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Huit Mars: International Women’s Day

What is International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day is a global holiday celebrated annually on the 8th of March to acknowledge and honor the cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievements of women. It is a time to raise awareness and bring attention to issues such as reproductive rights, gender equity, femicide, and abuse against women.

Every year, the United Nations Women organize a theme for International Women’s Day. This year, the theme is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.” There is a crucial link between gender, social equity, and climate change. Without gender equality today, a sustainable and equal future will remain out of reach. Women and girls experience the greatest impacts of the climate crisis as it deepens existing gender inequalities and puts women’s lives and livelihoods at risk. Across the world, women depend more on, yet have less access to, natural resources, and often bear a disproportionate responsibility for securing food, water, and fuel.

How is it celebrated in Burkina Faso?

In Burkina Faso, Huit Mars (March 8) is a big day! Burkina Faso started commemorating Huit Mars in the mid 1980’s when it’s President at the time, Thomas Sankara, began promoting Women’s Rights. It is now an official holiday and therefore government offices, schools, and businesses are closed. To celebrate, the Burkinabé government hosts a televised event featuring prominent women in government and local communities.

Many communities celebrate by having parties and honoring the local women’s groups and their accomplishments. Three weeks before the big event, a special Huit Mars pagne (a traditional cotton clothing with colorful prints worn in much of West Africa) is printed and sold. The pagne design tends to reflect that particular year's theme. Entire communities then wear their elaborate complets (outfits) to celebrate the occasion.

Why are we raising awareness about women in Burkina Faso

In Burkina Faso, women are still denied educational and vocational opportunities in favor of young marriage and staying at home. Here are some stats according to the UN:

  • 13% of girls make it to secondary school.

  • 6.3% of parliament seats are held by women.

  • 51.6% of women aged 20–24 years old who were married or in a union before age 18

  • In 2018, 11.2% of women aged 15-49 years reported that they had been subject to physical and/or sexual violence by a current or former intimate partner in the previous 12 months.

  • Only half of all women have access to family planning methods

  • 76% of women ages 15-49 have undergone Female Genitial Mutilation (FGM) despite having laws that prohibit the pratice

How to support women in Burkina Faso

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