The 2020s started with their fair share of challenges from a mentally and physically exhausting pandemic to the harrowing impacts of climate change.
These last two years have made us question the fundamental structures our world is built on, from capitalism and patriarchy, and how the pandemic and the floods had exposed the very inequalities built into them.
This is a time when we need to ask ourselves what truly matters and why we needed to care for each other. The 6th edition of the Women of the World (WOW) festival returned in-person to Beach Luxury Hotel after two online editions.
The news was announced earlier in February and attendees were already eagerly awaiting the highly anticipated and fun-filled event, after two years of viewing it via their screens.
For 2023, the WOW Festival presented the theme Ral Mil – a Seraiki phrase that means coming together as a community.
Over two days of festivities, attendees looked forward to dynamic panels, engaging workshops, exquisite performances, vibrant marketplaces, exciting junior shows, and so much more.
Additionally, the festival also showcased an art exhibition, installation art, and several film screenings.
While the festival celebrated women’s achievements and showcased their talents, it also shone 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 had 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, WOW Pakistan wants us to look at our communities and identify the invisible and visible labor that holds us together.
‘Ral Mil’ had been built upon ideas of communities of care and had imagined ways to build better, strengthen bonds, heal wounds, find joy, and salvage the earth.
The latest WOW Festival highlighted the value of intentionally building and nurturing one another within a framework of radical love for community and acceptance.
The festival wanted to build an understanding of the lack of access to community infrastructure, age-old cultural norms, and traditions that once united humans and nature.
The values of the festival had been 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 the local heritage and ecosystems.
The Women of the World Festival was founded by Jude Kelly in 2010 when the first WOW Festival occurred at Southbank Centre in London.
Since then, WOW Festivals have celebrated women and girls and have taken place across the globe, reaching five million people across six continents. The festival has come a long way in Pakistan since 2016 with support from the British Council.
With a global outlook but curated locally and celebrating indigenous and folk knowledge, WOW Pakistan is a representation of the tenacity and creativity of Pakistani women.
In 2023, the WOW Festival once again commemorated the diversity and achievements of women from all walks of life.
With musical performances by rising artists such as Shae Gil, panel speakers such as Natasha Lakhani, and Maryam Munir conducting workshops on parenting teens, and thought leaders such as Sarmad Khoosat who had helmed women-led stories like Kamli and Akhri Station, this WOW Festival has been one of the must-see events of the year.