KARACHI: A group of Karachi women spent Wednesday afternoon listening to stories of women making a difference across the world, and planning a festival to celebrate themselves.
British Council of Pakistan has collaborated with Southbank Centre to host Women of the World (WOW) festival in the port city this year. To help plan this festival, the council held a Think-in session for women from various professions and walks of life to share their experiences and design a festival that celebrates the city’s better half.
Apart from female entrepreneurs, social workers, athletes and journalists, the event hosted guests from other countries in South Asia. Bangladesh Alliance for Women Leadership executive director Nasim Firdaus graced the occasion along with Nepal’s former parliamentarian Sapana Pradhan Malla and Afghanistan’s filmmaker Dr Sahraa Karimi. Moreover, teacher-trainer Bishaka Sen from Kolkata and theatre director Ruwanthie de Chickera from Sri Lanka also participated via Skype.
WOW founder Jude Kelly CBE, who is the artistic director at Southbank Centre, shared how the festival came about. “I founded WOW to provide time, space and permission for women and girls from across the globe to share the common aims and challenges of gender equality,” she said. “WOW Karachi is a powerful addition to this international movement, which now includes five continents, over a million women and girls, and hundreds of partners.”
Kelly added that, “WOW Karachi promises to be a spirited and far reaching celebration of the achievements and obstacles facing girls and women in South Asia.”
Since it came into being five years ago, WOW has travelled from the United Kingdom to the United States, Australia and Africa. The 2016 will mark the festival’s arrival in Pakistan and India.
“WOW provides Pakistani women a platform to mobilise,” British Council Pakistan’s arts director Sumbul Khan. “[It allows women to] address the challenges they face and collectively seek solutions not only within their local context but also by connecting with women across the globe.”
Social worker Dr Quratulain Bakhteari, the founder of the Institute for Development Studies and Practices, spoke about female empowerment. “People and institutions obstructing women’s intellectual and professional growth, undermine the vital energy desperately needed by humanity,” she said.
The various groups present in Avari Towers’ Khorsheed Mahal hall put their heads together to suggest ways in which WOW can be adapted to Karachi. The most popular venue choice was Karachi Expo Centre while a football match between boys and girls was one of the suggestions for activities.
As she shared her group’s presentation, writer Bina Shah pointed out that the festival must ensure an abundant number of toilets for women. Artist Durriya Kazi’s group suggested holding smaller baithaks for women to discuss their problems during the festival and form support groups that can take the aims of WOW beyond the festival.