WOW: Women of the World Festival 2016 at Southbank CentreCultureFeature of the week
Jude Kelly founded Women of the World (WOW) in 2010 to open a forum that is a spirited, frank and inclusive way of discussing equality. Through debate, performances, and activism, female achievements are celebrated, and the obstacles that prevent them from achieving an equal world are explored. This six-day-long festival featured a spectacular line-up championing everything wonderful about women and girls.
Many of the discussions included difficult topics such as rape, alcoholism, mental illness, violence, and trans activism. Rather than being tainted with resentment for such issues, the events allowed women from all walks of life to share their experiences of strength, resilience, and pain. Highlights of this year included a conversation with Annie Lennox and Jude Kelly campaigning for the rights of women and people living with HIV/AIDS. Other speakers included Gemma Cairney, Sandi Toksvig, Sue Perkins, and Bridget Christie. Each talk and seminar was enlightening, revealing the amazing achievements of women and also the outstanding obstacles women must overcome.
Personally, the highlight of the festival was Funny Women, a segment by the leading female comedy community. Hosted by Gemma Cairney, the acts included an international cast of hilarious women each discussing their personal views on feminism and their encounters with inequality. Hearing anecdotes of everyday acts of disrespect or ignorance towards women displayed how common females face injustice. People who are unfamiliar with the fight towards equality can attest that feminists are misconstrued as aggressive or hostile, but these comediennes perfectly encapsulated the fight for an equal world in an entertaining and relatable way.
WOW has already launched itself in 15 different countries, spreading awareness on a global scale. The feminist debate has erupted over the last few years and become a ubiquitous discourse, particularly with Emma Watson’s #HeforShe campaign. Organisations like WOW are continuing the discussion and rapidly making shifts within gender equality. Their goal is indeed to show off every woman’s wow factor.
Photo: Belinda Lawley