A woman, knowing it or not, plays a vital role at work, home and in society. While some women became part of our history and present day activism and achievement, other women are no any less important to a society. One would argue if raising a child is not an achievement – thus, it is; only it didn’t get to be mentioned in a history textbook. That’s the point of one of the photojournalists, Pauoa Gianturco, whose book Celebrating Women gives an appreciation to a woman of yours and mine lives.
Women’s History Month, or the month that makes a special effort to remember great women in history, art, politics, economy, ecology and other areas that influence our every day’s life, has been recognized and celebrated around the world for years. Some countries are more than the other.
Part of the UNESCO’s program, Gianturco is taking the women’s awareness and appreciation beyond the US border – she has been representing U.S. for International Women’s Day Program at the Celebrating Women Exhibit in Paris, France. Gianturco’s involvement with women internationally is long standing. She has documented women’s lives in 40 countries and as an author of Women Who Light the Dark, Viva Colores! A Salute to the Indomitable People of Guatemala, Celebrating Women, and In Her Hands: Craftswomen Changing the World, she takes great part in promoting women’s equality, advocating for women’s human rights and donating royalties from her writings to the Global Fund of Women.
At UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, on March 9, 2009 Gianturco opened The Celebrating Women Exhibit, following the International Women’s Day on March 8th, that is marked by appreciation of women in any trade, society role and family status across the world.
The Celebrating Women exhibit, featuring photographs of festivals that honor women in six countries, was presented in 2008 at the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois, where it was on display for seven months and was seen by 195,000 visitors.
Based on Gianturco’s book Celebrating Women (Powerhouse Books, 2004) that features 17 festivals in 15 countries, these traditions to honor women extend beyond the reasons of featuring only women who marked history. Festivals celebrate women for reasons from as diverse as for kind-heartedness, ferocity, courageousness in the face of social injustice, or simply for being young and fancy-free. Other featured exhibits are created by women artists in China, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, the Czech Republic and Japan.
India celebrates the fierce warrior goddess Kali Puja who fights evil, while 25,000 virgins in Swaziland are honored and give honor to the Queen Mother with the Umhlanga Reed Dance. In Sweden, for Sankta Lucia, little girls wear candles on their heads for events celebrating women as kind. Young girls in Poland celebrate women as magical, during Noc Świętojańska, involving garlands of wildflowers and herbs floating down the river. The festival of Boa Morte in Brazil celebrates women as political. Descendents of slave women, who helped bring about abolition, convene first for Catholic, then Candomblé, ceremonies. In Morocco Moussem of Imilchil celebrates women as initiators. Once a year, Berber widows and divorcees identify and invite men to marry them.
Annually, The Division for Gender Equality in the Bureau of Strategic Planning organizes a month-long celebration of the Organization’s International Women’s Day (IWD) program.
Little do we speak of women’s importance in today’s society, although more women are outspoken in America than anywhere in the world. Some countries are still men-dominated anywhere but at home, and even then, some Muslim countries would expect a woman to be a submissive housewife with no rights to speak out on issues that don’t pertain to family and kids.
There is a lot to achieve, and American women have been doing it for decades.
Opened through March 25, catch the exhibit at the UNESCO House in Rooms Miró 1 and 2 on 7 place de Fontenoy, Paris, France. The exhibits will be open to the public weekdays from March 10-25, 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free; a photo ID is required to enter the UNESCO building.