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Oxford Women’s Festival to celebrate achievement and solidarity

The 2020 Oxford International Women’s Festival is set to take place from Saturday 29th of February until Sunday 14th of March, 50 years after the inaugural Women’s Liberation Conference of 1970.

The Conference will celebrate women’s achievements, success, and solidarity, with a focus on contemporary feminist issues in Oxford and across the globe.

The theme for this year’s festival will be ‘threads of liberation’, and those organising the events will aim to incite debate and discussion about how modern issues relate to the struggles of women in the past.

Programme coordinator Tracy Walsh told the Oxford Mail: “We wanted to look back at how far we have come since then and reflect on where things are now.”

The Women’s Liberation Movement held national conferences between 1970 and 1978, looking at issues such as feminist history, sexuality, socialist feminism and patriarchy. This year’s festival will honour the women who began the movement, including Sheila Rowbotham, renowned feminist historian and author of Women’s Liberation and the New Politics of 1969.

The 1970 Conference, held at Ruskin College, was organised by a number of women including Arielle Aberson and Sally Alexander, students of the college.

Alexander, who will be attending this year’s festival, a historian who went on to protest against the Miss World Beauty Pageant in 1970. Her actions were later adapted into the film Misbehaviour, starring Keira Knightly as Alexander.

From the 1970 Conference, a list of demands were produced by the women attendees: equal pay, improved education, twenty-four hour nurseries, free contraception and abortion on demand, as well as a commitment to campaign on other issues as they arose.

This year’s festival is also set to mark 50 years since the passing of the Equal Pay Act. Ms Walsh noted that the festival will be sure to explore the subject of the gender pay gap, saying: “There has been a lot of progress but the cases of pay discrimination recently like journalist Samira Ahmed show we’re not there yet.”

She also stated that the festival would discuss other gender issues in the workplace, including sexual harassment in the wake of the Me Too movement, as well as the need for employers to consider the support women experiencing the menopause may need.

The first event on the 29th will be held on the site of the former Ruskin college and will involve panel discussions, reflections, and tributes to key female figures of the past.

The main event will take place on the 6th of March with an exploration of women’s issues through dance from three continents.

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