For African business women in the UK and other countries, the African Women’s Dinner (AWD) is the business and social event of the year. Founder and director Sheila Gatonye, a Kenyan national living in London, wants the dinner to become the ultimate get-together for women of the African diaspora, to celebrate friendships as well as business partnerships. You can still join - as a participant or as a sponsor.
This year’s AWD, to be held on Saturday 25th March at the Millennium Hotel London Mayfair, is to be the biggest and best dinner yet. It will be the third time African women are to meet in this way. Sheila Gatonye is expecting over 400 women to attend the event. “We will host an exciting fashion show, Fashion Forward Africa. There will be interesting speakers including Nandi Jola, a South African born writer and activist as well as live entertainment – details are yet to be finalized”, says Gatonye, who at earlier dinners welcomed HRM Queen Naa Tso from the Ga tribe of Greater Accra region of Ghana as well as Muzvare Betty Makoni, Founder of Girl Child Network Worldwide and CNN award recipient. The hosts of the AWD 2017 dinner are comedian Lateef Lovejoy and radio presenter Vas Joan.
To Sheila Gatonye, the event is most of all a networking platform for people from the fashion, creative, entertainment, business and corporate sector, all, while supporting charitable causes. “We aim to provide a dining and entertaining experience to eliminate the social isolation faced by African women in the diaspora. It is an opportunity for showcasing and celebrating women and the African culture within our diverse community. We also aim to inspire, by offering inspirational guest speakers who share their ideas and experiences in breaking barriers and reach new summits.”
Gatonye insists that most of the women attending have been raised in the UK by their African parents or came to Europe to study at one of the universities, found employment here and stayed to build a life. “Having little or no relatives over here, we found that these African women are looking for an extended family, to lean on socially or to rely on for business contacts. Women from all parts of Africa will be attending, so we will have a wonderful melting pot of cultures and business and social backgrounds.”
Sheila is still building AWD. During the event, there will be a raffle draw in support of the campaign to end child sacrifice in Uganda. “We want our AWD Foundation to do more. We plan to support at least one hundred children all over Africa in an education program.” To strengthen the business value of the event, Sheila has set up a AWD Expo side event, where businesses connected to Africa can show their merchandise and connect to prospective business partners. AWD Expo 2017 will be showcasing original & ethical fashion, accessories, jewelry, shoes as well as Arts & Crafts, homeware, natural beauty products, books, music, arts and more.
The founder and director is taking AWD to the next level. “We are making AWD into a movement. In June, we are taking the African women of the UK and Europe to the AWD Retreat in Cyprus. It’s a next step – a field trip with like-minded women. Detailed plans for this new event are to be presented at the dinner.”
With the event date nearing and tension rising, the AWD founder and director tries to define the success of this event. “It should be much more than an entertaining experience. Networking for social and business purposes is important. When guests go home after the event with at least one business idea, one spark of inspiration, one interesting business or social contact, the event is a success. For me, success would mean that women come back to join the dinner, year after year. Dinner with their extended African diaspora family.”
Note: AWD offers various sponsorship options available at different funding levels and of which can be tailored to suit each individual company. Details on the AWD website.