On International Women’s Day
You probably missed it. By the time you’re reading this, International Women’s Day has already probably passed, most likely because my timing is a bit untimely on this post. I probably wouldn’t bother with a post about this except that it turns out International Women’s Day, March 8th, is a big deal here in Azerbaijan. For all the rights and social freedoms that women don’t have here, they seem to be especially keen on celebrating a day just for women. My host mother has taken a bunch of holiday-wishes phone calls, and there are Women’s Day events going on across the country. Where you at, America? I don’t remember any particularly emphatic celebrations of this day. To read about the history of women’s day, you can go to the ever-reliable Wikipedia article or you can head straight to the source.
While it may be an innocuous day in America and I, myself, consider it mostly a non-event, anyways, it brings to light some very unsavory realities in Azerbaijan. I heard a story yesterday about why one person in particular hates International Women’s Day. Here in Azerbaijan, this day was embraced by the government and it was subsequently consumed by corruption. Most teachers here are women, and on this holiday many teachers, being women, would demand money of their students. Any students not paying up could nearly guarantee themselves a lowered grade or a hard time in class. And then the money travels from the teachers’ pockets to the pockets of school directors. The directors know this goes on, and of course they want some of that corruption money. Another teacher friend we know won’t take students at her home for tutoring today because she knows that it would be assumed she was taking bribes.
Other than that lovely little tidbit, there are lots of flowers gracing the homes of women across Azerbaijan, and well-wishes abound. The TV is positively dancing with commercials and programs celebrating the day and congratulating everyone on their ability to celebrate women in Azerbaijan in name only, and then continue to stifle and oppress them the rest of the year.