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Women's Fest 2020
Women's Fest 2020

“I’m a woman and I just feel for people.  So, it got to a point during last year where I just couldn’t do nothing anymore. “

Julia Weller

It’s the near future.  Climate change and wave upon wave of pandemics have resulted in global economic ruin and regional wars over resources.  Those who still survive have no reliable access to food, water and shelter.  Social order has collapsed and health care is non-existent.  Nation states and borders no longer have meaning.  This is the end of days for the human race.

In a last-ditch attempt to save humanity, the leaders of China, Russia and the United States join forces to form the Global Executive.  What armies they still control they use to quell localised fighting over resources and to clamp down on what they term ‘anti-societals’ who are attempting to fill the power vacuum caused by the collapse of national governments.

Ever the opportunists, the political elite have finally settled their differences and joined forces to take control of the world’s population and diminishing resources.  Three world leaders now control the entire planet.

Inevitably, under the guise of ridding the world of the anti-societals (AS), the Global Executive begins to institute laws and policies that see some groups in society discriminated against, with restricted access to roles in government and the workforce.  Now listed as an ethnic strain, people identified as AS face violence at far higher rates than the general population, with many being killed, often by their neighbours and work colleagues.  Many children of AS are removed from their families and trafficked across the globe, most for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

After decades of rule by the Global Executive stories begin to circulate via the social streaming media that the Executive’s policies on AS are part of a bigger strategy to maintain power by identifying and nullifying the influence of those seen as a potential threat to the new world order.  Resistance to the Global Executive and its discrimination against AS begins to grow as citizens realise that they have been duped into supporting an elitist government that uses exclusion, debasement and killing of some human beings as a means of maintaining their grip on power.

Sound like a treatment for a film?  A little bit far-fetched, but with enough roots in how things are to enable a potential viewer to suspend their disbelief and go along for the ride?

It could be, but substitute ‘women’ for ‘anti-societals’ and the crux of the ‘story’ becomes all too real.

Statistics on the UN Women website show that, in 2020, women remain under represented in all facets of society, from politics, to the workplace to entertainment.  Up to 70 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner.  In 2017, 87,000 women were intentionally killed globally, with more than half killed by an intimate partner, meaning that 137 women were killed by a member of their own family every day.  Nothing that has happened in the last three years suggests that, when the next report is published, the number of deaths will have reduced.  Women and girls account for 72 per cent of all human trafficking victims with most trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.  At least 200 million women and girls aged 15-49 have undergone female genital mutilation.  Fifteen million adolescent girls have experienced forced sex.  In Australia, two in every five women in the workplace have experienced sexual harassment.

These are facts.  Indisputable.  They can’t be passed off as fake news, and they can’t be deflected by saying stupid things like, ‘But what about men?’  Women continue to be routinely excluded from society, killed, mutilated, trafficked and used as chattels.

We need to change this.

That’s where Julia Weller comes in.  A Fremantle-based musician and activist, Weller organised the first Women’s Fest, last year, which saw a range of female-led bands and artists, headlined by Abbe May, playing across two stages at Clancy’s Fremantle.  The event raised $6,500 and was the biggest individual fundraiser for UN Women that year in Australia.

“When they emailed me in September last year to tell me that, it really made my bucket overflow, and made me want to do it again this year.  How could I not?  And, I’m already thinking about next year and chatting to artists who haven’t been able to play yet.  I might have to get a bigger venue.  That would be crazy!”

Weller is a quietly spoken woman, originally from Holland, who describes herself as, “A bit of an empath.”  Asked to speak a bit more about herself, Weller started by saying, “Don’t worry about it too much, it’s not about me.”

She then went on to say, “I’m a woman and I just feel for people.  So, it got to a point during last year where I just couldn’t do nothing anymore.  Especially living in such a privileged and supportive community as Freo is.”

Part of our conversation addressed the casual discrimination and harassment Weller herself has experienced.  “I’ve been groped and called out by men,” Weller said, very matter of fact.  “You don’t always feel safe when you’re out.  It’s so common, it happens all the time.”

Weller’s response, one of them, at least, was to take action, in the form of establishing Women’s Fest, which is now due to run for the second year, again at Clancy’s in Fremantle.

Speaking about the inception of Women’s Fest, Weller said, “Just reading up on things that are happening around the world, women not having any rights, intra-marital rape not being a thing, female genital mutilation, those are just a couple of things that are really painful for me.

“So, I was researching to donate to a charity and I came to UN Women, the biggest gender equity advocate in the world.

“I’m glad I can do something and people were just so happy to jump on board.  The whole line up is donating their time to play, which I thought was really special.  And the venue have been really generous and helped me out a lot, taking care of all the production and the rider.  I’m getting a lot of help.”

Listening to Weller, it sounds like the line-up and the backing have come about pretty readily.  In part that underplays the massive amount of hard work that goes into putting on an event like Women’s Fest.  It also indicates the depth of commitment everyone involved has for this event.

On this, Weller said, “There’s been hardly any discussion.  Everyone has just got on board.”

Women’s Fest 2020 takes place on 7 March at Clancy’s Fremantle, featuring an outstanding line up of talent including:
Axe Girl
Lucy Peach
Grace Armstrong (solo)
Smol Fish
Freddie Mai (Bass Lemon)
Lois Olney
Fraeya (Solo)
The Psychotic Reactions (solo)
Joan & The Giants
Tanya Ransom

Axe Girl, 1981

Tickets are $25.50 presale and $30 at the door.  You can buy presale tickets here.

Absolutely everyone is invited!  Let’s make this one even bigger than last year’s and stand together for equality and an end to discrimination and violence against women.  Small acts bring about big things, so your attendance at Women’s Fest 2020 will make a difference.

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