I celebrated International Women’s Day this year in London at the Women of the World Festival on the South Bank. I was with my favourite woman of the world, my daughter Fiona, whose birthday falls auspiciously on this day. Great planning on my part! 

The Festival was opened by the inspirational Jude Kelly and celebrates its 10th birthday this year. Jude started the festival when she was Artistic Director of the South Bank. It has since grown into a worldwide organisation with 80 festivals in 30 locations on 6 continents. The WOW Foundation was established in 2018 with Jude Kelly becoming its Director. In the Festival Welcome from Jude:

WOW – Women of the World Festival came onto the scene to challenge the status quo, awaken the desire for further change and, importantly, to celebrate the amazing things that girls and women were doing across the globe.

In the face of systemic inequity and terrifying violence we wanted to make the festival open to people of all backgrounds – a place of warmth, inclusiveness and fun, in which we could all celebrate the spirit, resilience and achievements of women, and imagine a better future.

The Duchess of Cornwall is President of WOW and also an advocate to combat domestic violence of any description. She gave a moving speech about the prevalence of physical,sexual, mental, emotional and financial abuse of women and girls around the world. Launching the hashtag #everyonesproblem, she made everyone in the room realise that it IS everyone’s problem. 

Women’s Parliament

There were so many brilliant events that I was only able to sample a few of them. We attended the Women’s Parliament hosted by Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News with the Women’s Equality Party and Tulip Siddiq MP. What would an all-female parliament look like and how would it operate? A 50:50 parliament is currently an aspiration so what needs to happen to achieve this? Quotas on selecting candidates? All female panels? Better parliamentary procedures to allow for a better life balance for all, women and men?

Me and White Supremacy

This session took its title from a book by Layla Saad, a racism educator, and gave me food for thought. Can you recognise your own privilege? If so how do you challenge it? Is racism baked into our culture through white supremacy?

Corporates Get Naked

What a great title for this session, that looked at diversity in business. Even though big business knows that diversity is good for the bottom line – aside from it being fair – why are we still moving at a glacial pace? Ably chaired by Shevaun Haviland, Deputy Director, Business Partnership Team in the Cabinet Office, the panel included Pamela Hutchinson, Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion for Bloomberg and Dr Heather Melville Director of PwC. Three gems of wisdom came out of that discussion for me.

  • Women hold 85% of the spending power in the world.
    My comment is that we should be voting with our money to change the status quo on diversity, inclusion and climate change.
  • Incentives for execs should be aligned to diversity.
    And in my view they should also be aligned to the company’s performance on carbon emissions reduction.
  • There is a war on talent.
    The upcoming generation looks at the gender pay gap and the diversity and inclusion track record of companies before they will consider them as potential employers.

For budding feminists

This is just a snapshot of the myriad of events available at the festival. One of my favourites is the Under 10’s Feminist Corner for budding young gender equality champions. Would love to be a fly on the wall for that conversation!

There are currently no WOW events in Ireland and just one in Northern Ireland in Derry. 

  • I would love to bring this type of event to Dublin and really celebrate women on International Women’s Day in all their beautiful diversity. 
  • Let’s get some conversations going about the real issues that affect women’s lives every day. 
  • Let’s create the opportunity to learn about the life experiences of real women of every age, culture and ethnicity

Who would like to join me on this journey?

Send me a message or make a comment to let me know what you think about bringing the WOW Festival to Ireland.

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