International Women’s Day 2019:
Celebrating Women and Driving Gender Balance
By Emilie Songolo

Madison Area women will gather on March 2 at Dejope Residence Hall on the UW-Madison campus to drive gender
balance. This year’s event is hosted by AFRICaide, Inc. and the UW-Madison 4W (Women & Wellbeing in Wisconsin and
the World) Initiative.

International Women’s Day (IWD) started over a century ago in 1909 when more than 15,000 women marched in New
York City to demand better working conditions and voting rights. The day is traditionally held on March 8 every year to
celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and across the world and to call for gender equality. It is the day
of Women’s Rights and International Peace. When March 8 does not fall on a Saturday, we hold our celebration on the
preceding Saturday. Our Madison Area celebration also kicks off a year of concrete activities, programs and actions
on the year’s theme. For this year, the theme is “Better the Balance, Better the World.”

Our program offers a blend of artistic performances and inspiring presentations. The panel on “Women Driving Gender
Balance” will feature Maka Chikowero, Araceli Alonso, and Mai Zong Vue. The keynote speaker will be Susan Kahara
Crowley, a local educator and filmmaker. As in previous years, attendees will have the opportunity to buy art, crafts
and products from all over the world including Madison. We will also be launching a program for girls where the
participation of local women and girls is the first step.

We strive to bring together women of all backgrounds, nationalities, races, economic levels, ages, languages,
religions, abilities, educational attainments, political persuasions and all sexual identities to celebrate International
Women's Day. If a woman or a girl is wondering whether she will be welcome, this event is for her. This is the 6th year
that we are hosting International Women’s Day.

Today’s information technology and social media are keeping people informed about gender inequality and violations of
women’s rights faster than ever before. Tweets, Facebook posts, chats and WhatsApp videos and stories have not
only helped break the silence on these issues; they have also transcended geographical boundaries and brought
people together in ways that we did not have previously, while compelling people to take action on many levels. One
recent illustration of this is the outcome of the last Congressional election right here in the U.S. “Right now is a great
and important time in history to do everything possible to help forge a more gender-balanced world. Women have come
a long way, yet there's still more to be achieved." International Women’s Day website, 2019.

If you want to take action or work on policy or legislation about a group or about an issue, the first step is to listen to
those concerned tell their story and work with them to effect change. Everything planned for the  March 2 aims at
creating a space where women and girls can share stories that will help inform anyone curious about the larger issue
of gender inequality to go home with information and resources that they can use either in their personal life, their work
to reduce the gender gap and to make the world a better place starting right here in our local Madison community. No
society can imagine a peaceful world if a large segment of its population is left behind. You cannot build a viable
initiative if women are excluded from the process.

Attendees are encouraged to wear something purple. Why purple? It is the official color of International Women’s Day.
“Internationally, purple is a color for symbolizing women. Historically, the combination of purple, green and white to
symbolize women’s equality originated from the Women’s Social and Political Union in the U.K. in 1908.” (International
Women’s Day website, 2019).

The event is free and open to the public. Registration is open at
africaideiwd2019.eventbrite.com

For more questions, email
ensongolo@gmail.com.