By Ghazanfar Abbas
Karachi: The British Council Pakistan is bringing the 6th edition of WOW – Women of the World Festival in collaboration with ECDI Pakistan and Olomopolo Media on Saturday 4 and Sunday, 5 March 2023 at Beach Luxury Hotel, Karachi. After two virtual editions (in 2021 and 2022) this is the first in-person WOW Festival in three years.
The programme for the WOW festival is the most diverse and exciting since the festival began and includes dynamic panels, workshops, immersive performances, vibrant marketplaces and shows for children. The festival will also feature an art exhibition, a drum circle, art installations, and film screenings. The opening performance at the festival will feature Shae Gill, the singer of last year’s biggest hit ‘Pasoori’ and the closing performance is by Pakistan’s legendary singer Naseebo Lal.
Presented in partnership with the WOW Foundation, the theme for the festival this year, is Ral Mil – the Seraiki phrase for coming together as a community. The theme ‘Ral Mil’ builds upon ideas of communities of care and imagines ways to build better, strengthen bonds, heal wounds, find joy, and salvage the earth from the effects of climate change. Last year Pakistan was ravaged by devastating floods. Several areas are still underwater months later and the WOW Festival wants to utilize the festival structure to begin to lay the ground for how we can come together to reflect, learn, bring about change, and heal.
“We are committed in our work with women and girls across South Asia and believe that there are millions of inspiring women who exemplify why empowerment, diversity and having meaningful platforms for connection help close gaps to gender equality. Our work in the arts and strategic priorities support women’s voices and agency, and that is also why festivals like WOW accelerate progress,” Jill Richens, Director Arts South Asia, the British Council said.
Maarya Rehman, Deputy Director, British Council Pakistan said:
“This year we are excited to present the biggest and most ambitious WOW Festival ever and I am delighted that the festival is returning in-person. WOW will celebrate the power of women and girls to overcome challenges especially through the lens of climate change which has badly affected Pakistan. I urge people from across Karachi to come and attend this wonderful festival.”
The WOW Festival at the Beach Luxury Hotel is free and open to the public. All content will be recorded and later archived on our YouTube channel. As in previous years, the sessions will also be interpreted in Pakistani Sign Language.
Jude Kelly, CEO & Founder of The WOW Foundation, said:
“WOW Festivals have always been about bringing the most pressing issues of the day to the forefront, and gathering together people to discuss solutions and build community. After the devastating effects of climate change seen in Pakistan in recent years, this year’s festival theme of Ral Mil will be a powerful framework for addressing not only this but the direct and devastating impact it is having on gender equality. There will be much celebration too, of the incredible initiatives women and girls are running and their many inspirational achievements. We look forward to celebrating one of the longest running WOW Festivals in the world as it returns for another joyful and thought-provoking year.”
The programme for WOW in 2023 has been developed by curating partners and informed by a planning session held earlier in which a diverse group of people belonging to civil society, women’s rights organisations, disability led organisations, legal community, academics, artists, transgender community leaders, teachers and educators came together to discuss who and what they would like to see at the WOW Festival.
To ensure inclusion and participation of the deaf and disabled community, access support in the form of sign language will be provided.
The festival wants to build an understanding of the lack of access to community infrastructure and age-old cultural norms as well as traditions that once united humans and nature. The values of the festival will be shaped by the need to cultivate deep relationships with people across traditionally gated and guarded spaces and with acknowledgment of the role of all living things: plants, animals, and other parts of the local heritage and ecosystems.
WOW – Women of the World is a global movement of festivals that celebrate the achievements of women and girls and look at some of the obstacles they face across the world.
The previous version of the festival – WOW Pakistan 2022 had over a million views online over two days.
The WOW Foundation was created by Jude Kelly CBE in 2018 to run the global movement that is
WOW – Women of the World Festivals. The Festivals began in the UK in 2010, launched by Kelly at the Southbank Centre London, where she was Artistic Director, to celebrate women and girls, taking a frank look at what prevents them from achieving their potential, raising awareness globally of the issues they face, and discussing solutions together.
To date, WOW has reached over 3 million people in 30 locations on six continents, in locations including Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, Finland, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Somaliland, the UK and the USA. In 2018/19 WOW was in Rio de Janeiro, Cardiff, Bradford, Bangladesh, Brisbane, Janakpur (Nepal), Baltimore, London, Exeter, Norwich, Perth, Beijing, Ghana and Nigeria. In June 2020, WOW held its first ever worldwide online festival focused on women and girls — WOW Global 24. The festival travelled around the world everywhere from the UK to Nigeria, and Pakistan to Australia exploring the intersectional impact of COVID-19 on gender inequality, and responding to Black Lives Matter.
Over the last 13 years the Festivals have developed a reputation as a space for world renowned artists, activists, thinkers and performers including Angela Davis, Malala Yousafzai, Annie Lennox, Patrick Stewart, Baroness Doreen Lawrence and Salma Hayek, to come and participate, alongside thousands of women and girls who don’t have public profiles but are doing amazing things. WOW provides platforms for people of all kinds, changes attitudes, brings communities together and provides a unique space for people to work together towards gender equality in their own communities. One example of the impact the festival has come in 2015, with the founding of the Women’s Equality Party by Sandi Toksvig and Catherine Mayer.