International Women's Day, March 8: How the Day is Celebrated in Italy and in Burkina Faso March 08, 2018 07:56

Happy March 8,  Women's International Day Y'all! 

It is so interesting to recall how Women’s International Day is celebrated in the countries I lived in. As a teenager in Italy, I remember women handing each other yellow and sweet smelling freshly picked mimosa branches and twigs on women’s day. March eight is the Festa delle Donne! (literally translated as the women’s party – in the sense of having fun, not in the sense of political party of course). You would see women proudly holding, waving and sharing their branches in the subways, at the market, on the buses, or in the streets.

March 8 was chosen to celebrate and recognize women worldwide for their achievements whether it be artistic, cultural, economic or political. International Women's Day first emerged from the activities of labor movements at the beginning of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe.

In Burkina Faso, West Africa, where I lived more recently, March 8th is such a big day! It’s actually an official holiday so government offices, other offices, and businesses are closed. I was pleasantly surprised to see how special this day is in the country of the people with integrity (the literal meaning of Burkina Faso). The Burkina Be women eagerly await for this special day weeks and sometimes months ahead of March 8th. The women plan some special get-together and special activities such as parties and concerts for that day. For example, women of the same church would have a special activity. Most importantly, women must wear their special Pagne (a traditional cotton clothing with colorful prints worn in much of West Africa) for the International women’s day. I repeat women MUST wear their pagne. It has become a social norm to have your pagne outfit. You are a bit out-casted if you don’t have one and don’t wear your women’s day outfit on March 8th.

.Early morning in one of the unpaved and wide streets of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Every year, a different design is printed on cotton fabric and made into pagnes. The pagnes are then sewn into different designs of women’s dresses but all with the same print, same fabric, and same colors. The Ministry of Women’s Affair would be setting the (national) design for the year’s Women’s international day’s pagne. So every woman throughout the country would have their matching pagne. How beautiful it is to see those women on their motorcycles, riding as amazons, all with the same vibrant colorful pagne, singing, dancing and chatting on every corner of Ouagadougou. Only the First Lady was allowed to wear a different color pagne but with the same design.


A young woman with her March 8th, International Woman's Day outfit in the streets of Ouagadougou, Capital of Burkina Faso

A young woman selling in the streets of Ouagadougou with her International Women’s Day (March 8) pagne on

It’s no wonder Burkina Faso celebrates its women’s day so vibrantly and in such a special way. One of its former leaders, and one who is revered and admired by many, was a strong advocate for the rights of women. That was Capitaine Thomas Sankara, one of the greatest leaders that Africa has known. If you understand French language and are interested in Africa, I would recommend you take the time to watch the video in link below. It gives the story of Thomas Sankara, a man who was and still is such an inspiration for many African, young and not so young, people. Actually, I found a version with English subtitles so even if you don’t understand French you would still be able to follow: Here it is

As an illustration of his boldness, Thomas Sankara, on International Women’s Day, asked that the traditional family roles be reversed for one day. He asked that men do the market shopping instead of women. This was a way for men to understand better and to appreciate the hard work that women do to take care of a household.

Women and mothers in Burkina Faso are strong and do work really hard. Each time I think about the hard work they do and the tough environment they work in, I give them three times my hats off… The scorching sun, the heat, the dust, very limited resources, no water, and… malaria!

So, in celebration of all women worldwide, and with a very special thought to Burkina Be women, Soava is very proud to carry a line of colorful West African fabric necklaces, handmade by women in Burkina Faso. We see the energy, the strength and the optimism of Burkina Be women in the vibrant colors of these necklaces. Do you?

Love from,

Soava  Copyight 2018 ©