The British Council Pakistan and London’s Southbank Centre are bringing the first WOW – Women of the World festival to South Asia. Organized by the British Council and six local organisations in collaboration with Southbank Centre, WOW will launch on 1 May 2016 at the Beach Luxury Hotel in Karachi, Pakistan, providing a platform to celebrate women and girls  and examine the obstacles that prevent them from achieving their full potential.

The festival comes as Pakistan ranks 144 out of 145 countries by the Global Gender Gap Index. Pakistan was ranked by the Index as 143rd in economic participation and opportunity for women, 135th in education attainment, 87th in political empowerment and 125th in health and survival.

WOW Karachi takes place across one day and will consist of musical performances, dramatic readings, panel discussions, inspirational talks and a market place, showcasing the incredible achievements of women and girls and highlighting the particular challenges facing the women of Pakistan. Topics covered include gender equality, violence against women, the future of the workplace, division of domestic labour and how to raise young Pakistani girls as empowered individuals. Speakers include Jude Kelly, Nimco Ali, Shaista Aziz, Kauser Saeed Khan, Dr Unaiza Niaz, Nighat Said Khan, Fatima Ali Haider, Mukhtaran Mai and more.

Founder Jude Kelly speaking at WOW London in March 2016 (Credit: Alice the Camera 2016)
Founder Jude Kelly speaking at WOW London in March 2016 (Credit: Alice the Camera)

WOW – Women of the World festival was launched at London’s Southbank Centre in 2011 by Artistic Director Jude Kelly. Now a global festival with 15 WOWs across five different continents and 1 million people involved, it is the largest women’s festival in the world.

Southbank Centre Artistic Director and Founder of WOW Jude Kelly said: “I founded WOW – Women of the World to provide time, space and permission for women and girls from across the globe to share the common aims and challenges of gender equality. WOW Karachi is a powerful addition to this international movement which now includes five continents, over a million women and girls and hundreds of partners. WOW Karachi promises to be a spirited and far reaching celebration of the achievements and obstacles facing girls and women in South Asia.”

Sumbul Khan, Director Arts British Council Pakistan, encouraged individuals from all walks of life to actively take part in the festival. She added “the festival is not just for women; we invite parents, university students, people from the semi urban areas in Karachi and marginalised communities of Karachi to the WOW – Women of the World festival.”

The British Council has a history of delivering international festivals around the globe and adapting them to the local context. Robin Davies, Area Director for Sindh and Balochistan from the British Council Pakistan said “these festivals help initiate conversations around societal and cultural challenges, taboos and stereotypes.”

WOW Karachi is part of the British Council and Southbank Centre’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and in particular to the women of Pakistan who go from strength to strength in overcoming odds in their daily lives, politics, education and creative disciplines.