ISLAMABAD: The British Council, in partnership with the WOW Foundation, a UK-based independent organization working to build, convene and sustain a global movement to advance the empowerment of women and girls, and curating partners Entrepreneurship and Community Development Institute (ECDI) and Olomopolo Media will host the first-ever virtual Women of the World (WOW) festival in Pakistan, from March 5 to 8. Centered on the theme ‘Unmask’, the four-day virtual festival will explore a range of social, economic, and environmental issues particularly significant to women and girls that have been unmasked by the pandemic. While the past year has brought to light many areas where women are being left behind, it has also showcased the incredible things that they have achieved despite the challenging circumstances. The festival has moved online but its ambitions remain the same – WOW Virtual Pakistan 2021 will celebrate and connect women and girls, hold space for their stories and foster critical conversations about change at a time when it is most needed. This will be done through panel discussions, interactive workshops, talks, performances, children’s storytelling, and more. To navigate this online format we will have acclaimed actress Sania Saeed and renowned TV and Radio host Anoushey Ashraf hosting intermissions or ‘WOW Check-ins’ every 3-4 sessions. The launch of WOW Virtual Pakistan 2021 will be graced by the virtual presence of keynote speakers Senator Sherry Rehman; Jude Kelly CBE, Founder, and director, WOW Foundation; and Dana MacLeod, Director Arts, South Asia British Council. Laila Jamil, British Council Arts lead in Pakistan, said WOW gives us the chance to share our collective experience and wisdom, after a long and difficult year, navigating the complexities of being a woman in Pakistan under COVID-19. She said there was also much to be grateful for. “The festival will allow us to celebrate how much we have learned, our resilience, our creativity, and find reasons for optimism going forward in a post-pandemic world. We are pleased to present an exciting program and look forward to hosting our first ever digital event for WOW in Pakistan.” Founder of the Women of the World festival Jude Kelly CBE said the main thing that had come out during the COVID-19 times was that women are absolutely determined and resilient. That we are together – because this is the first global experience we’ve had, a global crisis together. “Together we are able to say we have to have changed, and we’ll make that change together, we’ll make intersection change. In Pakistan, with the theme of taking the mask of issues that have too long been in silence, WOW Virtual Pakistan is taking place at a pivotal moment in time for women financially, in terms of health, in terms of mental health resources, and in terms of demanding equity.” The British Council hosted the first full-scale WOW festival in South Asia in Karachi in 2016. It is now partnering with the WOW foundation in three other countries across South Asia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal, in addition to Pakistan. In 2019, the third WOW Karachi festival drew in a crowd of over 16,0000 people over two days.