It’s International Women’s Day this Friday and for us that means one thing – a whole weekend down at the Southbank for the Women of the World (WOW) festival. Now in its third year, the WOW festival is returning to the Centre with a feast of events celebrating women in business, politics, sciences and the arts. From Friday through to Sunday, the Southbank Centre will be transformed into an exciting ideas marketplace, with film, comedy, talks and discussions, and readings by both established and emerging talent.
We’ve been to WOW two years running, and highly recommend that you spend as much time as you can muster up there. This year’s line-up is the most inspiring yet. And although an impossible task, we’ve tried to pick out a few highlights to give you a general flavour:
Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year old from Pakistan who stood up for girl’s education against the Taliban needs little introduction. ‘Learning from Malala’ features Gordon Brown MP/ UN Special Envoy for Global Education and former British Prime Minister, and Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala’s father, in discussion about why this girls’ education is critical to achieving a fairer world (Friday).
‘Women’s Voices On War And Peace’ features Zainab Salbi – Iraqi/American author and activist, founder of Women for Women International, and Oprah regular. She’ll be speaking about her new book If You Knew Me You Would Care – which tells the stories of women in conflict-affected Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Bosnia and Herzegovina (Saturday).
Two panels on Global Feminism and the Middle East (Saturday and Sunday) bring together journalist and author Victoria Brittain, comedian Shaista Aziz, renowned author Ahdaf Soueif, SOAS professor Deniz Kandiyoti and BBC journalist Shaimaa Khalil (amongst others). They will be discussing the role of feminism and womens’ movements in the Middle East during times of revolution (Saturday and Sunday).
Sara Shamsavari’s The London Veil exhibition explores the self-expression and individuality of young Muslim women as reflected through their hijabs. The artist’s website says: “…London Veil exists to recognize and celebrate its participants as strong, vital individuals who manage to shine, despite the struggles of youth, womanhood and prejudice they may receive as a result of the visibility of their faith.” (Friday-Sunday). Shamsavari, a British artist of Iranian heritage will also be speaking on “Challenge, Creativity and Change” as part of WOW Bites 1 (Friday).
‘What the Frock!’ includes comedy sets from multi-award winner Shazia Mirza and Absolute Radio host Danielle Ward (Sunday).
Michael Kaufman and Michael Kimmel discuss the role of men in promoting gender equality and ending violence against women in The Guy’s Guide to Feminism (Saturday and Sunday). We’re familiar with Michael Kaufman’s work and can vouch that he is quite brilliant. The two Michaels will also join Jude Kelly and Shami Chakrabarti in a Conversation between the Sexes (Saturday).
Ethical fashion expert, writer, jewellery designer, ambassador for Womankind Worldwide and all-round cool person Amisha Ghadiali will be in discussion with the Guardian’s Hadley Freeman and deputy editor of Elle magazine, Natasha Pearlman, in Fashion, Style and Beauty (Saturday 9th).
Reya El-Salahi is a radio broadcaster, television presenter, writer and journalist born in London and raised in Qatar and Oxford. She recently presented the BBC Three and BBC World documentary Mixed Up in the Middle East, and will take part in a discussion about Being Mixed Race (Sunday).
And if all that all that isn’t enough, the WOW festival ends with Pulitzer prize-winner and author of The Colour Purple Alice Walker (yes, you read right) introducing the premiere of a film on her life and art by Prabitha Parmar.
There is so much more going on than we can possibly do justice to here, so do have a look at the full programme here. And see you there!