviève Inagosi, DRC Minister of Gender, Family and Child
at a press briefing in May 2012.
***
I am told that it was in 2003 that March 8, the UN International
Women's Day, turned into a kind of Dionysian mass ritual countrywide
in the DRC.

As usual, the trend was allegedly set in Kinshasa.

On that day, women from all walks of life, clad in commemorative
pagnes (sarongs) specially designed for that year's commemoration by
the Kisangani-based French textile company SOTEXKI, would first march
on the martial beat of the army and the Kimbanguist church fanfares as
Kinshasa governor and a bevy of officials would be looking on from the
platform.

After that parade along the Chinese-built Boulevard Triomphal running
by the also Chinese-built People's Palace, the Parliament building,
the governor and the gender minister would then each make a speech
celebrating the Congolese "mamans" (as women are called in the Congo),
the backbone of society, deploring gender violence, and denouncing
"rape as a weapon of war" in eastern Congo.

Women would then leave Boulevard Triomphal and storm the "ngandas"
(sidewalk bars) where they'd drink till late in the night.

Evangelical pastors and self-appointed public moralists often accuse
women of losing all their sexual inhibitions at those drinking parties
of the International Women's Day.

For Congolese men, it's an ominous day, what with the mandatory
expenses entailed by showing appreciation to their wives and daughters
by buying them expensive commemorative pagnes.

Kinshasa urban legend has many tales of men who have committed suicide
after their wives quit them for failing to buy those commemorative
pagnes on Women's Days.

The International Women's Day is also a costly proposition for the
government as well, for it has to foot the bill of the pagnes of all
its female civil servants.

This year, however, the government hopes to do away with that ritual for good.

By mid-February, Gender Minister Geneviève Inagosi had taken to the
airwaves to announce that this upcoming March 8 won't be a holiday and
that the government wouldn't be ordering bulks of pagnes from SOTEXKI.

The country is at war, Inagosi keeps repeating, and could ill afford
to engage into such onerous expenses.

Inagosi further explained that the country's theme for this year's
Women's Day being, "Together against war and violences towards women
and girls by strengthening peace and justice in the DRC," there's only
one way to mark March 8, 2013: through education and meditation.

Adding:

"The government, through my ministry, isn't against wearing
[commemorative] pagnes. [...] But a certain opinion has a tendency to
reduce the International Women's Day to the wearing of the pagne
solely. And that isn't acceptable."

Well, Inagosi was expecting to get attaboys from "patriotic" women and
men; what she reaped instead was massive flak.

SOTEXKI bemoaned a move it described as unfriendly toward the
struggling national textile industry, while women feel robbed of their
hard-won right to pagnes and street parties.

I heard a man on a bus decry the government action that would deprive
men of "easy access to easy women."

Many women vow to celebrate anyway, even without any official seal of
approval. And SOTEXTI obliged by producing thousands of yards of
commemorative pagnes.

At any rate, on March 8, the DRC government might well find out it's
hard to dismantle a Congolese ritual by decree.

***
PHOTO CREDITS: PHOTO 1: Alex Engwete; PHOTO 2: via groupelavenir.cd

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