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On 11 October, WOW – Women of the World celebrated International Day of the Girl 2023 with the launch of their inaugural WOW Girls Festival (11 October 2023 – 8 March 2024) on London’s South Bank.

Working with global partners, the festival which will culminate on International Women’s Day 2024 will be a force for change across society in how it sees girls, their potential and the opportunities it offers for their future, both in the UK and overseas.

The Girls Festival

Her Majesty The Queen, President of The WOW Foundation said, “I am delighted that WOW is launching its first Girls Festival aboard the WOW Bus, to celebrate girls throughout the world and to do all that we can to promote their potential and nurture their opportunities.

As the proud President of WOW, I know that girls have always been at the heart of everything that you do. I am sure that this festival will equip young people across the United Kingdom with resilience, confidence and self-belief – and that you will have lots of fun along the way!

I am much looking forward to stepping onto the bus myself as soon as I can…”

Festival Activities

To mark the beginning of this brand-new festival and in celebration of International Day of the Girl, the WOW Girls Festival Bus, an interactive space created with and for young people, was parked on London’s South Bank hosting workshops for groups of primary school students and community groups from across Lambeth.

Above South Bank, 150 inspiring women and 150 secondary school students came together on the lastminute.com London Eye for a mass mentoring event, whilst live talks for guests were hosted at the National Theatre. WOW also launched four new Activity Packs for schools and the fourth annual WOW Young Leaders Directory.

WOW – Women of the World is a global movement and festival promoting gender equality and celebrating women, girls and non-binary people, run by UK charity The WOW Foundation. Since 2012, 11th October has been marked as International Day of the Girl to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights.

From its starting point in London, the Bus will take workshops and activities to all corners of the UK, reaching young people from all backgrounds in the heart of their own communities. The Bus continued to Gravesend on Thursday 12 October, welcoming local schools and community groups for workshops and drop-in sessions, in partnership with Gravesham Borough Council. On Friday 13 October, in partnership with Milk Honey Bees, the Bus visited Lambeth schools before parking up in Windrush Square in Brixton for sessions focused on Black and Mixed Black Girls, in celebration of Black History Month.

Further tour stops include Glasgow, North Wales, Liverpool, Norfolk, Belfast, Bradford, Manchester and many more, where the Bus will host Speed Mentoring, panel talks and discussions, offering visitors a creative exploration of gender equality through play, reading, digital experiences and a recording studio.

With a focus on girls, but including all young people, activities from the Bus are designed to build resilience, wellbeing and good mental health. The WOW Girls Festival Bus was designed by Getaway Girls in Leeds and artist / designer Emma Hardaker.

Partnerships & Support

The WOW Foundation has joined forces for the second time with BBC Children in Need (CIN) to launch the WOW Girls Festival tackling some of the issues raised by the Girls’ Futures Report 2022 and the 2022 Steer Education report. Additional partnerships include WOW UK Girls Champion Barbie who are extending the tour to reach primary aged children, and WOW Global Girls Champion and Standard Chartered Bank who are supporting the Girls Festival’s international reach.

Their previous collaboration in 2020, as part of the ground-breaking CiN A Million & Me programme, found that fun, happiness and creative self-expression were particularly important approaches to addressing the identified gaps in the provision of activity to tackle gender difference. WOW has now created WOW Girls Festival shaped from these findings and focusing on better outcomes for girls and all young people. The Festival will tour the UK from October in a special ‘WOW Girls Festival Bus’.

Kelly Philp, Senior Director Marketing, Mattel UK, says: “Barbie was created in 1959 to show girls more choices, and we are thrilled to deepen this purposeful mission and positively impact girls through our long-term partnership with the WOW Foundation, reaching thousands of girls across the UK with Barbie Role Models, inclusive dolls and empathy workshops.”

Claire Dixon, Standard Chartered’s Group Head, Corporate Affairs, Brand and Marketing said, “Standard Chartered is delighted to be supporting this year’s WOW festival as the WOW Global Girls Champion. Through our global Futuremakers initiative, we focus on tackling economic inequality and promoting inclusion for the next generation, particularly girls and young women. As WOW Global Girls Champion, we are excited for the opportunity to leverage our global network and expertise in this area to celebrate young girls and their potential futures while supporting more girls to access the knowledge and networks to achieve better economic outcomes for themselves and their communities.”

Jude Kelly, CEO and Founder of The WOW Foundation said, “Young people have been at the heart of our work since I founded WOW in 2010 and I am so excited that for the first time ever we are offering them their very own WOW Festival. We know that girls are facing more pressures than ever before and we are so looking forward to meeting young people across the UK and finding out what matters to them, as we work together to make a gender equal world a reality for future generations.”

WOW’s annual speed mentoring event on the lastminute.com London Eye offered 150 students aged 13-19, from 30+ schools and community groups, the unique opportunity to meet 150 highly influential and inspiring women and non-binary people including: award-winning poet Joelle Taylor, author Ify Adenuga, author and activist Charlie Craggs, novelist, journalist and broadcaster Elizabeth Day, author and founder of the Everyday Sexism Project Laura Bates, Founder of Own It Crystal Mahey-Morgan, composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Bishi, award-winning journalist, public speaker and author Poorna Bell and Barbie 2023 Role Model Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock.

Each student was matched with several different mentors for 15-minute sessions during which they shared their dreams and ambitions during two complete rotations of the lastminute.com London Eye.

The 11 October also saw the release of the WOW Young Leaders Directory Launched in 2020, the Directory works with global partners to identify and profile girls and non-binary young people from across the globe, who are demonstrating extraordinary leadership in activism and leading campaigns for change.

Leaders in the 2023 Directory range from Pakistani women’s rights and education activist Amna Quddus, and Malaysian student activist Ain Husniza, who has gained recognition for her efforts in promoting gender equality in schools and speaking out against rape culture, to 13-year-old Yeva Skalietska from Ukraine, whose diary You don’t know what war is: the diary of a young girl from Ukraine was published last year and all girls robotics team the Afghan Dreamers.

The WOW Foundation has also released four inspiring Activity Packs for education providers and community leaders to use. They have been co-designed with and for young people to link to the national curriculum and offer creative activities and thought-provoking stimuli to bring the topics of mental health, personal safety, relationships, community and finance to life.

The WOW Girls Festival Bus is funded through a partnership between The WOW Foundation and BBC Children in Need and the tour is supported by Arts Council England.

The WOW Foundation is proudly supported by its Global Founding Partner Bloomberg.

About The WOW Foundation

The WOW Foundation was created by Jude Kelly CBE in 2018 to run the global movement that is WOW – Women of the World Festivals. The Festivals began in the UK in 2010, launched by Kelly at the Southbank Centre London, where she was Artistic Director, to celebrate women and girls, taking a frank look at what prevents them from achieving their potential, raising awareness globally of the issues they face, and discussing solutions together.

To date, WOW has reached five million people in 45 locations on six continents, in locations including Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, Finland, Greece, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Somaliland, the UK and the USA.

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