The Festival draws its inspiration from the Women of the World Festival (WOW), which was idealized by Jude Kelly, at the time an art director at a cultural center called Southbank Centre, located in London. WOW has taken place in 23 countries between Europe, Asia and Africa. Its edition in Rio de Janeiro will be the first one to occur in Latin America and it will assemble women from all over the city besides national and international guests in dozens of activities regarding the diversity of the feminine experience in the world today.
In 2016, Jude Kelly visited Redes da Maré to get to know the House of Maré`s Women, a space dedicated to stimulate women's political empowerment promoting activities related to the professional qualification, free social-legal and psychological service, activism encouragement and engagement in feminist concerns. In result of this meeting, Jude Kelly proposed to Redes da Maré the challenge of fostering a festival that would unite voices, experiences and ideas stemming from women living in Rio de Janeiro and embracing their diversity.
The WOW Foundation promotes festivals based upon this layout all over the world with the goal of encouraging a dialogue regarding women issues and exploring possible causes and solutions. It is the biggest, most extensive and most important festival dedicated to the exposure of women’s works and debates besides urging the fight for gender equity. The WOW Foundation is on the way to become an NGO, located in the United Kingdom.
1.Celebrate women's achievements in a welcoming and open space where different branches of the contemporary feminism can be freely voiced and recognized.
2. Promote an intense exchange of knowledge, artistic experiences, cultural and professional projects, stories and reflections, forming a panel filled with ambitions, challenges, fears, dreams and battles concerning women's lives, especially in Rio de Janeiro.
3. Encourage, document and promote reflections upon the impact of brazilian structural inequalities over women's lives, especially in Rio de Janeiro.
The Women of the World festival is a space where women can speak freely about all issues—including those that have historically been silenced. In addition, the festival has a clear commitment to open up space for the experiences of women and girls in the cities where they take place. In planning the event, the organisers have emphasized topics that are important to different generations of women in Rio de Janeiro. In order to identify those themes, they invited women from different regions, backgrounds, ages and activity areas to provide their perspectives on which topics should be tackled.
From November 2017 to May 2018, 200 women met in five discussion groups, which took place in the neighborhoods of Centro (the downtown area), Flamengo, Santa Cruz and Maré. One of the meetings included Judy Kelly, the founder of WOW (Women of the World Festival), which will have its first Brazilian edition. See videos and photos from the meeting.
In a city marked by high homicide rates, one of the proposed topics for debate is how to overcome losses caused by violence. Another is the need for a realistic, rather than idealistic, perspective on maternity. Some participants proposed workshops on healthy nutrition, yoga and meditation. Other topics mentioned included the oppression represented by the obsession for a perfect body; the challenges created by the aging of the Brazilian population; the objectification of women’s bodies; the aspirations of mature women; emerging family arrangements; spirituality; and early pregnancy, sexuality and consumerism.
These points helped the curators—under the leadership of the Southbank Centre, in London, and the Redes da Maré—to develop an initial programme proposal. During the discussions, sentences from the participants set the expectations for the event. See some of them below:
In order to better understand the context and the relevance of women’s political roles in Rio de Janeiro, the Women of the World festival carried out a survey of the institutions and organizations dedicated to the city’s female public. This mapping—the first of its kind in Rio—is a legacy that the festival makes accessible to all of those interested in women’s political participation. Click here to see the complete document.
The survey identified 204 local leaders and 235 governmental, non-governmental and private sector organizations. The areas with the highest number of active institutions are: justice (36); health (28); art and culture (29); academe, science and research (20); and media and communications (10). Most of these organisations focus on the city of Rio de Janeiro as a whole (73); 61 are virtual platforms.
These institutions’ objectives are related to issues that are relevant to contemporary women: prevention of domestic and family violence; mobilization around feminist or LGBTQ+ issues; ethic and racial themes; health; capacity-building among transformatory actors; prevention of prejudice and discrimination; promotion and strengthening of women’s rights’; reception spaces; urban interventions; event organisation; knowledge production and dissemination; courses; female collectives; support networks; arts and culture; and education.