Introducing the WOW Girls Festival

28 Sept 2023

Blog Post

Today we've announced a brand new festival for girls. Starting on 11 October, International Day of the Girl, and running through to International Women’s Day on 8 March next year, the WOW Girls Festival will be a force for change across society in how it sees girls, their potential and the opportunities it offers for their future, both in the UK and overseas, working with our global partners.

The Girls’ Futures Report 2022 found that girls’ confidence dips between the ages of 14 and 18 and does not recover significantly. The 2022 Steer Education report also revealed that girls as young as 11 are hiding signs of “deep distress” from their parents and teachers, with doubts about their futures and limiting self beliefs cementing themselves in teenage years. That's why we're joining forces once again with BBC Children in Need to launch the WOW Girls Festival tackling some of these issues.

Our 2020 collaboration, as part of the groundbreaking A Million & Me research project, found that fun, happiness and creative self-expression were particularly important approaches to addressing the identified gaps in the provision of activity to tackle gender difference. We've created the WOW Girls Festival from these findings and focusing on better outcomes for girls and all young people. The Festival will tour the UK from October in our brand new WOW Girls Festival Bus.

The WOW Girls Festival Bus is an interactive space created with and for young people, working with Getaway Girls in Leeds and artist/designer Emma Hardaker. Throughout the Bus, visitors can take part in a creative exploration of gender equity, through play, reading, digital experiences and a recording studio. The WOW Bus will host Speed Mentoring, panel talks and discussions, taking workshops and activities to all corners of the UK, reaching young people from all backgrounds in the heart of their own communities. With a focus on girls, but including all young people, activities from the Bus are designed to build resilience, wellbeing and good mental health. Tour stops include Kent, Glasgow, North Wales, Liverpool, Norfolk, Belfast, Bradford and Manchester.

The Festival begins on International Day of the Girl (Wed 11 Oct 2023) with a morning of live events on the Bus situated on London’s South Bank as well as WOW Speed Mentoring on the London Eye and live talks for guests hosted at the National Theatre.

We'll also be releasing our 2023 WOW Young Leaders Directory. Launched in 2020, the Directory profiles girls and non-binary young people from across the globe, who are demonstrating extraordinary leadership in activism and leading campaigns for change. Leaders in the 2023 Directory range from Pakistani women’s rights and education activist Amna Quddus, and Malaysian student activist Ain Husniza, who has gained recognition for her efforts in promoting gender equality in schools and speaking out against rape culture, to 13-year-old Yeva Skalietska from Ukraine, whose diary You don't know what war is: the diary of a young girl from Ukraine was published last year and all girls robotics team the Afghan Dreamers.

Jude Kelly said, “Young people have been at the heart of our work since I founded WOW in 2010 and I am so excited that for the first time ever we are offering them their very own WOW Festival. We know that girls are facing more pressures than ever before and we are so looking forward to meeting young people across the UK and finding out what matters to them, as we work together to make a gender equal world a reality for future generations.”

If that wasn't enough, we've also created four inspiring Activity Packs that will be available from October for education providers and community leaders to use. They have been co-designed with and for young people to link to the national curriculum and offer creative activities and thought provoking stimuli to bring the topics of mental health, personal safety, relationships, community and finance to life.

The WOW Girls Festival is supported by BBC Children In Need and in partnership with WOW UK Girls Champion Barbie who are extending the tour to reach primary aged children, and WOW Global Girls Champion Standard Chartered Bank who are supporting the Girls Festival’s international reach.

Kelly Philp, Senior Director Marketing Mattel UK says: “Barbie was created in 1959 to show girls more choices, and we are thrilled to deepen this purposeful mission and positively impact girls through our long-term partnership with the WOW Foundation, reaching thousands of girls across the UK with Barbie Role Models, inclusive dolls and empathy workshops.”

Claire Dixon, Standard Chartered’s Group Head, Corporate Affairs, Brand and Marketing said, “Standard Chartered is delighted to be supporting this year’s WOW festival as the WOW Global Girls Champion. Through our global Futuremakers initiative, we focus on tackling economic inequality and promoting inclusion for the next generation, particularly girls and young women. As WOW Global Girls Champion, we are excited for the opportunity to leverage our global network and expertise in this area to celebrate young girls and their potential futures while supporting more girls to access the knowledge and networks to achieve better economic outcomes for themselves and their communities.”

The WOW Girls Festival Bus is funded through a partnership between The WOW Foundation and BBC Children in Need and the tour is supported by Arts Council England.