top of page
  • Writer's pictureLeah Jewett

WOW: The lowdown on sex ed

Updated: Oct 15, 2019

The full-on three-day WOW (Women of the World) festival, now in its eighth great year at London’s Southbank Centre, is galvanising and uplifting – a rush of input, ideas and exchange. This year I’m on a mission to navigate the seemingly hundreds of workshops, theatre, comedy and music events by targeting discussions around sex-ed topics.

My daughter, age 12, is amenable to coming along on Saturday on condition that she’s accompanied by a friend. They arrive in time to hear a female bagpipe player electrify the air before trans activist and model Munroe Bergdorf commands the stage.

We’ve got to make tracks to allow enough time to queue for the first session. The girls wander off towards the MUSLIM GIRLS FENCE display and the video game HAIR NAH that involves combatting people trying to touch a black woman’s hair.

I go to watch YVETTE, a true story performed with physical and emotional honesty by young writer Urielle Klein-Mekongo about 13-year-old Evie and her “stolen childhood… her crush, trying to be a woman, friends, virginity, garage remixes, Hello Kitty underwear, an ‘uncle’ lurking in the corner of her story”.

The atmosphere in the riverside building – with its brass detail, burnished wood and 1950s-patterned carpet – is calm, bright, animated, vibrant with conversation. Scanning the marketplace stalls I zero in on Girls Rock music camps, WUKA (Wake Up Kiss Ass) period pants and Book of Deer baby blankets printed with 96 iconic women.

At tables under a sign proclaiming THIS IS A VAGINA, women work with seamstress-like intent on creating delicate, strong, fanciful replicas of female anatomy using tissue paper in shades ranging from light pink to mocha and lots of lace and glitter.