After the incredible success of WOW Virtual Pakistan 2021, the British Council in Pakistan in continuing its partnership with the WOW Foundation held the fifth iteration of WOW - Women of the World Festival in the form of WOW Pakistan 2022, a second digital edition, together with a group of local curating partners Olomopolo Media and Entrepreneurship and Community Development Institute (ECDI) on 5 and 6 March 2022.

This year’s programme under the theme of Rani, featuring over a hundred artists and speakers, aimed to raise awareness of struggles faced by women and girls through storytelling; strove to help participants and audience feel confident and inspired to make their own choices and challenge gender norms; encouraged boys and men in the festival to become champions of women’s empowerment; helped enable participants to identify with other women’s and girls’ challenges and to gain practical knowledge and skills; and provided a platform for local communities to showcase their arts in addition to other outcomes. 

The programme which had been developed by curating partners and informed by a planning session held earlier in which a diverse group of people belonging to civil society, women’s rights organisations, disability led organisations, legal community, academics, artists, transgender community leaders, teachers and educators came together to discuss who and what they would like to see at the WOW Festival. The programme included talks, panel discussions, performances, a digital marketplace, children’s programming and much more. 

All segments of the festival except for speed-mentoring were held digitally. To ensure safeguarding, the speed-mentoring segment of the festival was held face to face prior to the festival whereby 45 young women from Karachi and Lahore were mentored by 20 women leaders belonging to diverse sectors such as legal, business, science, education, media, arts, literature, and others in WOW speed-mentoring sessions

To ensure inclusion and participation of the D/deaf and disabled community, access support in the form of sign language and captioning was provided. 

The talks covered how women are at the wrong end of policy, social and institution choices, while also looking at incidents of violence against women, their impact on women physically and psychologically. The programme also included ‘Girls not Brides,’ a short talk by a young activist Hadiqa Bashir exploring her journey of advocating against child marriage. 

The panel titled Myths, Histories and Other Narratives of the Khwaja Sira Community aimed to explore how language shapes identity and acceptance and how versatile activists are trying to reclaim both. 

At the same time, it also showcased incredible achievements of women in a lot of areas despite the huge challenges brought on by the pandemic. Celebrating and connecting women and girls by giving them space to share their stories and foster critical conversations about change, the festival ensured voice, access, and recognition at a time when it is most needed. It also brought a sense of urgency to work together to build a more inclusive, kinder and sustainable post pandemic world. 

Performances by Mai Dhai; Ranis of Saffron, a group of young women musicians mentored in partnership with Saffron Music; Rani ki Kahani, puppet storytelling, comedy by Shazia Mirza while Sania Saeed’s masterful moderation among others were a treat.  

Since March 2022, WOW Pakistan 2022 has garnered more than a million views and counting. 

If you missed the festival, rest assured you can still tune in and watch the inspirational talks by a diverse group of women, thought-provoking discussions, soulful performances, get tips on how to become a male ally, and learn about the amazing products and services offered by amazing women entrepreneurs of WOW marketplace:  

WOW - Women of the World is a global movement of festivals that celebrate the achievements of women and girls and look at some of the obstacles they face across the world.