The fourth annual International Women’s Festival will take place at Santa Barbara’s Earl Warren Showgrounds today and Saturday.

Organized in celebration of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day on March 8, the festival provides resources and networking opportunities for local women. The first discussion on women’s empowerment in the Middle East features visiting officials from the U.S. Army and Iraqi Security Forces. Other acts will include eclectic entertainment performances such as a hula-hooping troupe, Samba dancing ensemble and concert by singer/songwriter Kacey Cubero.

Festival founder and producer Patty DeDominic said the event will address critical aspects of women’s lives and offer a number of world-renowned speakers, exhibitions and over 30 roundtable discussions.

“Each of these areas touch a woman’s life and the goal is that attendees will find resources for each of these areas,” DeDominic said.

According to DeDominic, proceeds from the festival will benefit a number of nonprofit organizations, including Women’s Economic Ventures, Associated Students Student Commission on Racial Equality and Girls, Inc.

“The festival is the only place where all of these nonprofits can meet to make a difference in a young girl or woman’s life,” DeDominic said. “Working in collaboration, they can take a woman from preschool through schooling, business and even into retirement.”

In addition to celebrating women’s achievements in business, DeDominic said this year’s festivities will focus on the growing importance of international solidarity.

“We may all come from different educations, countries and religions, but in order to function in today’s world we need to collaborate to deal with the issues we are facing and this calls for leadership as well,” DeDominic said. “Never before has collaboration and leadership been needed as much as it is today.”

Co-founder and sponsor, Mary Schnack said the Santa Barbara event is unlike other international festivals.

“The Santa Barbara festival has a lot of younger attendees that can lead to cross-generation mentoring and a high energy level in the room,” Schnack said. “What’s really powerful is that the festival is so varied that every individual can get out of it exactly what they come for.”

Laura Inks, an attendee of last year’s festival, said it was a worthwhile event.

“The Women’s Festival was an amazing day of knowledge, empowerment and connection to women, who are expert in their respective fields and so gracious about sharing themselves with other women,” Inks said on