Emilie Songolo started an International Women’s Day event as a way to give back to Madison because of the way people have been helping her help others in Africa through AFRIcaide, a grassroots non-profit organization based in Madison that strives to reduce abject poverty in Africa through rural development projects. Every year, her International Women’s Day event has grown.

“When I came here, I noticed that there was no celebration of international women’s day and in my country and in a lot of places around the world it’s a huge day. It’s a national holiday. There are so many activities and celebrations going on,” Songolo tells Madison365. “So I really wanted to bring that here.

Emilie Songolo
(Photo by Hedi Lamarr Photography)

“It’s very amazing what has been happening with this event. I think a lot of people recognize that it is important to celebrate all that women and girls do and all that they are,” she adds. “By coming together in this way, we really want to celebrate and acknowledge women’s accomplishments. Everyday women need to be recognized.”

Songolo has been busy organizing the 7th annual AFRICaide’s International Women’s Day Celebration, which will be held this Saturday, March 7, at Gordon Commons on the UW-Madison campus. 

This year’s theme is “An Equal World is an Enabled World.” The very special guest will be Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway who will be the keynote speaker. The purpose of this event is to bring together women and girls from all backgrounds to celebrate International Women’s Day. Songolo describes the event as “a festival for women.” 

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway

 “Every year we keep improving the event and we have more and more interest,” says Songolo, the founder of AFRICaide. “I love the sisterhood of this event. It’s such a positive event. When people talk or do something at this event, I love to watch other women say, ‘Yes! I can identify with that.’ or ‘We do this in my country, too!’”

AFRICaide will once again be the host of the event along with this year’s partners, 4W Women & Wellbeing Initiative, UW-Madison African Studies Department, the United Nations Association of Dane County and the Madison Alumnae Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Attendees will have the opportunity to participate in discussions with other women who are engaged in improving conditions for women locally, nationally, and internationally. 

“Barbara Nichols, the vice president of the United Nations Association of Dane County, will give us the history of International Women’s Day because this is the 20th anniversary of the UN Decade for Women Conference – the first one was in Beijing,” Songolo says.

Trailblazer awards will be presented to women in the community doing amazing things.

Previous trailblazer awardees

“Because we have so many international languages, one of the activities that we are going to do is a poetry translation that will be led by Sally Mercado,” Songolo says. “What we’re going to do is we’re going to ask the people at the event to translate the poem into any language that they know. 

“We think of these types of activities to bring people together and to deepen connections,” she adds. “When I do the opening, I challenge women to make at least two connections that they will keep up with after the day.”

The event will have a little bit of something for everybody. There will be a Global Marketplace with local women vendors, music, interactive activities, body movement and the photoshoot with Hedi Rudd, whom Songolo calls “our resident pictorial storyteller.”

International Women’s Day (Photo by Hedi Lamarr Photography)

A free lunch will be provided.

“The taco buffet last year was just so good that we felt when something works so well, let’s just keep it,” Songolo smiles. “I’m all about repeating things that people love. Everybody loved that last year.”

The hashtag for the event will be #Each4Equal. Songolo stresses that women will come together to reflect on how they can reduce gender inequality within and beyond their own communities.  

International Day 2019
(Photo by Hedi Lamarr Photography)

 Organizers are asking that women wear purple.

“Of course, our color is purple, and we are hoping women show up wearing it in some fashion or another,” Songolo says. “We are really looking forward to the event because we want to build relationships here in our own Madison and promote gender equity because it just makes everybody stronger and more beautiful.

“Everybody is invited to this event regardless of background, ethnicity, economic level, age, language, religion, educational attainment or sexual orientation,” Songolo adds.  “All are welcome and encouraged to come.”


International Women’s Day 2020  “An Equal World is an Enabled World” will take place Saturday, March 7, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at Gordon Dining and Event Center, 770 West Dayton Street. For more information, click here. 

If you have any questions on accessibility, or tranlation services, or other concerns, please let e-mail Emilie Songolo, ensongolo@gmail.com or Lori Diprete Brown, dipretebrown@wisc.edu.