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WOW Festival celebrates women in Bradford

By Rebecca Marano

THE WOMEN of the World Festival was in Bradford for the second year running.

The festival was one of 20 held around the world including London, Ethiopia and Hong Kong and celebrates women and explores the obstacles they face.

Last year’s Women of the World event was a huge success and paved the way for Bradford-based initiatives such as the Speakers Corner and the #IAmPerfectAsMe campaign.

This year’s programme included talks from YouTube vloggers Hannah Whitton and Nabiilabee on trolling, a talk on honour abuse and a male-led panel on men and gender identity.

It also included workshops on areas such as life after abuse, self-care and the ‘under-10s feminist corner.’ Many of these were run by local women and local teenagers known as the ‘WOWsers.’

Staying Put UK survivors were also there performing their ‘Queen for a Day’ flash-mob.

The event celebrated working-class feminists and highlighted Bradford-born Andrea Dunbar, writer of Rita, Sue and Bob Too for her honest depiction of Bradford.

Ruth Ibegbuna, founder of RECLAIM, a youth intervention charity, said: “I think there’s sometimes a rush to sanitise our city, but really Buttershaw Estate is just as part of Bradford as the Brontes.”

WOW founder Jude Kelly said: “WOW festivals are important because we need a way of celebrating what girls and women have done in history and what they are doing now.

“That kind of celebration makes people have a lot more optimism about what could be changed.

“We chose Bradford because Bradford has a very, very strong history of tackling difficult issues.

“It’s a community that has often been very outspoken about things that are wrong and needed to change. It’s also a community of many different kinds of voices.

“People in Bradford are doing amazing work trying to find spaces where the sharing of voices can happen.”

One of the people making changes is WOWser Mehmoona Parvez, a 16-year-old Bradford school student, and campaigner.

She said: “You don’t have to be 20 or 30 or 40 to represent a minority.

“My friends and my colleagues had to open a safe space just to represent teenage voices because the Youth Parliament in Bradford has closed down.

“Nobody was giving us a voice. We have to go out there and we have to fight to get our voice heard.”

What do you think?