Women make up the majority of the wellness movement and are trail-blazing health trends around the world from yoga studios to diets. But what often gets less time and space is emotional health. Chantal Wong, Director of Culture at Eaton HK, saw a gap in Hong Kong’s wellness movement to dive deeper into the issues women face on a daily basis, from financial literacy to sexuality to relationship problems with families, friends and partners. Co-organised by Chantal, Sonia Wong and Vera Lui, the Women’s Festival Hong Kong debuted last year, and returned in August 2019 bigger and better than ever with double the workshops and going even further into the everyday issues women deal with. Chantal chats with Compare Retreats over the festival on how it got started, and why women need a platform to discuss these issues now more than ever.
What was the inspiration behind the Women’s Festival? How did it come about? I joined Eaton in 2017 and began meeting with different people in the community who had inspired me and I hoped to work with. One of those people was Vera Lui from Sally Coco and at a community meeting with Katherine Lo, founder of Eaton Workshop, she mentioned that she’d always wanted to do a Women’s Festival in Hong Kong. It was serendipitous that we could then provide the space to make that happen. Eaton HK is a platform to allow people to be able to extend their initiatives to make Hong Kong a better place.
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Why did you choose to host the festival at the Eaton? Eaton HK is more than just the venue for this festival. Eaton’s mission is to create a gathering place for likeminded, socially-conscious people to gather. It’s a platform for exchange and discussion. We are here to support and celebrate the amazing people doing work for the city, so it makes sense to hold the event here. And so many of our members and friends, as well as Eaton Workshop’s founder and president Katherine Lo, are taking part in this year’s programming. As the Director of Culture at Eaton HK, I’m really proud to have worked with Vera and Sonia to create The Women’s Festival 2019 from scratch.
“We’re doing our part to create a support system for those facing challenges: we range from celebrating being powerful women to also acknowledging that vulnerability exists.”
What are some of the main topics that were highlighted at the festival this year, and why are they important to Hong Kong women? This year we are bolder and so some of the topics are more sensitive, such as being in a romantic relationship with someone with emotional issues, or making love to someone with disabilities. At Eaton, we want to be a platform for people to find others sharing a similar experience. We’re doing our part to create a support system for those facing challenges: we range from celebrating being powerful women to also acknowledging that vulnerability exists. ‘Failed Women’ was the theme of one day. We explored prenups and financial literacy to empower women and make sure that they have the tools they need to succeed and defend themselves. We looked at divorce and the emotional aftermath. Acknowledging the range of experiences that women experience and that they are all legitimate was a huge part of our programming this year.
Since last year, have you seen any progress on any of the issues discussed or highlighted? Last year was the first year of the Women’s Festival and Eaton Workshop was a very new brand. The #metoo movement started at a similar time to us developing the programme. Obviously that movement continues and there are so many elements: finding a voice in patriarchal systems, sexual violence etc. But now that there has been a platform to explore these issues we are able to move deeper, such as, how do we protect the next generation? We have panels on working with your kids to understand sexuality for example. There are so many different ways of empowering women, even teaching them to flirt with power. We can look at this as building on last year, but I look at what we are doing this year as an emboldened expansion of what we did at Eaton HK last year.
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There are plenty of wellness activities on the schedule, but how do social issues feed into our mental and emotional wellness on a daily basis? The whole programme is punctuated with wellness activities—sound baths and yoga, etc—but almost all of the events and seminars are intended to heal. From workshops on how to connect with family members with different political views to decluttering your closet, these are all community events intended to encourage sharing. Alignment and allyship were a huge part of the festival this year.
Learn more about the Women’s Festival and their ongoing projects here.