By Donna Parker

The 7th AFRICAIDE International Women’s Day: “Building an Equal World Together” was held, Saturday, March 7, 2020, from 10:00am to 3:30pm, at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, Gordon Dining & Event Center.

Emilie Songolo, Director of AFRICaide, informed the mostly purple wearing audience that, “Today is a day when we take time to acknowledge the achievements that women have made from our local Madison area to the global
sphere including the state of Wisconsin and the U.S. at large.”  Songolo informed us that, “The purpose of this event is to bring together women and girls from all backgrounds to celebrate International Women's Day. We are
coming together to reflect on how we can reduce gender inequality within and beyond our community. Attendees will have the opportunity to participate in discussions with those engaged in improving conditions for women
locally, nationally, and internationally.  

Songolo asked the audience,  “Are you wondering why we are hosting this event? All of us at AFRICaide and 4W (Women & Wellbeing in Wisconsin & the World) Initiative strive to improve the lives of women and girls. So we are
calling all women and girls to celebrate our day and to support one another.”

Songolo asked the audience to consider this as a “Day of Action” whereby she proceeded with relaying a story about three girls in Africa who would not be able to go to school or have supplies for school, without our continued
support.

The morning started with a Global Marketplace and networking.  The vendors offered amazing crafts, many hand-made and many by women from different parts of the world. The funds from the sales are primarily used by these
women to support themselves, their families, and often their villages.  

The event began with Lori DiPrete Brown, director of the 4W Initiative, providing the Land Acknowledgement, followed by a Mindful Yoga activity.

Barbara Nichols, vice president, United Nations Association Dane County Chapter, provided the history of International Women’s Day and the reading of the Proclamation from the Wisconsin State Legislature.
The keynote speaker of the event was Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, who was introduced as a “Woman who owns her own voice”.  Rhodes-Conway spoke of finding and beginning to use her voice as a young girl and she
reminded us that, “Women finding their voices is a small step forward.”  

Rhodes-Conway shared with us, “Yes, I’m angry. How long is it going to take? How hard do we have to work? International Women’s Day is a little step forward, when you think about women being celebrated just for being
women.”  Until that day of equality comes, she encouraged us by saying “Everyday I re-dedicate myself to making the structural changes that will make that a little easier.” and she encouraged us to continue to “find hope and
strength in each other.”  

Right before lunch, Hedi Rudd, one of the event’s photographers, managed to organize or corral all of the women into a giant photo shoot.  During lunch, the Trailblazer Awards were presented. The 2020 award winners are:
Ann Marie Dawson - Co-Founder & past President of The African Women’s Association, Inc. of Madison. Dawson is referred to as “The glue of the African Community in Madison.”
Tara Wilhemi - Peer Specialist with Focused Interruption Coalition, but it is her work with the Pop-up Co-op in Madison, were she has provided opportunities for local women to share and vend their goods and services, that
brings her here today.
Song Lee - Lee is a hard working teacher at school and at the Hmong Language and Culture Enrichment Program at the Hmong Institute.  Lee is Madison’s first Hmong 4K teacher and author of, “A New Journey: Hmong College
Students Experiences”.

A day spent with friends and a like-minded community was a day well spent.