Kholoud Waleed and Vian Dakhil on stage at WOW festival


“You promised you wouldn’t kill me” 

At this year's Women of the World Festival (aka Glastonbury for feminists) there was no shortage of great women. Here's just three who are trying to help the lives of vulnerable women

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By Marisa Bate on

KhoLoud Waleed, Syrian opposition journalist and co-founder of underground newspaper Enab Baladi

Kholoud Waleed and Vian Dakhil


At this year's festival, Kholoud Waleed won the prestigious Anna Politkovskaya Award, which recognises women who bring attention to human rights issues in war and conflicts zone, with particular focus to women and girls. Waleed edits an underground newspaper in Syria that reports on the atrocities committed by Bashar al-Assad’s regime – a job that could potentially see her killed. Three of her team have lost their lives, one is in detention and several have endured months of torture before being released. Her team of journalists report from places that western journalists have simply stopped going to because they are deemed too dangerous. 

On stage with Channel 4’s international editor Lindsey Hilsum and Vian Dakhil (2016 Nobel Prize nominee and the only Yazidi MP in Iraq’s parliament), Waleed admitted she’d originally wanted to be a traffic control police officer. “Funny how life works out”, joked Hilsum.


Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, co-founder of the African American Policy Forum 

Kimberlé Crenshaw (far right) on stage with WOW founder Jude Kelly (centre)

Standing to applaud the names of all the black women killed by police brutality in America in recent times is a harrowing experience. In the darkness of the Royal Festival Hall, the room rose to their feet as dozens of names rolled past, to remember people most of us had never heard of before. Together we clapped to remember someone we never knew, cried for someone who never knew us. 

Like 37-year-old Natasha McKenne who, after calling 911 during a mental health crisis in 2015, found herself being imprisoned for seven days, was then manhandled by officers, hooded and tasered four times. She later died in hospital. Her last words were, “You promised you wouldn’t kill me”.

It’s these stories that Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw is trying to tell. In recent times, the media has (rightly) put a spotlight on the young black men who have lost in their lives in police custody, young men like Freddie Gray who’s death sparked rioting in Baltimore. But what about black women?  In response  to this question, Clement founded #sayhername – a campaign to acknowledge these stories and allowing these women – and the persecution and violence they faced – be known. “The movement begins” Crenshaw told the room, “when we simply say her name”. 

Crenshaw is also the academic who coined the term “intersectionality” a phrase to denote how identities are multi-layered, as are prejudices. She said, “Intersectionality does what people choose to do with it. It’s something people use to advance how these structures come together to help your lives. How does it advance the political agenda? How does it close the gaps?”


Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party and WEP mayoral candidate

Sophie Walker celebrating the WEP's first birthday at WOW

Sophie Walker has something that a lot of politicians desperately lack: authenticity. The former journalist and autism campaigner speaks fluent human and speaks of frustrations that feel they’ve come from someone who has actually felt them. Sophie Walker was celebrating the first birthday of the WEP, launched this time last year at the WOW festival. “I was so tired”, she said, so tired of being turned off by a political system that wasn’t representing her or any of her concerns. And then she discovered the WEP. 

Walker’s pledge for mayor has kicked off with a campaign to highlight the scale of sexual assault across the city – and her pledges, like the party, focus on what is normally an afterthought for most politicians (“or only brought up when prodded by a policy advisor on International Women’s Day"). Walker didn’t speak of foreign investment, she spoke of ring fencing money for refuges. She spoke about housing, and part-time working and safety on the streets. And she spoke with the passion of your gutsiest mate – the one who does more than just rant at the pub. 


Kholoud Waleed and Vian Dakhil on stage at WOW festival
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women we love
women of colour
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World news
young women and girls

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