One Billion Rising Through Dance for Women’s Rights
This Valentine’s Day women finally sent a valentine to themselves. Isn’t It about time? After having always put themselves last, isn’t it time to love themselves, to stand up for themselves? Jyoti Singh Pandya was the catalyst for the awakening, for the realization that no one is going to watch out for women but women themselves.
The candlelit vigils, the protest marches and finally the opening up of the floodgates: women are now openly talking of the abuse, the violence so many of them have faced in silence, the covering quilt that has been thrown over transgressions within the family. Now women are talking about their trauma freely and in doing so are freeing up others to speak up too.
Just recently sitarist Anoushka Shankar, daughter of the legendary sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, opened up: “As a child I suffered sexual and emotional abuse for several years at the hands of a man my parents trusted implicitly. Growing up, like most women I know, I suffered various forms of groping, touching, verbal abuse and other things I didn’t know how to deal with, I didn’t know I could change,” she said.
She is part of the One Billion Rising campaign, which turned V-Day on its head with women taking a stand through dance in many parts of the world. The statistics about women’s lives are pretty grim – 1 in 3 women in the world is raped or beaten in her lifetime. So on February 14, Eve Ensler’s V-Day Movement invited women to demand an end to the violence. As Ensler puts it, “One billion women violated is an atrocity. One billion women dancing is a revolution.”
One Billion Women Dancing is a Revolution…
V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls, and promotes events to increase awareness and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. In case you’re wondering, the ‘V’ in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina. “Dancing insists we take up space, and though it has no set direction, we go there together. Dance is dangerous, joyous, sexual, holy, disruptive, and contagious and it breaks the rules. It can happen anywhere, at anytime, with anyone and everyone, and it’s free. Dance joins us and pushes us to go further and that is why it’s at the center of ONE BILLION RISING,” says Eve Ensler.
According to V-Day, activists in 177 countries had signed on and over 13,000 organizations around the world were involved, from Amnesty International to New York’s own Breakthrough, headed by human rights activist Mallika Dutt.
“There’s a global momentum building on the issue of violence against women and One Billion Rising was a strategic and joyful way to bring attention to the issue,” says Dutt. “It was wonderful to feel that one was part of millions of women coming together to say stop the violence in this creative way. Dancing in Washington Square Park was so much fun. I was hugging strangers all around me after we were done because the energy was electric!”
Non Violence = Self Confidence and Courage
Dutt was with a group of 20 South Asian women in the hundreds gathered in Washington Square Park. One of them was Zeyba Rehman, Creative Advisor, BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) and a long time supporter of Breakthrough and what it stands for.
She says, “It was a powerful, uplifting moment as we danced to the One Billion Rising anthem “Break the Chain” as part of a flash mob that included women of all ages, some men and children in Washington Square Park on VDay. We are all in this together, all interconnected, and together with clear resolve need to support ending violence against women the world over.”
Indeed, people from all walks of life have weighed in on One Billion Rising. The Dalai Lama had sent in this message: “When an unjust situation demands a strong response, compassion demands not that we accept injustice, but that we take a stand against it. It does imply that such a stand should be non-violent. However, non-violence is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of self-confidence and courage.”
And so it was across the world, including India, women danced and cheered and each in their own way articulated the need for action. Kamla Bhasin, co-founder of Sangat, a South Asian feminist network in India, and One Billion Rising South Asia coordinator, has called One Billion Rising a feminist tsunami: “We are seeing a renewed energy for change throughout India and South Asia. We must work in each family to practice equality, democracy, and full dignity of women and girls.”
And what of the men who make up half the world? She added, “I think of saving our men and boys from becoming violent, aggressive, selfish, and macho. Once we are all better, loving, all our institutions will be better. The protests in India this time have created some hope. Violence against women is no more an issue for the women’s movement, many others are now owning it.”
For more information about eradicating Violence against women: