WOW | In Focus

WOW Festival in Nepal

Daisy Leitch is the Programme Manager for Literature in South Asia at the British Council and leading on WOW within the British Council team. She is normally based in London but has been posted in Kathmandu for four months. Previously she ran the events and storytelling company 5×15 for seven years in London.

Daisy_LeitchHow did the idea of holding a WOW Festival in Nepal come about?

WOW – Women of the World – is a global movement of Festivals that started in London at the Southbank Centre, which is one of the largest Arts Centre in Europe. Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of Southbank Centre, launched WOW London in 2011 to mark the centenary of International Women’s Day. Jude conceived WOW as a major global festival that not only celebrated women and girls around the world, but also looked at the obstacles they face. It would be a place where hundreds of women’s stories could be shared, feelings vented, fun had, minds influenced and hearts expanded. WOW – Women of the World festival has expanded beyond Southbank Centre to tour the globe, and is now in over 20 countries. From Finland to Folkestone and Derry to Dhaka, crossing further continents to Harlem and Hargeysa, Brisbane and Baltimore. British Council, where I work, collaborated with WOW in Karachi in 2016 and is now working with WOW in Kathmandu for the first time on Feb 18 at the National Administrative Staff College, Patan.

Is there a main theme to the Festival and who is it targeted at?

women-festivalWOW Kathmandu is free and open to everyone – women, men, boys and girls! We hope to include a wide range of people and get a broad audience of different ages and backgrounds – everyone is welcome. It is a celebration of the stories of women and girls as well as taking a frank look at some of the obstacles that prevent women and girls from achieving their full potential. There are talks, performances, workshops and a happening marketplace and it is open all day from 11am -8pm.

What do you hope to achieve from it?

We hope that WOW is energising, fun and engaging and creates momentum for positive change and is a place for important discussions about what holds back women and girls from achieving their full potential. British Council is partnering with Southbank on WOW Kathmandu and creating connections by bringing women from across South Asia to speak at the Festival.

What does equality of the genders really mean to you?

I think it means women and men having an equal chance to reach for their dreams.

Daisy-LeitchDo you feel issues related to gender equality is given enough attention in Nepal?

In all parts of the world women and men are still not equal. I think it is an area that needs attention in every country.

How can this debate become a part of all mainstream initiatives – social, economic and spiritual beyond the Festival?

We hope that there will be lots of ideas, inspiration and motivation to come out of WOW- from artistic expressions and performances, conversations and debates! I couldn’t predict what exactly they will be however.  You will need to be part of the festival to see how the festival unfolds and impacts you.

Are there specific measures to include men into the debate / festival?

There are some men speaking on the programme for example about issues such as how to end gender based violence. We welcome all men and boys to be part of the conversation and join us! We look forward to seeing them there.

Since its inception in 2011, what are some of the core achievements of the Festival?

I have been lucky to go to many of the amazing WOW Festivals in London as well as WOW in Bradford (a town in the middle of the UK) and WOW Karachi. All of those festivals have connected women across the world, and been an amazing place to listen to the stories of women from all backgrounds and walks of life. All the WOW Festivals I have attended have provided a platform for sharing positive stories as well as challenges faced in that city or area. They have always been inspiring, surprising and a lot of fun.

What are some of the highlights of the Festival in Nepal that women and men here can look forward to?

There’s a great programme featuring artists like ArtLab, Milan Rai, and Kripa Joshi who created Miss Moti. Speakers like Sapana Pradhan Malla and the Word Warriors and many more. We have workshops on A-Z Start Ups and Bodily Integrity as well as fun, fast and furious Speed Mentoring sessions in the garden. We have a marketplace with information and products and – as if that wasn’t enough – there’s a concert in the evening from 6-8pm from Kathmandu Killers and Abhaya and the Steam Injuns.