Home Local News Annette Miller to keynote 10th annual AFRICaide/4W International Women’s Day on Saturday

Annette Miller to keynote 10th annual AFRICaide/4W International Women’s Day on Saturday


“The 10th AFRICaide and 4W International Women’s Day event is all about love and all about sisterhood,” Emilie Songolo, organizer of AFRICaide/4W’s International Women’s Day, tells Madison365. “And for that block of time during that day, we can just rid our senses of all that pain, gather at that moment and feel loved and connect with other women and leave energized ready to make an impact and a change on our community.”

The 10th AFRICaide/4W International Women’s Day will bring women together from all over Madison, and all over the world, on Saturday, March 4, 10 a.m.-3 p.m at Christ Presbyterian Church on Madison’s near east side. The event will be held in person after going virtual during the pandemic, although parts of it will be streamed for attendees around the world. This year’s theme is “Embrace Equity.”

Emilie Songolo
(Photo by Hedi Lamarr Photography)

For a decade, Songolo’s AFRICaide organization has been bringing together women and girls from all backgrounds to celebrate International Women’s Day here in Madison. Since 2017, AFRICaide has been partnering with 4W (Women & Wellbeing in Wisconsin & the World) Initiative to host the event. Lori DiPrete Brown, an associate director of the UW–Madison Global Health Institute and the founding director of the 4W Initiative, plays a big part in organizing the event every year, Songolo says.

The keynote speaker for the event will be Annette Miller, the CEO and founder of EQT By Design, an organization she launched to focus on developing diverse, inclusive, sustainable strategies in public engagement, equitable community development projects, and organizational cultural change management.

“When we began to think about the keynote speaker on the topic of equity we knew that we had a number of people in the community who have worked in this area who have incredible expertise,” Songolo says, “but our first choice was Annette and we were so happy when she accepted.”

International Women’s Day officially takes place on Wednesday, March 8, but when that falls on a weekday, the organizations celebrate on the preceding Saturday with a public event – a festival for women.

This year’s International Women’s Day event program will begin with a welcome and a mindful exercise followed by one of the highlights of the event — when the women take a beautiful group photo. Women are encouraged to wear purple for the photo shoot and for the event.

A previous AFRICaide’s International Women’s Day Celebration back in 2016
(Photo by Hedi Lamarr Rudd)

After Miller’s keynote address, lunch will be served and that will be delicious food from Cameroon. “I’m not cooking,” laughs Songolo, herself a native of Cameroon. “But I know it will be really good.

“After lunch, we are excited to be hosting our signature Trailblazing Awards event,” she adds. “These are women who are doing things that are aligned with what this event is all about.”

Trailblazer Awards will be presented to Josephine Oyama-Miller, Denise Matyka, Brenda Gonzalez, Akouvi Nofodji, and Evans Dzigbodi Akyea (posthumously).

“I think it’s important that we honor women in the community and that’s what we do at this event,” Songolo says. 

One thing new to this year’s event that they haven’t done in the past, Songolo says, is taking time to recognize different women’s groups in attendance.

“So if people are in women’s groups, they should come. And then when that time comes, we will recognize different groups at the event – high school student groups or any level of women’s group from a worship community to sororities or like the Sene Gambian Women’s Association, or the African Women’s Association,” Songolo says. “It doesn’t even have to be a formal group … we will recognize you.

“In the afternoon, we will also have an intergenerational panel so we can explore the important topic of embracing diversity from various perspectives,” she continues. “It’s great to have equity as a theme this year because you can explore it from so many perspectives. A lot of people will have something to say about it.”

The event, as it always does, will have a global marketplace.

 “We’re trying to get as many vendors as we can for the global market because people miss that a lot when we did a survey the last two years [going virtual during the pandemic. So hopefully we’ll get a good number of vendors returning and some new ones, too,” Songolo says.

Songolo says that she invites all girls groups large and small to come to this event, which is free and open to the public. “We have been doing a lot of work trying to get youths to this event and we welcome everybody,” she says.

Songolo enjoyed a long and illustrious career at UW-Madison starting in 1991 and ending in 2022 with her serving as the Senior Librarian for African, Global and Francophone Studies and the Head of International and Area Studies for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries. She accepted a position at MIT as Head of Distinctive Collections within the MIT Libraries and has lived in Boston since early August. So for the first time ever, she will be flying into Madison for the event.

“I feel like if for some reason I couldn’t be there, it would discourage some women from attending,” she says. “So I’m looking forward to being there in person and to seeing all of the women and being around all of this positive energy.”

The virtual event the past couple of years helped reach out to women all across the country and even the world during the pandemic.  There will still be a virtual hybrid component to this year’s event for people outside of Madison.

“Women are counting on this event every year now. We have a tradition now. We are part of a whole network of people around the world who get excited for this event,” Songolo says.


For more information about AFRICaide’s International Women’s Day, contact Emilie Songolo, AFRICaide, [email protected] or Lori Diprete Brown, 4W, [email protected]. To register, click here.