In Mongolia, International Women’s Day, March 8th, is a public holiday, which means a day off for many people. Gender equality in Mongolia is in a different state than many majority world countries. Women are more likely to graduate high school and go on to university than men, usually because male children are expected to take over the responsibilities of herding and don’t consider higher education a necessity for that work. However, the scale tips the other direction when you look at the higher positions of leadership in government and business. So, we try to encourage male and female students equally in the classroom and show our students strong, positive role-models, both male and female.
In the week and a half before the day itself, I participated in a “Secret Santa” style gift exchange. I picked a name and gave her little gifts like candy, snacks, a soda. I got similar gifts from my “Monita”. The final gift, I was instructed, was to be made by hand. It was difficult to come up with something I could make with my limited resources that would be considered a worthy gift.
This is an in-progress shot, unfortunately I didn’t get one of the completed (and framed) work. It’s what is called a “diamond painting”, a concept similar to cross-stitch, but instead of thread you work with little plastic gems that you stick on the adhesive-coated canvas. I’m still finding them all over my apartment.
The night before the holiday, there was a party. Everyone picked numbers to determine which party group they were in and the group leader collected money to go towards food and drinks. In the evening we ate, drank, and danced. When it came time to exchange our final gifts, I was glad I had made the decision to go with the diamond painting and have it framed. My giftee was impressed by it and I got many compliments from the other teachers.
The gift I received was simpler, but it was one of the items I will likely treasure most from my time here.
Can’t wait to celebrate again next year!