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Joyeux Journée de la Femme!

13 Sep

Joyeux Journée de la Femme!

Today is International Women’s Day, which is widely celebrated in Africa. I spent the morning at the American Cultural Center’s seminar on Women in Public Service, keynoted by Beninese Minister of Justice Marie-Elise Gbedo (left, pictured here with Embassy Public Affairs Officer Rhonda Watson). Madame Gbedo is a popular and controversial figure in Benin who I have been trying to meet for the past 5 months, so today was very exciting for me.

She called for solidarity among women, noting how often she hears women say they prefer to hang out with men, or they prefer to work with men. She was talking about Benin, but how often do we hear that in the US? She reminded me yet again that while I am currently focused on women’s rights in Benin, Americans have work to do as well.

During the question and answer portion of the session, I asked her about sexual harassment and barriers to enforcing the law. She responded by decrying the sexual promiscuity of Beninese youth, and even making some explicit comments about sperm on the playground (all of which will be broadcast on national television this evening). But most interestingly for me, she noted that the wild new sexual trends among youth have little to do with affection or with female pleasure. She actually said (in french) – these sexual relationships are just about making the boy ejaculate and then it’s over. EXTREMELY bold words for a public official at an official Embassy event.

I think I’m in love with this woman.

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