Last Saturday, Notre Dame of Maryland University hosted the second iteration of the Women of the World (WOW) Festival, a one-day event that featured a full schedule of panels, performances, workshops, and activities addressing the challenges and accomplishments of women and girls today. As a panelist, I had the opportunity to attend the event, hear from incredible activists, and reflect on the conversations and sessions throughout the day.
Since its launch in 2010 by Southbank Centre artist director Jude Kelly, the WOW Festival has become a visionary movement fighting for gender equality across the globe. It has reached nearly two million people in countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, India, and Pakistan, to name a few. And while it’s only been two years since the festival was first held in Baltimore, it’s been a huge success, bringing in famed speakers and attracting large crowds.
Maricka Oglesby, WOW Baltimore curator and producer, explains that Kelly thought the university was the perfect place to host the event, especially as the last standing all-women’s college in Maryland. “We have similar missions of transforming the world, and this is how it comes about—through sharing ideas, concepts, and experiences,” Oglesby says.
The festival kicked things off on Saturday morning with just that. In the opening keynote speech, Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement, touched on topics like the misconceptions surrounding the campaign and the importance of listening to sexual assault survivors’ stories. But what was most inspiring—and necessary—is how the movement has created a space for women of color to come forward and share their own stories of abuse. “People from different identities have to take ownership of this movement and stand up,” Burke explains. “That’s how we grow.”
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