A Day Of Empowerment, A Night Of Hard Reality

A Day Of Empowerment, A Night Of Hard Reality
April 15, 2018 Sophie Winter

They say life is a rollercoaster, well I certainly agree if this day was anything to go by.

A day of incredible highs ended with one heavy low. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this mentally exhausted before, my mind hasn’t stopped ticking all week. I thought to document it might help put my brain to sleep, so here it is – my hourly recount of Saturday, April 7th.

8am: WOW Festival

I stroll down to the Brisbane Powerhouse for Women Of The World Festival – a 3-day conference where women and men from across the globe meet to discuss issues of gender equality in a series of panel interviews and workshops.

9am: Views On The News

The first session of the day. Three human rights campaigners and the Queensland Premier speak about the repercussions of Australian media’s selective reporting on our fight for equality.

10am: Refusing To Be Silenced

Four brilliantly brave journalists, photographers, peacekeepers and activists share stories of horror from war-torn and disaster-ridden countries. I learn that during severe weather events, the rate of violence against women increases dramatically. I learn there is no human rights commission in PNG that includes the health and safety of women and children. I learn the Pacific region has the lowest number of female participants in Parliament.

I also learn that all four women who spoke in this session are facing death threats from power driven men wanting to seal their lips.

11am: Commonwealth Now

Five talented writers discuss Australia’s leading literary publication, The Griffith Review, and how it relates to the Commonwealth. The publication aims to confront new challenges and reconcile the past, with hopes of creating a sustainable and equitable future.

1pm: Ending Male Violence Against Women and Girls

Founder of Our Watch Australia rattles off scary statistics then pinpoints where we will, as a collective, gain the most momentum for change.

2pm: Times Up – Beyond the #

Director of the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation, Virginia Haussegger, leads a debate on the effectiveness of social media campaigns in rallying for action. One of the panellists shares her #metoo story for the first time in front of the full auditorium.

4pm: Ruckus Poetry Slam

I sit listening to sorrowful stories in poet verse. One after the other, abuse, assault, trauma. The crowd sings John Farnham at the end of each performance. “You’re the voice, try and understand it, make it loud and make it clear…”

9pm: Alex Lahey’s Gig

I stand watching an incredible artist perform her own songs, singing about love, heartbreak and being a woman. I reminisce about my band days; what a feeling, having other humans cheer for and support you.

11pm: The Club

I’m groped on the dance floor the minute my male friend leaves for the bathroom. He smirks when I turn to face him, a glimmer of power in his eye.

1am: The Walk Home

A crying girl appears from a side street, a male figure disappears into the shadows.

She’s walking fast, crying hysterically, her dress isn’t sitting quite right. We debate whether or not to approach her, I decide to. I skip the “are you okay?” – it’s clear she’s not. She’s disoriented, doesn’t know how she got where she did, isn’t sure at what point she was separated from her friends. She wants to go to the bathroom so I take her to the nearest bar. She starts washing her hands vigorously, splashing water onto her face and chest. The crying doesn’t stop. I skip the “what happened?” – it’s clear what has. I tell her I’m going to make sure she gets home okay. She puts her head in her hands and slides down the wall, crumbling onto unclean tiles. I share the dirty feeling and sit with her, as she shares an all too familiar story with me…

One in four women will face a situation like this at some point in their lives. How can we stop this statistic in its tracks?

As I learned earlier this day, speaking survivor to survivor is tiresome and pointless. We need to speak to those who don’t understand and help them. We need to speak out against violence or abuse when we see it or hear about it. Stand up to our brothers, fathers and mates; have the courage to tell them what they’re doing is wrong.

Because if nobody speaks, nothing will change.

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