March is Women’s History Month and this is a time women, non binary and transgender people around the world take stock of the achievements made and what more can be done for the political, social and economical equality of all genders. One such celebration is the Women of the World festival which was conceptualized by Jude Kelly in 2010. On the 100th anniversary of International Working Women;s Day, Kelly asked herself, how fare have women come and where are they being celebrated? Hence the Women of the World (WOW) Festival was born. In 2016 the festival came to Pakistan and has since then boasted an incredible line up of performances, panels, music, art and dance all centered on Pakistani women’s achievements. After two years of virtual festivals, the sixth edition of WOW took place on 4th and 5th of March at the Beach Luxury Hotel. Organized by the British Council, Olomomoplo media, and ECDI Pakistan this year the festival was built on a sobering yet uplifting theme. The two-day event showcased an array of activities, including informative panels, interactive workshops, spectacular performances, a bustling marketplace, and fun activities for children. Additionally, the festival showcased an art exhibit, installation art, and multiple film screenings. With several attendees eagerly anticipating the festival, rest assured they were delighted to see the turnout!

Historically it has always been women that hold communities together by sharing stories and traditions and keeping families and tribes together. In this fast-changing world where things seem to be in constant flux, we need community more than ever. That’s why this year’s theme Ral Mil – meaning coming together as a community – was built upon ideas of communities of care and imagined ways to build back better, strengthen bonds, heal wounds, find joy, and salvage the earth we walk on. Hence all panels, activities, games, and performances were a tribute to coming together as a community.

The WOW Festival featured musical performances by up-and-coming artists like Shae Gil, panel discussions featuring speakers such as Natasha Lakhani, workshops on parenting teens led by Maryam Munir, and dramatic reading by veteran actors like Sarmad Khoosat, who directed female-driven stories like Kamli and Akhri Station. While the festival celebrated women’s achievements and showcased their talents, it also shone a light on women’s experiences and the struggles they are still facing in 2023. This year the opening panel was a conversation of women leaders including the indomitable ADC Quratulain Wazir and her leadership under which Nowshera was evacuated during the floods. Jibran Nasir talked about how to be an effective ally and Sarwat Gilani and her Art House taught children how to be creative through recycling.

The WOW Festival had academics, artists, and activists who were trailblazers in Pakistan and internationally.

This year, organizers of the WOW Festival really wanted to create an atmosphere where everyone could intentionally build and nurture within a framework of radical love for community and acceptance of the fact that lack of access to community infrastructure and age-old cultural norms and traditions that once united humans and natures breeds desolation. The values of the festival were shaped by the need to cultivate deep relationships with people across traditionally gated and guarded spaces and with acknowledgment of the role of all living things: plants, animals, and other parts of our local heritage and ecosystems.

The WOW Festival truly lived up to the hype and we loved everything about this year’s festivities! Here’s hoping we get to attend more of such festivals in the future!

To learn more about the 6th Annual WOW Festival in Karachi click the link below: