Curtains rise on WOW Dhaka 2019 festival

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The British Council, in partnership with the WOW Foundation, UK is delighted to bring WOW – Women of the World festival for the first time ever to Dhaka on April 5 and 6 at the Bangla Academy premises.

To mark the launch of the festival, a press conference was held today at the British Council auditorium.

Andrew Newton, deputy director of British Council; Nahin Idris, head of arts at British Council; Sara Zaker, curator and founder of Mongol Deep; Shagufe Hossain, curator, founder and executive director of Leaping Boundaries; and Tasaffy Hossain, curator and founder of Bonhishikha Unlearn Gender, were present at the programme and presented an overview of various aspects of the WOW festival.

WOW is an international festival that celebrates the achievements of women and girls, while also focusing on sharing experiences and approaches to tackle continuing inequalities and discrimination faced by them in society.

The festival is an inclusive platform for engaging people from all walks of life, both as speakers and audience members and providing the inspiration and tools to help make a positive change in the area of gender equality.

Commenting on the significance of the festival in advancing gender equality, Andrew Newton said, “The WOW festival is a crucial platform in advancing our work on women and girls’ empowerment under our Arts programme portfolio in South Asia. At the British Council, we believe that achieving gender equality is crucial in creating an inclusive, open and prosperous society, and the advancing sustainable development goals, in particular, SDG 5 – Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment.”

“The festival is an engaging and impactful way of strengthening cultural understanding by sharing practices and experiences from the UK yet grounding them in the local context. It advocates to create access and opportunity for women and girls around the world and build their skills and confidence to achieve their potential and has more influence over decisions that positively impact their lives,” he added.

Emphasizing the ambition of WOW Dhaka, Nahin Idris said, “Through the all-inclusive national platform of WOW Dhaka, we hope to shine a spotlight on the city and the incredible people that live and work here, as well as showcase visiting speakers, performers, panelists and inspiring women from all corners of society. we plan to reach more than 1 million people through a spirited and far-reaching celebration of the women and girls’ achievements, and by encouraging sharing of hundreds of women’s stories to explore the obstacles that prevent them from achieving their full potential.”

WOW platform helps raise awareness on gender-related issues and highlights stories of success as well as the struggle of women and girls from all walks of life. It also involves aspiring local women leaders to design and deliver the festival in a way that allows them to produce an international festival with local flavor.

At the WOW Dhaka festival, people will engage in cross-cultural dialogue with the aim of collective problem solving and finding creative solutions to their everyday life. The panel discussions will focus on issues such as social norms, violence against women, men and masculinity, and feminism. Various workshops have been designed to help participants understand the reality of women, from different backgrounds, facing hindrances and obstacles on their path to progress.

Moreover, there will be parallel sessions of short talks, stories, and performances on over 20 themes, delivered by diverse groups of women. Participants can also enjoy a rare opportunity of one-to-one mentoring sessions delivered by experts from across many fields.

The festival will also feature a vibrant marketplace of carefully selected stalls to help support local women entrepreneurs and raise awareness on gender issues. In addition, curated exhibitions, film-screenings, performance arts and a full-fledged theatre production also await the festival visitors.

WOW, the largest women’s festival in the world, started in London in 2010 and is now a global festival expanding across five continents. Over one-and-half million women are part of the ever-growing WOW movement, where men and boys are also a part of the entire society benefits from a gender-equal world. WOW festivals are presented by arrangement with Southbank Centre.

Last year, the British Council in Bangladesh initiated a series of events as WOW Chapters in Rangpur, Sylhet, Khulna, Rajshahi, and Chattogram. Energized by the success of WOW chapters in five divisional cities across Bangladesh, which saw the enthusiastic participation of 25,000 people, WOW Dhaka 2019 promises to be a spirited and far-reaching celebration of the achievements and obstacles facing girls and women in South Asia.

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