Ahead of International Women’s Day, which takes place on March 8 of each year, two women are organising a week-long festival celebrating women’s music, art and literature in the UAE. 

The inaugural ‘Femme Festival’ - taking place from March 3 until 8 - is oganised by Nour Zaghloul and Megane Quashie, the co-founders of Female First Sessions, a multi-disciplinary platform made to highlight Arab women’s diverse range of talents, and provide a platform that solely focuses on them.

The initiative, founded in 2018, began with monthly sessions, each focusing on women’s involvement in a creative field (whether music or art). Each session covers a range of those fields through the lens of a specific theme (e.g. self-expression). The themes include spoken word poetry, which is performed first at the session, followed by an art exhibit by a visual artist. Afterwards is a focus on women in business (through a talk), a live performance, and finally, a party, led by a female DJ.

The celebration of women - and specifically, Arab women - is at the core of Female First Sessions. “March for us is all about showcasing female artists across all different art mediums,” Zaghloul tells us. "We have been focusing on activating a back to back full program every March since 2018 in celebration of International Women's Day - which we turned into International Women's Month, rebelliously, because 1 day was not enough."

And the femme festival is a culmination of all of these sessions combined, with a star-studded line-up of female DJs set to play on March 6 - including Saudi DJ Shamsa (or Farah Albi) and Lebanon’s Tala Mourtada - and another event devoted purely to slam poetry, while another - “Through her Lens” on March 8 - is dedicated to Arab female artists and filmmakers.

“Our fundamental goals are equality for all - breaking barriers between people, industries, and creating spaces where everyone feels equal and safe,” she continues. These principles are actively applied through their monthly sessions that allow for diverse voices to take centre stage, each in their own time. 

While all of their events have been held in the UAE so far, they plan to take their sessions beyond the emirates, to the US, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. 

You can read more about Female First Sessions here.