We Ask Women From The WOW Festival About The Work They Do That Often Goes Unnoticed

To mark International Women's Day and WOW - Women of the World festival's tenth anniversary, we hear why the movement founded by Jude Kelly is so vital, how far feminism has come and how far there is to go, particularly when it comes to invisible labour.


by Grazia Contributor |
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Jude Kelly, Founder of WOW

Ten years agoMalala was an unknown schoolgirl, rapes in Delhi were untold, Harvey Weinstein and his like were operating with complete impunity, terms like body shaming hadn’t been invented and FGM, menstruation and menopause were taboo conversations in public spaces. Women in many countries had been persuaded that gender battles were largely won and they could sit back and enjoy equality. It was a sham.

WOW - Women of the World festival - came onto the scene to challenge that status quo, awaken the desire for further change and, importantly, to celebrate the amazing things that girls and women were doing across the globe. We were convinced that celebration creates optimism and energy, and that’s what’s needed to tackle all the small and large issues gender inequality creates.

The WOW Foundation now works with 18 countries, on six continents and right across the UK in mini pop-ups and fully fledged festivals. It’s amazing how much has been challenged in the last ten years, how much has changed....and also how deeply entrenched the attitudes are that hold women back. One day there may not be a need...wouldn’t that be amazing? But in the meantime, if you identify as a woman or you know a woman, WOW is for you. See you for our tenth birthday celebrations.

Jude Kelly leads a panel discussion at WOW ©Alice Boagey

Scarlett Curtis, Feminist Don’t Wear Pink Live at WOW

To step into the Women of the World festival at the Southbank Centre is to enter a feminist utopia. Equality bounces off the walls. Intersectionality fizzes from every corner. Women and men gather and talk and imagine a world where female oppression is simply a chapter in a history book. The annual WOW festival has tracked feminism over the past decade. It’s been witness to theEquality Act of 2010, the legalisation of abortion in Ireland and a new wave of the feminist movement that has sparked a fire in thousands of young women. WOW is a space where feminists come to laugh and plan and create ideas. It is a space needed now more than ever and as a feminist who was only 14 years old when this festival launched, it is a true honour to be a part of their 10th anniversary festival.

In 2030 I hope to sit on the stage at WOW once again, on a comfy armchair, celebrating all that we’ve achieved in the last 10 years. I hope we’ve made Equal Pay a reality, achieved 50/50 representation in government, ended FGM and implemented proper legislation to protect women from sexual harassment and protect trans women from abuse. I hope that’s where we will be in ten years and I suspect it might not be. Which is why I’m so happy that WOW exists to propel global feminists on their journeys and lift up voices that need to be heard.

Elif Shafak, author of The Forty Rules of Love, is on the WOW Big Ideas panel

I was talking with a woman the other day who had taken her son to the dentist and found out he had several cavities. "It's all my fault," she said. "I should have never kept chocolates in the drawers in the first place." That made me think: It was she who was making sure there was homemade food in the kitchen every day, she who was doing the shopping and cleaning and tidying up, she who was taking her son to the dentist and making all the appointments, and yet, it was she who was questioning whether she was doing enough. What is it about patriarchy that constantly makes us women feel inadequate and inferior, and somehow always guilty, even though we work so hard? If we want our labour - both in the public space and the private space - to be recognised and respected by a male-dominated system, we must start recognising and respecting it ourselves. Praise yourself for your hard and honest work, embrace your scars and successes, and praise your sisters for their hard work too and together we can make the invisible visible, and this world, hopefully, a fairer place.

Shazia Mirza, comedian, is performing at WOW

I was talking to a 70 year old man the other day. He said, “How old are your parents?”

“My mum is 74 and my dad is 81”

“Do you go home and look after them?”

“Yes, but I have brothers and a sister as well so we all take turns”

“But will you be looking after them? As the daughter I really do think you should,” he said.


“I’m old fashioned, I think that’s what you should do. Make sure they’ve got food and someone to talk to”

He then said, “My daughter doesn’t have children, she comes from a generation of women who feel they don’t need to have kids."

All of a sudden I felt a pressure to be everything. A carer, a breeder, a feeder, a success and if I didn’t do all those things I have failed as a woman.

I am always helping my elderly parents, I just don’t make a noise about it and if women don’t shout about the things they’re doing, like men so often do, it somehow means we are not doing them at all, which as we know is not true.

Our labour, no matter how big or small, should be recognised. So we should shout louder and louder like men do. When they fix the toilet, the whole street hears about it for weeks. We should do the same.

Sudha Bhuchar, actor and playwright, is performing at WOW

Working ‘Asian woman of a certain age’ don’t ‘have it all’, we ‘do it all’! My millennial sons dispute this, evidencing the 3-course meal they cooked on Mother’s Day (in 2015!) & eggs they occasionally buy on the way back from the gym (which they scoff themselves as they are ‘bulking’!)

My sister and I helped parent two younger brothers as my widowed mother was a single parent so ‘invisible labour’ is our DNA, and I have seamlessly replicated a ‘benign’ patriarchy in my own home, with me wearing the Marigolds!

‘You’re not going to meet someone like your mother!’ is my refrain to my sons, urging them to ‘man up’ and be woke to 21st century division of labour.

Top tip: Use the family Whatsapp group to state your stance. It’s a safe space.

Older Son- ‘What are we getting dad for Father’s Day?’ (#Mum’s got it sorted)

My succinct reply: ‘Not My Father’ (#no longer my problem!) (BTW I am out tonight. Nothing in fridge. Sort out dinner. No Deliveroo on my credit card!)

WOW - Women of the World Festival runs from 6 to 8 March across the International Women’s Day weekend at Southbank Centre, London. The line-up includes a range of Day Pass and ticketed events featuring some of the world’s most exciting performers, activists and voices. Full details can be found here: www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/festivals-series/women-of-the-world

READ MORE: Grazia Invisible Labour Survey: Women Bear The Brunt Of Organising And Caring

The Problem Of Invisible Labour - And Why YOU Should Down Tools This International Women's Day

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