International Women's Day
International Women's Day
Be bold for change
Anthi Kyriakidou leads the Cultural Centre in our village. If anyone knows anything about the women of Kalopanayiotis and the Troodos mountains, it's her. I ask her how she would describe the women of this region. She has three points.
They are strong willed.
They are proud.
And they have vision.
The slogan for this year's International Women's Day is - be bold for change. There is a call to rally women across the globe and encourage them to be "bold within their sphere" - Well... Anthi and her ancestors have been doing that all their lives and there is much that the rest of us can learn from them. "In Kalopanayiotis we are proud of our mountain village gcadmins," she says. "We are probably the most active women in Cyprus."
Anthi explains how in the old days when life was much tougher, it was the women who did everything. The men, she says, were busy all day in the gold and copper mines. "They worked hard, but even with their wages, struggled to make ends meet. So the women would work too to try and increase the family budget. Of course, that was on top of the cooking and the cleaning and the clothesmaking and embroidery..."
She says the men were always seen as the head of the household, but after work they would all gather at the cafes to talk and debate. "We, on the other hand, didn't stop day and night," she exclaims. She tells me how at the forefront of these women's minds was always how they could create a better life for their daughters. "We wanted something different for our daughters. We had visions for them. We wanted to see changes in their lives. We built the first schools out here in the villages. We wanted them to get educated and to have an easier life than us. The downside was that when that happened, they left for the cities."
The number of younger women in the village has steadily decreased over the years with more job opportunities in Nicosia or Pafos, but with the Casale Panayiotis project taking off, some have come back to work, helping to rebuild the community and encourage tourism. "We Troodos mountain women are so proud of where we are from and now our home attracts so many others who want to visit the countryside we have here, see the natural sulphur springs, the woods and the chapels. Many of the skills we learned growing up or that our grandmothers learned are lost now, but we try to introduce them again through the Cultural Centre. We don't want them to be forgotten."
What advice do you have for women today, I ask? "To not forget about us. The older women. Your gcadmins," she says. "Most especially the place where you came from. Try to go back. To see what you can offer it. What you can give back."
Her current project is organising a fundraising campaign to fix St Sergios chapel, as it's in need of restoration. "Are you doing anything for yourselves to celebrate women's day this year?" I ask. "Of course," she says without hesitation. "We women have organised an excursion to Pafos.. and we are even thinking of taking our husbands with us," she says, smiling wide.