The WOW Foundation was created by Jude Kelly CBE in 2018 to run the global movement that is WOW - Women of the World Festivals. The Festivals began in the UK in 2010, launched by Kelly at Southbank Centre London, where she was Artistic Director, to celebrate women and girls, taking a frank look at what prevents them from achieving their potential, raising awareness globally of the issues they face, and discussing solutions together.
To date, WOW has reached over 2 million people in 17 countries on six continents, in locations including Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, Finland, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Somaliland, the UK and the USA. In 2018/19 WOW was in Rio de Janeiro, Cardiff, Bradford, Bangladesh, Brisbane, Janakpur (Nepal), Baltimore, London, Exeter, Norwich, Perth, Beijing, Ghana and Nigeria. In June 2020, WOW held its first ever worldwide online festival focused on women and girls — WOW Global 24. The festival travelled around the world everywhere from the UK to Nigeria, and Pakistan to Australia exploring the intersectional impact of COVID-19 on gender inequality, and responding to Black Lives Matter.
Over the last 10 years the Festivals have developed a reputation as a space for world renowned artists, activists, thinkers and performers including Angela Davis, Malala Yousafzai, Annie Lennox, Patrick Stewart, Baroness Doreen Lawrence and Salma Hayek, to come and participate, alongside thousands of women and girls who don’t have public profiles but are doing amazing things. WOW provides platforms for people of all kinds, changes attitudes, brings communities together and provides a unique space for people to work together towards gender equality in their own communities. One example of the impact of the festival came in 2015, with the founding of the Women’s Equality Party by Sandi Toksvig and Catherine Mayer.
In 2018 Kelly left the Southbank Centre to run The WOW Foundation full time as a charity working to build, convene and sustain a global movement that believes a gender equal world is possible and desirable through festivals and empowering women and girls. The unique festival model creates numerous pathways for participants to take part in WOW projects, amplify their own causes, or start new initiatives which have a wide impact on communities. It is the biggest, most comprehensive and most significant festival dedicated to presenting work by women and promoting equality for women and girls.
WOW festivals and events are presented by arrangement with Southbank Centre. The President of WOW - Women of the World is HRH The Duchess of Cornwall.