Monday March 08, 2010 | 09:18 PM

Fashions from more than a dozen countries hit the runway this evening at the International Women's Day program and fashion show held at the Irish Heritage Center. Here designer Adel Masengo Ngoy, who owns Fladel Couture and helped coordinate the event, leads a group of women modeling the colorful fashions of the Congo. More than 100 people turned out to see fashions from countries including Afghanistan, Burundi, Cambodia, Japan, Korea, Liberia, Peru, Rwanda, Sudan and Zambia.

Speakers included Ngoy, Phyllis Abel, a professor at UNH, Victoria Mares-Hershey, a writer and playwright, and Fatuma Hussein, director of United Somali Women in Maine. Ngoy and Hussein spoke of the unique challenges and perspectives of women immigrants.

Hussein explained to the crowd that women from many countries who arrive in Maine are 50 to 60 years behind American women in terms of understanding women's rights.

"We don't know what women's rights are," Hussein said. "We come from a very male-dominated world."

She urged Maine women to be patient with our new neighbors, who may wear different clothes or speak different languages, but are sisters at heart.

A few technical difficulties with the sound system couldn't keep the professional members of Muco, a Rwandese dance troupe, from smiling. The traditional dancers include Lyndz Tuyishime, Daniella Runyambo, Sandrine Umutoniwase and Sarah Mugeni.

Be sure to check out the Scene & Heard section of this weekend's Maine Sunday Telegram for more photos from the event.

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