Monthly Archives: March 2010

“Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion.”

Uttered in 1774 by Horace Walpole, I can only agree with this sentiment.

Recently Lauren Bush launched a new line of dresses made of material which is hand-dyed by women in DR Congo. Her dresses will be sold at Barneys, with a portion of the proceeds supporting Women for Women International.

Read more:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/chronstyle/detail?entry_id=59053#ixzz0iWcbDjTR

If the shoe fits, wear it.

Take a look in any woman’s closet and count the pairs of shoes she owns. Most women have not only a passion for fashion, but also a shoe fetish (myself included…take me to Macy’s and I make a beeline for the shoe department). What can I say? New shoes can transform an outfit, an attitude, even a bad day. And thus, women go crazy for shoes. However, never have I encountered such emotion regarding shoes as I did last week.

Recently, a group from North Carolina came to visit Congo Initiative. One of the visitors noticed that many of the children at the Women’s Center were barefoot. With a crisp twenty-dollar bill, she commissioned us to purchase shoes for the children. So last week, Meredith and I spent a morning at the market negotiating with a shoe salesman. Eventually we walked away with 20 pairs of brightly colored sandals in various sizes and styles. As we left, we prayed that somehow, someway, we had an adequate amount and the correct sizes to outfit all the children.

When we arrived at the center, the children’s teacher paraded them outside as we lined up the new sandals on the porch. One-by-one, the children were called forward to select sandals. Honestly, I cannot ever remember such excitement upon receiving new shoes. Here are some photos documenting the occasion:

photo credit: Anne Medley

photo credit: Anne Medley

photo credit: Anne Medley

photo credit: Anne Medley

International Women’s Day

Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day (IWD). Celebrated globally, this holiday commemorates the accomplishments of women and calls for their political, economic, and social empowerment. The idea of IWD was initially conceived at the turn of the 20th century amid rapid world industrialization and economic expansion that led to protests over working conditions. In 1911, the first IWD was marked by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Nearly 100 years later, this day is observed in over 60 countries world-wide.

Hanging out at the Women's Center...

Since 1975, International Women’s Day has been officially sponsored by the United Nations. IWD 2010 is focused on drawing attention to the hardship displaced women endure. Displacement is one of the greatest consequences of armed conflict, affecting women in a host of ways. But far from being helpless victims, women are resourceful, resilient and courageous in the face of hardship. This year we are celebrating women’s resilience.

Here in Congo, thousands of women will stand together to demand peace and development. We will be joined by women in Rwanda, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Sudan, Nigeria and the United States, as we gather on bridges to demonstrate that women can build the bridges of peace and hope. “RAISE hope for Congo” has organized various Join me on the Bridge events throughout the world. Would you come alongside me on a bridge near you? (Milwaukee: Maryland Avenue pedestrian bridge, 11am)

“International Women’s Day is the story of ordinary women as makers of history; it is rooted in the centuries-old struggle of women to participate in society on an equal footing with men. “

Sources: International Committee of the Red Cross, United Nations, International Museum of Women, Women for Women International

You have to see it to believe it…

Sunrise over the Rwenzori Mountain Range (view from my house)

...

Shout for joy, O heavens;

Rejoice, O earth;

Burst into song, O mountains!

For the LORD comforts His people and will have compassion on His afflicted ones.

Isaiah 49:13

A Haven of Visual Stimulation

Occasionally, I lack the aspiration to update my blog. This sentiment comes not from a desire to withhold information, but rather, an inability to adequately describe the things I see every day. Still, I am in the process of composing a few deeper reflections. Until they are ready to post, however, I would like to keep you, my faithful readers and supporters, entertained.

When I first arrived in Congo, so much seemed so foreign. During the first month I read The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. Brilliant writing. Intensely developed characters. And at times, a train wreck. You know, one of those situations where you can’t seem to look away no matter how painful it is to watch. Despite several harrowing and distressing themes, I marvel at Kingsolver’s ability to paint so accurate a picture using only words. Such amusing depictions somehow managed to lighten the weight of my initial culture-shock. Therefore, since my mind is in a current state of drought, I will allow Kingsolver to relay a bit of Congo on my behalf.

Considering my penchant for fashion, one of my favorite scenes illustrates the absurdity of Congolese couture…

You should see what the Congolese run around in. Children dressed up in the ragbags of American charity or else nothing at all. Color coordination is not a strong point. Grown men and women seem to think a red plaid and a pink floral print are complementary colors. The women wear a sarong made of one fabric, with another big square of a different fabric wrapped over the top of it. Never jeans or trousers–not on your life. Bosoms may wave in the breeze, mind you, but legs must be strictly hidden, top secret.

Women are expected to wear just one style of garment and no other. But the men, now that is a course of a different color. They dress up every different way in the world: some have long shirts made from the same flowery African cloth that is attired by the women. Or they’ll wear a bolt of it draped over one shoulder in the style of Hercules. Others wear American-syle buttoned shirts and shorts in drab, stained colors. A few of the smaller men even go gallivanting around in little undershirts decorated with childish prints, and nobody seems to notice the joke.

As for the accessories, I hardly know where to begin. Sandals made of car tires are popular. So are antique wing tips curling up at the toes, black rubber galoshes unbuckled and flapping open, or bright pink plastic thongs, or bare feet–any of these can go with the aforementioned outfits. Sunglasses, plain glasses, hats, no hats, likewise. Perhaps even a knit woolen cap with a ball on top, or a woman’s bright yellow beret–I have witnessed all these wonders and more. The attitude toward clothing seems to be: if you have it, why not wear it? Some men go about their daily business prepared for the unexpected tropical snowstorm, it seems, while others wear shockingly little–a pair of shorts only. When you look around, it appears that every man here was fixing to go to a different party and then suddenly they all got plunked here together.

As always, thanks for reading. More personal updates will follow shortly…