V-Day: A look at the One Billion Rising campaign

This February 14 2013, V-Day will be 15 years old. It was never our intention to be around that long. Our mission was to end violence against women and girls, and so we planned to be out of business years ago.

We have had enormous victories in these years. We have broken taboos, spoken the word "vagina" in 50 languages in 140 countries, called up stories and truths about violence against women, breaking the silence, supported amazing activists across the planet who have created and changed laws. But we have not fulfilled our mission to end violence against women and girls.

In fact the United Nations says that one out of three women on the planet will be beaten or raped in her lifetime. That is one billion women plus. That is simply insane and unacceptable.

So this V-Day we knew we had to go further; we knew we had to escalate our efforts to break through the patriarchal wall of oppression and denial, to transform the mindset that has normalised this violence, to bring women survivors into their bodies, their strength, their determination, their energy and power and to dance up the will of the world to finally make violence against women unacceptable.

So less than a year ago, we announced One Billion Rising, a call for the one-billion women and all the men who love them to walk out of their jobs, schools, offices, homes on February 14 2013 and strike, rise and dance.

Nothing we have ever done has spread so fast and happened so easily. Our motto was "not branding but expanding"  – a global action to be determined and carried out locally. Every city, town, village and person would determine what they were rising for – to end female genital mutilation, to remember their daughter's rape, to stop sex slavery, to educate young boys and girls about non-violent sexual relations.

During this year horrific stories of sexual violence broke through the news clutter with headlines reporting Malala Yousafzai was shot for demanding girls to be educated in Afghanistan, the death and gang rape of Jyoti Singh in Delhi and the gang rape in Steubenville, Ohio.

All these stories have built the outrage and ignited a fire burning through the world.

205 participating countries
One Billion Rising is happening in 205 countries. It is happening where women will risk their lives to dance and where women have never danced before. It is happening in all 7 000 islands of the Philippines and in over 50 cities in Turkey. There are 100 risings in Italy, 135 risings in the UK and thousands in North America. We are expecting 25-million to rise in Bangladesh, and it's hard to imagine the numbers in India but they will be massive.

The diversity of the risings is beyond anything we could have imagined: the carnival queen in Rio de Janeiro, the queen mother of Bhutan, prime ministers of Australia and Croatia, members of the European parliament, lamas, nuns, unions leaders, avatars in Second Life, zumba dancers, classical dancers in Karachi, cast members of Wicked and The Lion King on Broadway, women in the Andes, 200 women in Kamloops parking lots in British Columbia, Iranian teenagers in their bedrooms, thousands of Afghani women dressed in One Billion Rising scarves, Filipino domestic workers in Saudi Arabia, people on bridges, in buses, prisons, squares, in stadiums, in churches, theatres.


But what is most remarkable is what One Billion Rising has already accomplished before we even begin to dance today.

It has brought together coalitions of groups and individuals that have never worked together before, galvanised new people and groups and associations and masses of men who were not engaged before but now see violence as their issue – and all of this putting violence against women to the centre of the global discussion.

It has broken taboos and silence everywhere, inspired a radical outpouring of individuals and groups to reveal the world wide system of patriarchy which sustains the violence. One Billion Rising has also shown that violence against women is not a national, tribal, ethnic or religious issue but a global phenomenon, and the rising will give survivors the confidence in knowing that violence is not their fault or their country's fault or their families fault.

Today the dancing begins and with this dancing we express our outrage and joy and our firm global call for a world where women are free and safe and cherished and equal. Dance with your body, for your body, for the bodies of women and the earth. –  © Guardian News and Media 2013

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