Emma Thompson, her son Tindy and Joanna Kerr have their spirits lifted by a unique awards ceremony, while Emma ponders how deep the inequality of women goes and where it begins.
We repair, subdued, to a very lovely outdoor structure that the men of the village have built as their contribution to the conference.
There’s entertainment, which involves a lot of lip-synching to songs about princesses famous for their beauty and dignity. There are gifts of beautiful cloth that has been woven here – much of it in the same manner of design as Scottish plaid. But the best bit is the Awards Ceremony, which is for the children.
It’s the best awards ceremony I have ever attended.
There are 3 categories. 7-8, 8-9 and 10-12 years. The children have been making things and painting and creating and they have won prizes. None of them knows what to do or how to react but the PRIDE glowing on their faces makes it immensely difficult not to blub – which would be pathetic and lower everyone’s spirits so I don’t.
We hand over awards and bow and are allowed to hug them and take pictures. Everyone is very happy.
This is a women’s conference and it’s interesting to watch the men, who crowd around the ghetto blaster and music-system (which they’re in charge of, of course) either listening or looking bored and anxious.
I bite the bullet and speak about bringing up children equally, treating boys and girls in the same way. Not surprisingly, everyone looks at me as if I am completely mad.
Little girls absorb their inferiority from the first moment they kneel to give the best parts of the meat to their little brothers. It is bred into them, bone-deep. They eat it at every meal.
Therefore this conference, this performing and dancing in public, in groups, in front of westerners is truly miraculous and the fellows, who have facilitated all of this, must be proud.
Much enlightened and bruised, we leave the village for a long journey to the Popa Mountain Reserve. We seem to have been up for weeks and it’s 8:30 PM. We pass through a village which is celebrating the Festival of Lights and has a huge puppet dancing in the tracks, surrounded by people holding candles in coloured glass pots all hanging from iron holders. It’s exquisite. Oh, and there’s a travelling karaoke-van.