WOW Foundation Launches WOW Girls Festival
The renowned WOW Foundation, recognised for orchestrating the monumental WOW London Festival, a global celebration of women, girls, and non-binary individuals, unveils its latest endeavour – the WOW Girls Festival.
Commencing on the International Day of the Girl, October 11, and spanning until International Women’s Day on March 8, this pioneering festival aims to reshape societal perspectives on girls, their potential, and the opportunities available to them, both in the UK and globally, in collaboration with esteemed international partners.
The harsh reality illuminated by the Girls’ Futures Report 2022 exposes a critical juncture in the lives of young girls. Between the pivotal ages of 14 and 18, their confidence undergoes a significant dip, a decline that, disturbingly, does not recover substantially. A parallel revelation surfaces in the 2022 Steer Education report, laying bare the distressing fact that girls as young as 11 are concealing profound anguish from both parents and teachers. Embedded in their teenage years are doubts about their futures and self-limiting beliefs that cast long shadows. Responding to this urgent call, the WOW Foundation joins forces once again with BBC Children in Need to launch the formidable WOW Girls Festival, a proactive initiative tackling these distressing issues head-on. Building upon their impactful collaboration in 2020 as part of the groundbreaking CIN A Million & Me program, the previous findings underscored the vital role of fun, happiness, and creative self-expression in bridging the gaps in addressing gender differences. Shaped by these insights, the WOW Girls Festival emerges as a beacon of hope, focusing on transforming outcomes for girls and young people at large. This transformative festival, set to embark on a nationwide tour aboard the specially designed ‘WOW Girls Festival Bus’ from October, is not just an event; it’s a dynamic force committed to reshaping narratives and fostering better futures.
The dynamic WOW Girls Festival unfolds through an interactive mobile space, the WOW Girls Festival Bus. Crafted in collaboration with Getaway Girls in Leeds and artist/designer Emma Hardaker, this imaginative haven for young people cultivates creativity and exploration. Within its vibrant confines, activities advocating gender equity, such as play, reading, digital experiences, and a recording studio, come to life. The Bus becomes a catalyst for change as it embarks on a nationwide tour, stopping in Kent, Glasgow, North Wales, Liverpool, Norfolk, Belfast, Bradford, and Manchester. Here, it will not only host Speed Mentoring, panel talks, and discussions but also deliver workshops that resonate with diverse communities, nurturing resilience, well-being, and mental health.
The WOW Girls Festival is marked by live events on the Bus along London’s South Bank. The festivities extend to WOW Speed Mentoring on the iconic London Eye, engaging talks at the National Theatre, the unveiling of four new Activity Packs for schools, and the eagerly awaited release of the fourth annual WOW Young Leaders Directory. This immersive and impactful festival promises to be a transformative experience, fostering empowerment and inclusivity for girls across the UK.
Embarking on the lastminute.com London Eye, WOW Speed Mentoring transforms a routine ride into a powerhouse of inspiration. 180 school students aged 13-19, representing over 30 schools and community groups, seize the unique chance to connect with 180 highly influential and inspiring women and non-binary figures. Amidst the breathtaking cityscape, these dynamic pairings engage in 15-minute rotating sessions, where stories, dreams, and ambitions are shared as they soar over the iconic London skyline. The roster of previous mentors reads like a who’s who of impactful voices, featuring luminaries such as campaigners Baroness Doreen Lawrence and Shami Chakrabarti, singer Jessie Ware, model and activist Adwoa Aboah, broadcasters Gemma Cairney, Fatima Manji, and Ronke Philips, actors Julie Walters, Noma Dumezweni, and Gillian Anderson, comedian Ruby Wax, and politicians including Dawn Butler MP, Jo Swinson MP, Justine Greening MP, Stella Creasy MP, and Angela Constance MSP. This extraordinary mentoring experience isn’t just a ride; it’s a transformative journey where aspirations take flight against the backdrop of London’s skyline.
As the world celebrates International Day of the Girl, WOW unveils its highly anticipated 2023 WOW Young Leaders Directory. Launched in 2020, this directory stands as a testament to global collaboration, working alongside partners to identify and spotlight girls and non-binary young leaders making waves in activism and championing campaigns for transformative change. The 2023 Directory introduces a diverse array of trailblazers, including Pakistani women’s rights and education advocate Amna Quddus, Malaysian student activist Ain Husniza, recognized for her unwavering commitment to promoting gender equality in schools and combating rape culture. Also featured is the remarkable 13-year-old Yeva Skalietska from Ukraine, whose poignant diary, “You don’t know what war is: the diary of a young girl from Ukraine,” was published last year, alongside the inspirational all-girls robotics team, the Afghan Dreamers. This Directory is more than a list; it is a living testament to the incredible impact young leaders can have on the world.
Beyond the WOW Girls Festival for 2023-2024, WOW is unwavering in its commitment to global impact. Collaborating internationally, WOW will host Festivals and Think Ins in key cities worldwide, including Rio de Janeiro, Brisbane, Lahore, Athens, Istanbul, Kathmandu, Kigali, and Baltimore. In an exciting revelation, WOW announces a groundbreaking partnership with Factory International, heralding the 2024 WOW Festival at Manchester’s avant-garde cultural venue, Aviva Studios. While specifics of the new program remain under wraps, anticipation is high for a cascade of WOW Festival firsts. The WOW Girls Festival stands as a testament to collaboration, supported by BBC Children in Need and in tandem with WOW UK Girls Champion Barbie, extending its tour to reach primary-aged children. Further amplifying its global impact, WOW Global Girls Champion Standard Chartered Bank champions the Girls Festival’s international reach. This interconnected tapestry of initiatives underscores WOW’s enduring commitment to fostering positive change on a global scale.
Jude Kelly, founder of WOW Foundation, expresses excitement about offering young people their very own WOW Festival, acknowledging the pressures girls face today. “Young people have been at the heart of our work since I founded WOW in 2010 and I am so excited that for the first time ever we are offering them their very own WOW Festival. We know that girls are facing more pressures than ever before and we are so looking forward to meeting young people across the UK and finding out what matters to them, as we work together to make a gender equal world a reality for future generations.”
In an enthusiastic statement, Kelly Philp, Senior Director Marketing Mattel UK, articulates the profound impact of Barbie’s longstanding mission. Originating in 1959 to broaden girls’ choices, Barbie continues this purposeful journey. Philp expresses excitement about the deepening partnership with the WOW Foundation, outlining their shared commitment to empowering thousands of girls across the UK. Through initiatives like Barbie Role Models, inclusive dolls, and empathy workshops, this collaboration stands as a testament to both organisations’ dedication to fostering positive and inclusive experiences for young girls.
The WOW Foundation
Established in 2018 by Jude Kelly CBE, The WOW Foundation serves as the driving force behind the global phenomenon known as WOW – Women of the World Festivals. Originating in the UK in 2010 under Kelly’s leadership as Artistic Director at the Southbank Centre London, these festivals are a celebration of women and girls, fearlessly examining the barriers to their potential while fostering global awareness and collaborative discussions on solutions.
With an impressive reach spanning five million individuals in 45 locations across six continents, including diverse places like Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, Finland, Greece, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Somaliland, the UK, and the USA, WOW has become a transformative global movement. Over 13 years, the festivals have evolved into a renowned space attracting world-class artists, activists, thinkers, and performers. Notable figures like Angela Davis, Malala Yousafzai, Annie Lennox, Patrick Stewart, Baroness Doreen Lawrence, and Salma Hayek, alongside countless unsung heroines, have converged to participate.
WOW goes beyond being a platform for public figures; it serves as a catalyst for change, altering attitudes, uniting communities, and providing a unique arena for collective efforts toward gender equity. One remarkable outcome of the festival’s influence was the founding of the Women’s Equality Party by Sandi Toksvig and Catherine Mayer in 2015.
In 2018, Jude Kelly transitioned from the Southbank Centre to helm The WOW Foundation full time as a charitable entity dedicated to building, convening, and sustaining a global movement that envisions a gender-equal world. The festival model is distinctive, offering diverse pathways for participants to engage in WOW projects, amplify their causes, or initiate impactful initiatives within their communities. As the largest, most comprehensive, and significant festival dedicated to showcasing work by women and advancing equity for women and girls, WOW stands at the forefront of the global movement for gender equality.
The WOW Girls Festival Bus is funded through a partnership between The WOW Foundation and BBC Children in Need and the tour is supported by Arts Council England.
The WOW Foundation is proudly supported by its Global Founding Partner Bloomberg.
The President of WOW – Women of the World is Her Majesty The Queen.
WOW Festivals will be taking place around the world in the next 12 months:
WOW Australia: Voices Shaping the Future: 19-21 October
WOW Rio: 27-29 October
WOW Pakistan (Lahore): 27-28 January 2024
WOW Istanbul: 1-3 March 2024
WOW Kathmandu: 2024 tbc
WOW Athens: 6-8 April 2024
WOW Kigali: Summer 2024 tbc
WOW Baltimore: April 2025 tbc