Whanganui's annual women's festival La Fiesta began with a gathering in Majestic Square to coincide with international solidarity event One Billion Rising.

Each year, the worldwide solidarity movement aims to bring groups of people together to stand up against the marginalisation and oppression of women and children.

The theme for 2018 is artistic uprisings and groups were encouraged to tell their stories through music, theatre, film and writing.

Entertainment at Majestic Square was provided by Whanganui's tribal belly dance group and African-inspired drumming group Women Aloud from Palmerston North.


Whanganui groups held stalls in the square alongside visitors from Wairarapa and Auckland.

Kaituna Creations from Masterton sell re-usable cloth products from nappies through to women's re-usable cloth pads and OI (Organic Initiative) is an international company now based in Auckland which sells environmentally safe menstrual products.

Award-winning Wellington photographer Mandi Lynn was there talking to Whanganui women about her Finding Venus Golden Photoshoot project.

Ms Lynn won the New Zealand Photographers' Association Iris Award last year for her images of real women posing shirtless and covered in golden clay.

Since taking the idea on the road, Ms Lynn said she has had a great response from New Zealand women.

"We are doing a photoshoot tonight and we're hoping to get plenty of Whanganui women along."

The photographer is on a mission to assemble 600 photos of golden torsos that show the diversity of women's bodies while building the models' esteem along the way.

The Whanganui photo shoot was scheduled for Wednesday night and it is one of almost 100 events scheduled for La Fiesta this year.

The festival started as the brain child of Whanganui Women's Network co-ordinator Carla Donson nine years ago.

"I was shocked to learn that not many people seemed to know about International Women's Day or when it was," she said.

La Fiesta will wrap on International Women's Day on March 8 with a gala performance of Amdram production Behind Closed Doors.

La Fiesta programmes are available at various venues around Whanganui or online at lafiestanz.com