A woman is murdered every 2 hours in Brazil. This was just one of the many shocking facts I learned at this year’s WOW (Women of the World) Festival In Brazil. The 3 day event took place between 16 – 18 November and was WOW’s first festival in Latin America.

First launched in 2010, WOW is an established global platform that brings together people from all over the world to celebrate the historical achievements of women and to further the fight for gender equity. In its 8 years it has had success across Europe, Asia and Africa, so there was a great sense of excitement and anticipation for the latest addition in Brazil.

The timing of this year’s festival comes at an interesting point in Brazil’s history. The recent election of Jair Bolsonaro and consequential unrest has left many in the social community concerned for the future and scared for their safety. Despite this unease, WOW provided a much-needed space for optimism, re-energising the community here in Brazil and providing a sense of hope that many craved.

The opening session, with WOW Founder Jude Kelly and Eliana Sousa Silva – who took the festival to Brazil, set the positive tone for the three days ahead. “It’s down to you to meet people you don’t know, and ask questions on which you are ignorant” said Jude. “This is how we change the world, by reorganizing it.”

Womanity presence

But this was more than just a learning and networking conference for Womanity. With so many of our operating partners based in Brazil, we took the opportunity to bring together Womanity Award recipients and Fellows from our WomenChangeMakers programme. In total 12 representatives from 10 organisations joined, providing a unique moment to learn about each other, build relationships and seek out opportunity for collaboration.

Indeed many from the Womanity delegation spoke on, or facilitated panels at the Festival, in doing so sharing their expertise with the WOW community. These included:

  • Kalpana Viswanath from Womanity Award winner Safetipin spoke on a number of panels relating to safe cities for women. “Cities were built by men, for men” she pointed out whilst discussing the inherent challenges in creating safe cities. Kalpana also ran a workshop showcasing the Safetipin App and looked at how safe a city Rio was for its women citizens.

  • Aparna Hedge (India WCM), Juliana de Faria (Brazil WCM) , Lulu Barrera (Womanity Award Winner) and Erika Smith (Womanity Award Winner) led a session on Women Online and Feminist Technology. “Knowing our technology is like knowing our body” said Lulu.

  • Womanity Programme Manager Tiana Vilar Lins spoke on a panel facilitated by Jude Kelly exploring women organisations that support other women-led organisations.  Lebo Ramafoko from Soul City Institute – a recent Womanity Award recipient – also spoke on the panel exploring the challenges and impact of supporting such work.

  • Juliana de Faria from Think Olga (WCM Fellow) held a workshop on utilising storytelling as a tool for change, focussing on ending violence against women.

  • Renata Jardim from Themis (WCM Fellow) spoke on a panel with Kalpana Viswanath on how to make cities more women friendly .

Festival Vibes

As well as the many panels and workshops taking place there was also an array of creative activities throughout the three days. These included a show called Slap and Tickle exploring the many roles involved in being a woman, stand up comedians, graffiti artists, and performances from bands and singers including the renowned Elza Soares. These fun and vibrant activities helped to keep the festival vibe alive throughout the three days, despite the unusual rainy weather. Outside the festival was a village dedicated to crafts, with dozens of social enterprises selling goods and trinkets.

As we approach the end of the year, and with the 16 Days of Activism upon us, I return to London with an overwhelming feeling of togetherness. There may be many challenges ahead, but with so many brilliant people working in solidarity, it’s hard not to feel optimistic for the future.

This was my first taste of a WOW Festival, and it certainly lived up to the hype. So much so that I’m already counting down the days to the next one – March 2019 in London. This time a little closer to home, but probably still with the rain.

Angie Windle, Head of Communications