WOW (Women of the World) Festival 2023: How Can We Encourage Communities of Care? By Talking about Them!
Over the past year, Pakistan has experienced a multitude of challenges, including the devastating effects of climate change and political instability. The country faced economic hardships, such as rising costs of living, inflation, and fuel prices. Despite these struggles, women were at the forefront, taking on leadership roles and aiding in recovery efforts. Unfortunately, gender-based violence remains a prevalent issue, overshadowing the progress made by women and transgender individuals. However, these obstacles did not deter their determination. Keeping these subject matters in mind, the WOW (Women of the World) Festival returned to its in-person format for its Pakistan edition additionally highlighting the importance of conversations around change and communities of care.
The 6th Annual WOW Festival took place at Beach Luxury Hotel in Karachi on the 4th and 5th of March, and this year's performances, panelists, and discussions raised the bar when it came to conversations around change. This year’s theme was titled ‘Ral Mil’ the Seraiki phrase which means coming together as a community and that’s precisely what the festival was all about. The WOW Festival ultimately put the spotlight on celebrating women, men, and all genders amid our current political, socioeconomic, and overarching climate. In times of adversity, our sole reliance was on each other, and that’s why organizers of the WOW Festival in 2023 wanted to honor the enchantment of the power of community.
This year there were immersive panel discussions such asBuilding Community Resilience to Climate Change, an important discussion especially in light of the devastating floods which left 33 million Pakistanis without food and shelter. The panelists discussed the effects of the floods, particularly in Sindh and Balochistan. Further, there were talks on matters such as Protecting Yourself Online, whereby topics such as catfishing, financial scams, and how to avoid getting trapped in them were discussed. In this panel, digital rights experts spoke on the psychology of scams and how to protect oneself. Another insightful panel was Trans in Pakistan: Vendetta, Visual, and Village. This panel questioned the misconceptions continuously being tied to the hate campaigns against transgendered people and khwajasiras as well as the forced erasure and bullying of the community. Next up was Education, Community & Continuity which was based on the idea that teachers especially those belonging to the white part of our flag, make leaders, community, and careers. The last generation of educationists emphasized community and collective achievements and lamented that we are slowly losing this
In Beauty: Web or Hammock salon owners and makeup pioneers discussed how the salon operates as a safe therapeutic space because it is run by and operated by women but at the same timew patriarchal standards of beauty also imprison women within strict confines. The moderator was Noor Mandviwalla alongside panelists, Arooj Ismail, Angie Marshall, Natasha Lakhani, and Tanzeela Hashwani.
Ultimately the festival aimed to build an understanding of the lack of access to community infrastructure, remembrance of age-old cultural norms, as well as an endorsement of traditions that once united humans and nature. The values of the festival were shaped by the need to cultivate deep relationships with people across traditionally gated and guarded spaces and with acknowledgment of the role of all living things: plants, animals, and other parts of the local heritage and ecosystems. Within these parameters, important questions were also posed and pondered upon.
The WOW Festival acknowledges that women need a moment to reflect on the challenging year that has passed, support one another, grieve losses, and gather the strength to confront the future. In times of adversity, our sole reliance is on each other, and that’s why organizers of the WOW Festival in 2023 wanted to honor the solidaritythat the power of community brings. What better way to come together and create the lasting change that we’ve always wanted to see?
To learn more about WOW Festival 2023 happening in Karachi click the link below: