WOW: From Bradford to Brazil

Organisers from two WOW festivals reflect on what the movement means to their city

By WOW - Women of the World Foundation

Saliha Rubani & Eliana Sousa Silva

WOW - Women of the World Festival in Rio (2018)WOW - Women of the World Foundation

Author, activist and Founder of Redes da Maré, Eliana Sousa Sliver, is a curator for WOW Rio - one WOW's biggest festivals around the globe. Here she talks about working on the very first WOW in Latin America...

“When the first conversations about creating a WOW Festival in Rio de Janeiro started, we already expected it would be an extremely special moment: a unique opportunity and platform for Brazilian women’s voice to be heard in a much needed and difficult moment in the country’s political history.  

The task of making it happen was handed to my organisation: Redes da Maré, known for over 20 years of solid work on human and social rights at Favela da Maré; a complex of 16 favelas in Rio de Janeiro and home to more than 140,000 people.

WOW - Women of the World Festival in Rio (2018)WOW - Women of the World Foundation

Nothing could have prepared our hearts as we watched the Mauá Square being taken over by 95,000 people from all ages and backgrounds over three days - with more than 200 talks, debates, concerts, workshops and performances.

WOW - Women of the World Festival in Rio (2018)WOW - Women of the World Foundation

It exceeded all our expectations, but more than that, it was a historical moment. For the very first time, a Favela-based organisation was able to curate, produce and deliver a large-scale international festival at one of the most privileged and iconic areas in Rio de Janeiro.

You could feel it in the air that something was shifting during those days, and the plan is to keep that feeling going for as long as we can!"

A girl at WOW Bradford (2017) by Karol WyszynskiWOW - Women of the World Foundation

Producer Saliha Rubani was a curator for WOW Bradford, the first ever WOW Festival in the city in 2012. Here she reflects on the experience...

Sparkly WOW Capes in Bradford (2017) by Karol WyszynskiWOW - Women of the World Foundation

“We Bradfordians are fiercely resilient, rebellious and open to change, and I’ve seen this throughout the two years I’ve worked on WOW Bradford. We’re all so determined to counteract the negativity by creating a city for our young people that is worth having pride in and showcases how fun, mad and creative we are.

Gemma Cairney at WOW Bradford (2017) by Karol WyszynskiWOW - Women of the World Foundation

WOW Bradford is hugely dependent on the support of a committed team that work to make a festival that is owned by the people of this city. 

A woman dressed as a suffragette (2017) by Karol WyszynskiWOW - Women of the World Foundation

Planning last year’s festival seemed like a celebration in itself with the support and kindness of local organisations, communities and individuals during the Thinkins.

Yoga at WOW Bradford (2017) by Karol WyszynskiWOW - Women of the World Foundation

The programme was very much shaped by all those men and women who took the time to have a chat, share ideas and get involved and this is the beauty of WOW Bradford…it belongs to us all!"

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