The British Council, the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities, in partnership with The WOW Foundation, a UK based organisation working to build, convene and sustain a global movement to advance the empowerment of women and girls, launched the first-ever international WOW – Women of the World festival in Dhaka, at the Bangla Academy premises. The festival was held from 5-6 April 2019.
The launch of WOW Dhaka 2019 was graced by the presence of Dr. Dipu Moni, MP and Minister, Ministry of Education as the Chief Guest. The inauguration was also attended by Nasim Ferdous, former Ambassador and Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jude Kelly CBE, Founder, WOW Foundation and Andrew Newton, Deputy Director, British Council.
All WOW festivals celebrate the achievements of women and girls, and WOW Dhaka is no different. The festival involves aspiring local women leaders from various walks of life, who have designed and delivered the event in a way that allows them to put together an international experience with a local flavor.
The festival weekend offers everyone the opportunity to engage in cross-cultural dialogue to raise awareness of the challenges that prevent women and girls from achieving their potential and find creative solutions. The festival brings people together from all corners of society, both as speakers and audience members, providing inspiration and tools to help make a positive change and work towards a more gender-equal society.
Commenting on the significance of the festival, chief guest Dr. Dipu Moni said, “The advancement of women and girls is core to achieving Bangladesh’s vision of creating a more gender-equal society. We, like almost all other countries in the world, are focused on prioritizing progress under Sustainable Development Goal 5 – Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, and although I’m proud to say we have made steady progress, there still remain challenges. This is why the introduction of global public interactive platforms like the Women of the World in Bangladesh are so critical, because they help in sharing best practices and experiences, and creating access and opportunity to advance the potential for women and girls all over the world. We are really looking forward to maximizing the potential of this incredible festival platform to positively impact the lives of women and girls in Bangladesh.”
The Women of the World festival’s Founder Jude Kelly CBE added, “There has never been a more timely need for WOW festivals in Bangladesh, as it examines the everyday realities women face and shows how only by standing side by side, we can produce long-term societal shifts in the future. Through theatre, music, art, the power of story and candid conversation, WOW provides an open space for women to share experiences with people they may never have met before, and to speak out as one. We are very excited to see WOW being initiated in Bangladesh, helping to join women together across countries, to break down social barriers and make crucial positive change and I’m excited to be here this weekend.”
The festival is featuring panel discussions focusing on issues such as social norms, violence against women, men and masculinity, and feminism. Workshops are designed to help participants understand the realities of women from different backgrounds, including the obstacles they face in their path to progress. The festival is also hosting parallel sessions on short talks, stories and performances on over 20 themes, delivered by diverse groups of women. Additionally, participants can enjoy one-to-one speed mentoring sessions delivered by experts from across many fields.
The festival is also hosting a vibrant marketplace, including a range of carefully selected stalls run by local women entrepreneurs. Visitors can also enjoy curated exhibitions, film screenings, performance arts, an under 10 feminist corners for children and a full-fledged theatre production throughout the WOW Dhaka weekend.
In the lead up to WOW Dhaka, the British Council in Bangladesh initiated a series of smaller local WOW chapters in five divisional cities across the country last year – in Rangpur, Sylhet, Khulna, Rajshahi, and Chattogram. Encouraged by the success of these local WOW chapters, WOW Dhaka 2019 promises to be a spirited and far-reaching celebration of women and girls in Bangladesh and across South Asia.