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).