From Cameroon to Madison: Fourth Annual International Women’s Day Celebration is Tomorrow

    3rd annual AFRICaide's International Women's Day 2016 Celebration (Photo by Hedi Lamarr Rudd)

    The fourth annual International Women’s Day celebration will be held tomorrow with the theme “Be bold for change,” with the goal of helping women of all backgrounds work with and for one another.

    “In our Madison community, something I’ve observed is that we live and grow in separate communities and to me one of the goals of this event is to bring women together regardless of background,” said Emilie Songolo, founder of the event.

    The  event is a product of AFRICaide, an organization Songolo started in Madison in 2005 to send assistance and aide to women in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon, her home country.

    Growing up she recalls International Women’s Day, which is observed on March 8, being a large celebration including parades and festivals.

    “Every place I had lived from the time I was a little girl growing up in Cameroon, it was a big day of celebration and education on women’s issues,” said Songolo.

    Due to Madison’s cold March weather she could not replicate exactly what she is used to, but she has still, for the past four years, planned an all-day event which includes speakers, vendors, activists, music, food, and fellowship for all women.

    In 2014 she and two others organized the first event with 30 attendees and a keynote. Since then the celeration and its organizers have grown larger with this year’s event expecting to see 200-300 people.

    The event will take place at Christ Presbyterian Church, 944 E Gorham, from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. beginning with a drum circle and Zumba at 11 a.m. and a panel titled “Speak Power: Women’s Voices in Different Forms.”

    “We want to hear what different women have to tell us,” said Songolo.

    The event will also have a keynote on “activating and sustaining your bold self for change” by Dr. Hazel Symonette, a social justice educator at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

    In addition to their educational components there will be several photoshoots and four local change makers dedicated to gender equality will be awarded a trailblazer award.

    “We want to work with and celebrate everybody and anybody who elevates women,” said Songolo. “I hope that by the time we part on Saturday that every woman and girl who’s there will feel empowered, I think right now in our country we can all use a little bit of that.”

    The event is open to all ages, backgrounds, and gender identities including men. Attendees can find the complete event schedule and register for free on the event’s eventbrite page.

    Written by Jordan Gaines

    Jordan Gaines

    Jordan Gaines is a cultural critic and Madison365 contributor.