Women of the World 2018

As part of the arts and cultural program for the Commonwealth Games, the Brisbane Powerhouse hosted the 2018 Women of the World (WOW) Festival: Celebrating the Women of the Commonwealth.

Jude Kelly CBE, Artistic Director of Southbank Centre London, launched WOW London in 2010 to mark the centenary of International Women’s Day, as a major global festival that celebrates women and girls and looks at the obstacles they face, where hundreds of women’s stories could be shared, feelings vented, fun had, minds influenced and hearts expanded. In response to an overwhelming demand, it has become an annual flagship event at Southbank Centre, and has grown to become a global movement.

The British Council is proud to have supported the participation of two speakers at WOW 2018, Margaret Busby OBE and Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala.

Margaret Busby OBE, Hon. FRSL (Nana Akua Ackon) is a writer, editor and broadcaster who was born in Ghana and educated in Britain. After graduating from London University, she co-founded the publishing company Allison & Busby, of which she was Editorial Director for 20 years, and she was subsequently Editorial Director of Earthscan Publications. She has served as a judge for many literary awards, including Africa39, the Caine Prize, Orange Prize, Commonwealth Book Prize, Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, SI Leeds Prize and the Bocas Prize, and serves on the board of Wasafiri magazine, among other organisations. For more than three decades she has worked for diversity within the publishing industry and in the 1980s was a founding member of the organization Greater Access to Publishing (GAP).  

Publications she has written for include The Guardian, Observer, Independent, Sunday Times and New Statesman, and she edited the pioneering anthology Daughters of Africa (1992). Her radio abridgements and dramatisations encompass work by C. L. R. James, Jean Rhys, Wole Soyinka, Timothy Mo, Sam Selvon, Walter Mosley, Henry Louis Gates, Lawrence Scott and Simi Bedford. Her BBC Radio 4 play Minty Alley won a 1999 Race In the Media Award (RIMA). Her writing for the stage includes Sankofa (1999), Yaa Asantewaa – Warrior Queen (UK/Ghana, 2001-2002), and An African Cargo (2007). She has received an honorary doctorate from the Open University (2004), an honorary fellowship from Queen Mary, University of London (2011), the Henry Swanzy Award (2015) and the Benson Medal (2017).

Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala became the first Sri Lankan (male or female), to reach the summit of Mount Everest on 21 May 2016. 

In recognition of this accomplishment, and her professional career as a feminist, women’s rights activist over the past 14 years, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs appointed her the first-ever Goodwill Ambassador for Women’s Rights. She is also Goodwill Ambassador for ‘Think Equal’ – a global campaign which seeks to teach three to five year olds emotional intelligence, including values of equality, empathy and respect for diversity.  

Jayanthi holds a master’s degree in Gender Studies from the University of Sussex. As her journey to Everest has combined two of the things she’s most passionate about - gender equality and mountaineering – she continues to use the public platform that she has now received to challenge gender stereotypes and promote the rights of women and girls at every opportunity.

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