News: Women of the World Festival celebrates tenth anniversary at London’s Southbank Centre

WOW – Women of the World 10th Anniversary Festival took place Friday 6th – Sunday 8th March at Southbank Centre. The festival celebrating women and girls featured a line-up of over 100 events featuring some of the world’s most exciting performers, activists and voices. The festival included a sold out Day Pass programme on Friday and Saturday featuring dozens of panel discussions, workshops and performances tackling subjects from being queer in the 21st century to travelling solo, being LGBTQI+ and Desi to a London Mayoral debate.

The WOW Foundation’s President, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, opened the festival on Friday morning with an impassioned speech about domestic abuse in which she launched her very first hashtag, saying “On this tenth anniversary, as WOW’s proud President, it’s a huge pleasure to be here today.  But I’m also here as a woman in her seventies, who (as a somewhat ancient technophobe) is not always familiar with some of the jargon younger people use today, but I do know about ‘hashtags’!  And now I am using my very first one:  #everyonesproblem Domestic abuse is everyone’s problem and the solution must be too.” She was joined at the event by speakers including Businesswoman and Campaigner Gina Miller; Survivor, SafeLives Pioneer, domestic abuse and youth violence consultant Naomi Donald; artist, activist and SafeLives Pioneer Celia Peachey; and SafeLives CEO Suzanne Jacob.

As the WOW 2020 Festival began, so too did a relationship with new headline global sponsor Mastercard who will support WOW Festivals all over the world.

Mastercard’s Executive Vice Chairman Ann Cairns took to the stage at London’s Southbank Centre on 6th March, in a session entitled ‘Corporates Get Naked’. Ann commented “We’re committed to leading the charge for gender equality in reshaping the way our world is designed, coded and constructed. We do this by bringing diverse perspectives to the table to unlock the world’s possibilities to women. We are delighted to be partnering with The WOW Foundation to tackle the issues that matter and have the most impact.  Because a world that works better for women, creates limitless opportunities for us all.”

Jude Kelly said: “The 10th anniversary festival was an extraordinary experience for us all, bringing together voices from all across the globe; galvanising us all to redouble our energy to create a more equal world for everyone.

“I’m thrilled that Mastercard with their strong and long standing belief in gender equality has chosen The WOW Foundation as a global partner to further their advocacy and to join with us in a worldwide conversation that moves society forwards for girls and women. It’s a truly exciting partnership that is intent on making a difference.”

The WOW Foundation also announced its partnership with Google Arts & Culture; launching a new platform showcasing WOW’s global movement through online stories and a growing archive of photography and film.  Later this year, to celebrate WOW’s 10th anniversary and in recognition of the 10 year countdown to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, WOW and Google Arts & Culture will launch an online exhibition featuring 100 women from 10 cities and countries around the world, from Finland to Rio de Janeiro.

Across the 10 countries and regions, WOW’s exhibition will tell a story of global feminism and women’s movements through the stories of 10 women from each region, each looking at 10 themes. These significant female stories will chart the changes they have seen in their own world and cast a light of the global picture, but more importantly they will act as a catalyst for the work that has to be done of the upcoming decade to keep the issue of gender equality at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

Luisella Mazza, Head of Global Operations, Google Arts & Culture said: “The diverse stories of women and girls from around the world inspire us all. For the 10th anniversary of WOW – Women of the World Festival we have the privilege to bring the stories they have collected online on Google Arts & Culture. Everyone will be able to celebrate the experiences and achievements of contemporary women  – such as Nimco Ali and Reni Eddo-Lodge – at g.co/wowfoundation.”

In other news, best-selling and award-winning writer, broadcaster and feminist campaigner Caroline Criado Perez received the HÄN Honour for contributions to equality from the UK Ambassador of Finland on stage at the WOW Festival in London March 6th. Following successful campaigns to put a woman on Bank of England notes, put a statue of suffragist Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square, and get Twitter to revise its abuse procedures, Criado Perez has produced Invisible Women to expose the shocking data bias that excludes women, the real life effect it has and call for change. WOW founder Jude Kelly received the award in 2019.

Spring 2020 will see the launch of the WOW Podcast with Jude Kelly. The WOW Podcast celebrates everything that women and girls are doing, and takes a frank look at the obstacles in their way. Brought to you by The WOW Foundation, this new podcast is full of stories of inspiring women from across the globe; featuring in-depth interviews, highlights from WOWs around the world, fun and mind expanding conversations, and insights into the lives of people you’ve heard of – and those we know you’ll love meeting.

The series is being produced by Alice Williams (Jessie Ware’s Table Manners and BBC Radio 4’s The Listening Project). Interviews will include actor and disability rights activist Liz Carr, Jordan Stephens on masculinity and Mother Pukka on her campaign for flexible working. The first series will include 10 episodes exploring everything from using creative expression to affect change to how race and gender affect mental health.

In 2018, Jude Kelly founded The WOW Foundation to run the global movement as an independent charitable organisation.  The WOW Foundation produces festivals across the world to celebrate women and girls, and raise awareness globally of the issues they face and possible solutions. Led by Kelly, the organisation works to build, convene and sustain a global movement that believes a gender equal world is possible and desirable through WOW festivals and empowering women and girls. Future festivals taking place in 2020 include WOW Brisbane Australia (3 – 5 April); WOW Istanbul (25 – 27 September) and WOW Rio de Janeiro (6 – 8 November).

WOW festivals are presented by arrangement with Southbank Centre.

WOW’s 10th anniversary festival was supported by The WOW Foundation’s previous Global Founding Partner Bloomberg.

Photo credit: Ellie Kurttz

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