The Triple Cripples were honoured to be a part of WOW Festival (Women of the World) at the WOW Foundation’s 10th anniversary of the event. Even though it was just over 2 months ago, the impact of the Coronavirus means that it feels even longer than that. But the enormous and important work done by the foundation reaches many corners of the globe. And positively impacts many lives, the baby girls included.
The WOW Dream & Team
Started by founder Jude Kelly, the WOW festival was a way to not only celebrate the achievement of women and girls. But also honestly share the difficulties that we face. Before the 10th anniversary, The Triple Cripples have worked with, and participated in events held by WOW. Being disabled means that sometimes when you are called upon to speak about your lived experience, you can feel it is an afterthought. Someone, somewhere in the organisational team has the light bulb idea to ‘tack on’ disability via you.
The dealings we have had with the WOW team shows that they incorporate womanhood at every stage. We’re all included in our wonderful and varying iterations, before, during and after. We believe that it is because of this that it has worked so well. For a while now, ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ have been used as buzzwords to gain in some way. But at the core of the work that WOW does, women are at the centre. And at all levels, informing the work that is still to be done. Appreciating that the opinions and experiences of disabled Black women are important and necessary is one thing. However, using your platform to highlight these narratives is a way to show that you’re about what you say you are.
Over the course of the festival, Jumoke and Kym spoke on separate panels individually, and put forth their Big Idea. Jumoke was part of the ‘F*ck Forgiveness’ panel that sought to have a discussion about the true beneficiaries of the forgiveness. The presumed forgiveness that is expected from Black people, especially Black women, and the effects this has on interpersonal relations. Chaired by Hannah Azieb Pool, the panel was held in the filled Purcell Room. While having done a number of speaking engagements before, it was beneficial to have students in the audience. These conversations around forgiveness and the expectations around it need to be had as early as possible.
Later on in the day, Kym and Jumoke were a part of WOW’s Big Idea. An opportunity for the speakers to share their ‘major ideas to create radical change’. The speech shared by human rights activist Nada al-Ahdal was especially moving. Sharing a stage with someone that has been fighting for the rights of young girls to not be forced into “marriages” is truly humbling. The individual work and focuses of everyone present was for the same end goal. A better and more equitable world for all.
On the following day, Kym was on the ‘How to Have Feminist Sex’ panel, discussing the book of the same name written by Flo Perry. An event that was so popular and in demand that it had to be moved from it’s original room and into the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Now, we’re not saying that it was because of the baby girl that it was moved to a bigger venue. But we’re not not saying that…
Flo opened the panel discussion by sharing slides of her book and introducing the audience to its content and why she felt the book was needed. The panel discussed their views on what feminist sex actually means to them, how to incorporate it in your life, as well as sharing funny anecdotes. After the session, the baby girls happened upon a Vogue ‘Forces for Change’ backdrop and decided to do a little manifesting through photography, cuz you never know!
During the WOW festival weekend, Jumoke and Kym listened, learned and enjoyed hearing from the other brilliant panellists. One such panel was chaired by the lovely Gabby Edlin of Bloody Good Period, speaking on accidental activism. The panel members shared their experiences of stumbling into activism through the connections of a loved one, or the impact that a journey had on them.
The baby girls spent an evening being captivated by Emma Dabiri talking about her book Don’t Touch My Hair. Ms Dabiri shared with the audience that not only was hair care a large and important part of African heritage. As much time as was needed was dedicated to it. Our hair is much too precious to rush with discussions of not having time to maintain it. Immediately after the talk, the baby girls rushed out to buy their own copies and have them signed!
Due to the annoying inability to be in different places at once, a few interesting panel discussions were missed. One being ‘Bringing Up Boys’ that spoke about raising boys and providing them with ‘the tools they need to contribute to a gender-equal world’. A member of the panel was the baby girl Jendella, who some of you may know as the editor of Black Ballad. An online publication that is near and dear to the Triple Cripples, not least because Jumoke is one of their writers. Unfortunately, there was no possible way to make this panel because one half of Triple Cripples had to be on a panel of their own at the exact same time.
The WOW Factor
The location of the WOW Festival was perfect for the baby girls. On occasion during public speaking events, we’ve had to navigate around certain accessibility issues. Figuring it out as we went along and having to think outside of the box. Southbank’s accessibility is only made possible due to financial investments in this cultural hub.
We certainly need more places like this, not fewer. With everything that is happening, we need priority given to arts, culture and the like. Being under lockdown is made slightly more bearable by creatives. The magic that they bring forth in a number of fields. In a post pandemic world, we need more WOW, not less.