Reporter: Chaney Burger
ON Wednesday March 8th, women from all around England gathered at Southbank Centre in London for the Women of the World festival to mark International Women’s Day. This global event shows how women and girls all around the world can influence one another and allow their voices to be heard.
The festival is for everyone, men and women, and its approach is very lively yet still has the sense of importance; it addresses what tools young women need in order to be successful in their later lives.
The issue of gender equality is a key part of this festival, as it champions the women who allow themselves to reach their full potential and give inspiration for the younger generations. On this particular day, many school children attended, ranging from 11-17 years of age. Students from the Hathaway Academy took part in the Southbank WOW celebrations as part of their school’s involvement in the Royal Opera House Thurrock Trailblazer programme.
There was a warm welcome for all of the schools attending by Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre, who began the WOW festival in 2011. She introduced a group of influential speakers. After hearing each of their incredible stories, Kelly asked one of the most significant questions, “How do you turn all of these emotions into practical actions?” This then led to the exploration of what women can achieve and what they are capable of, discussing how they can make a change in our society, no matter their background or level of education, as each individual has the same level of importance.
There were various workshops to attend and these allowed girls to harmonise with one another through playful activities that had a depth to them; such as playing Chinese Whispers. This is ultimately a children’s game, yet it required focus, and the sentences were all relevant as they were things such as “When I grow up I want to be successful.”
Maria Ferguson had a group discussion with girls who were ironically all from Thurrock, where she had grown up. This then allowed an instant connection between the group and her, as the situations that were discussed were very relatable and understandable. Ferguson performed part of her one woman show “Fat girls don’t dance” which was absolutely brilliant.
Musician Fran Lobo performed some of her own songs that related to women’s empowerment. Lobo said it was “…incredible to perform to such a young crowd of school girls…”
WOW taught young women that they do not need to be perfect in the eyes of the public in order to be happy with who they are. All they need is to believe in themselves and they will truly become strong, independent women who can make a change.
“Don’t put fear in the driver’s seat” – Jude Kelly.