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One Billion Rising
February 14, 2013

A staggering number of women around the world will experience rape or other violence in their lifetimes. The UN Secretary General puts this number at 1 out of every 3. That is over one billion women. Imagine One Billion Women, and the men who love them, rising together to end the violence? Eve Ensler, founder of V-Day, the global movement to end domestic violence, and the playwright behind ‘The Vagina Monologues’, has launched a new global campaign called ‘One Billion Rising’, to challenge and shatter the worldwide acceptance of violence against women.

Women from 140 countries have responded to this global call, by launching their own One Billion Rising campaigns in their respective countries. They include women survivors of gender violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, women of the Adriatic, members of the labour movement in the UK, women survivors of violence in South Africa, and innumerable others in various corners of the world.

South Asia is also coming on board this effort and Women’s Feature Service will bring you stories from the region of women fighting sexual violence in their own ways, both in India and South Asia as a whole.

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India:
A Campaign With No Full Stops: One Billion Creative Ways Of Rising
By Aditi Bishnoi

What was it that gave the One Billion Rising (OBR) Campaign its special significance? Certainly, in India, the moment was important. Public outrage over violence against women was steadily rising and had expressed itself in massive demonstrations on the streets after that horrendous gang rape of a student on a Delhi bus. But the unusually creative dimension of the campaign was also a central factor. Music, theatre, dance and art were all part of its kaleidoscope of activism and nothing symbolised this more than the evocative painting that one of India's best known women painters, Arpana Caur, had executed just for the OBR campaign. Such a coming together of creativity, commitment and talent meant the breaking down of the walls of apathy and conceiving new ways of looking at the world. Another very special aspect of the OBR mobilisation was the sense it created in every participant of being linked with others, not just within India or South Asia, but the world ? the feeling of millions across continents being connected by a common vision and purpose.

* "What has been most exciting for me personally was the involvement of young people, including students in hundreds of colleges and schools. This is not just about the present but the future!"


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India:
Ahmedabad Rising To The Beats Of The Garba
By Tanushree Gangopadhyay

From the ‘baas’ (mothers) and ‘bapujis’ (fathers) to the ‘dhanis’ (husbands) and ‘bairis’ (wives), from the ‘bens’ (sisters) and ‘bhais’ (brothers) to the various ‘phois’, ‘kakis’ and ‘masis’ (aunts), Gujaratis of all ages from different walks of life are ready to form the circle of life to fight violence against women. A 20,000-strong crowd, led by danseuse-cum-activist Mallika Sarabhai, will groove to the beats of the garba to bring home the message of gender equality and root for a violence free world for women. But why the garba, one may ask? Sarabhai, who has organised this unique mass dance movement as part of the One Billion Rising (OBR) global campaign to eliminate violence against women, has the answer: ‘In this community dance, women are not led by men. Dancing together on an equal platform will give both men and women the chance to take up a large space together and let the contagious, freeing spirit of dance, guide us towards a moment of solidarity where we rise up together to stop gender discrimination.”

* ‘Bodies are a repository of beauty, not corridors for aggression. And what can be a more perfect way to liberate the body than to dance the garba.’


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India:
One Billion Voices: Bengal’s Women Want To Break The Sound Barrier
By Saadia Azim

At 37, Arpita Kakkar is no longer embarrassed at being called an ‘abandoned’ woman. Two years back she ran away from her marital home in Australia to Kolkata to be with her parents as her doctor husband of 10 years subjected her to violent beatings. He never apologised for his behaviour - he felt that wife beating was a right society gave to the man of the house. For years Kakkar didn’t talk about her emotional scars but she has broken her silence now because “only talking about the crimes that women are subjected to will enable other women to realise that it’s not ‘normal’ to be violated”. Speak out: That’s the advice that the Park Street rape victim’s aunt Anjela Jordan, who has drummed up support for the single mother’s fight for justice, wants to give as well. Today, the One Billion Rising (OBR) global campaign against violence against women is urging West Bengal’s women to break the sound barrier - and raise their voices.

* During the last hearing of the Park Street rape victim’s case, the judge had observed that “it is for the good of the victim”, she should not talk too much about her case. But “why should crime and criminal mindsets not be acknowledged” questions her aunt.


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India:
Posters, Ribbons, Rallies: Maharashtra’s One Billion Rising
By Suchismita Pai

“Is this why we educate our children? So they can defy their parents and not be under their control anymore? What is the point of having such children?” lashed out filmmaker Pushpa Rawat’s father when asked why he refused to let her wed the man of her choice. ‗Nirnay’, Rawat’s documentary on the lives of young women, draws on her personal experiences as it talks about how parents have a “this far and no further approach” to girls’ freedom. Her film resonates with many of its young viewers who relate how parents often get stuck in the patriarchal mould when it comes to the major life decisions. Rawat’s film, along with others on the same theme, is being screened in Pune, as part of the ‗Our Lives To Live. NO! To Gender Violence. Films of Courage, Protest, Hope’ film festival organised under the One Billion Rising (OBR) global campaign against violence against women. Posters, ribbons, films, rallies and meets – the OBR campaign is reaching out to the Marathi ‗mulgi’ (girl) and ‗mulga’ (boy) in different ways, urging them “to rise and dance and strike as one against gender violence”.

* “When a man lives alone, no one calls him ‗ektta’, or single, but a woman deprived of opportunities, education, decision making powers, etc, becomes an object of pity,” says Sadhana Dadich of Nari Samata Manch, a 28-year-old organisation that has been working on women’s issues.


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India:
The Struggle Against Sexual Violence:Art Can Go Where Anger Cannot
By Amrita Nandy

As the suffering of women who are sexually assaulted comes to mark public consciousness, especially after the gang rape of a young woman on a Delhi bus, various artistes, local and international, are striking just the right notes of hope and healing. Award-winning playwright Eve Ensler, whose One Billion Rising campaign is perhaps the most powerful international movement against violence against women so far, performed her moving poem, 'I am an Emotional Creature' in the Capital recently; pianist Elizabeth Sombart and dancer-choreographer Mallika Sarabhai staged all over India a dance-musical that unravels the pain of women who have been murdered; while dressed in black 'kurtas', the Asmita theatre group has taken to the streets performing 'Dastak', the story of a woman who is eve-teased and molested before being raped. The cyberspace, too, has been abuzz, and nothing reflects this more than the Ravinder Randhawa- Swara Bhaskar song, 'Maa ni meri', which became an overnight success and was liked and shared by thousands across the world.

* 'Look Mother! Look how I fought. I was one, they were six. But afraid I was not... Mother, I will not become you. I returned to laugh...to prosper, to live, to dare.'


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India:
Sarabhai And Sombart Make Dance And Music Together
By Tanushree Gangopadhyay

If music be the food of love play on, or so wrote Shakespeare all those years ago. For Swiss pianist, Elizabeth Sombart, it is love that makes her play her music – a love for all the “assassinated” women of the world, whose memory she wants to honour with her work. Today, as India remains incensed over the gang rape of a young student on a Delhi bus, Sombart’s collaborative ballet with renowned Indian danseuse, Mallika Sarabhai, director of the Ahmedabad-based Darpana Dance Academy, has taken on a new meaning. Entitled ‘Women With Broken Wings’, the ballet which premiered on December 30 at Ahmedabad and was later staged in Delhi, Chandigarh and Thiruvananthapuram, had Sarabhai dancing to Sombart’s piano renditions of the works of great western composers, like Bach and Beethoven, in order to capture the unspeakable pain of all women who have faced violence. Little wonder then that it found itself in sync with the One Billion Rising campaign against violence.

“My work during the past three decades has convinced me that there can be no leveler better than cultural programmes. People refuse to listen to serious talk.”


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India:
Eve Ensler In India: ‘After This Gang Rape, India Must Take The Lead’
By Pamela Philipose

In one of those curious juxtapositions life occasionally throws up, American playwright Eve Ensler’s tour of India to raise awareness over her One Billion Rising campaign, calling for an end to violence against women globally, coincided with hundreds of thousands of Indians literally rising in protest against the gang rape of the Delhi student and the exponential increase in crimes against women in India. “One Billion Rising is happening right here!” she exclaimed, calling the new activism on India’s streets “motivating”. The India tour took off from Kerala, a state that despite its progressive veneer has seen a recent spate of extremely ugly incidents of violence, including women being sexually assaulted by their fathers, brothers, grandfathers. For Eve, who is herself a survivor of paternal sexual abuse, all this is just a reminder of the work that still needs to be done.

* “Ensler is an unusual activist. She uses theatre and popular culture to connect with young people. Just consider her slogan, One Billion Rising. It is so simple, anybody can understand it.”


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Global:
Colombo to Kabul Calling: End Violence Against Women Now
By Pamela Philipose

The statistics tumble out of conflict zones and bedrooms, street alleys and college campuses. Every day in Bangladesh, at least 40 women experience some kind of assault. In Afghanistan, incidents of violence went up by 30 per cent in 2012, while in neighbouring Pakistan, abduction and kidnapping of women have emerged as one of the most commonly reported crimes against women. As for Sri Lanka, if sexual violence against women was systematically deployed during the Sri Lankan army-LTTE war, today violence within the home is a growing concern. The One Billion Rising (OBR) campaign is providing an unusual and unprecedented cross border platform for both expression against, and resistance to, such violence.

“We in South Asia have a lot in common from our religions, languages, arts and trade… Also as women we face similar concerns… As feminists our sister spirit goes beyond borders to support each other and create deeper bonds of friendship.”


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India:
Hands Rise, Sparks Fly: The Many Facets Of India’s One Billion Rising Campaign
By Pamela Philipose

Violence against women has been a major trope of the women’s movement in India, right from the incidents of rape against women like Mathura and Rameeza Bee in the 1970s. Over the last few months, the ongoing campaign, One Billion Rising campaign, has revisited this theme in various locations all over India, whether it is Madurai or Mumbai, Delhi or Bhubaneshwar, and has done this in a way that reflects both the creativity and energy of the new generation and the steadfast commitment of an older generation.

Says Bawri Devi, an activist in a resettlement colony in Delhi: “Every gully in our locality has a story of violence against women. Today such violence is emerging in so many different ways and we have to fight it in different ways as well.”


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India:
Getting Men To End Violence Against Women
By Suchismita Pai

Of all the work being carried out by different organisations in the field of women's empowerment less than five per cent involves men. But this could be changing, given the increasing number of groups that are working with young men in low-income urban communities across India in order to change their attitudes and behaviour towards women. And this is being done in a non-confrontational way. These men are actually being empowered to empower women – and the change is perceptible.

"We need to provide men a vocabulary to talk about issues like gender roles and sexuality."


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India:
Everybody’s Invited To Rise and Strike Against Violence
By Nandini Rao

2012 has been a depressingly violent year for women in India. There were very public acts against women in Bangalore, Mangalore, Guwahati, Jind (Haryana), Kolkata and Delhi, with case-upon-case of sexual assault, rape, rape and murder, rape and suicide and molestation merging, one into the other, to produce a maelstrom of violence. But there has also been resistance to this intimidation and terror, including the feudal attitudes that underline them. Citizens’ Collective against Sexual Assault (CCSA), a Delhi-based group, has been active in demanding a safer world for people who are vulnerable; Women against Sexual Assault and State Repression (WSS), a pan-India outfit, is strategising on ways to prevent violence against women; while the global One Billion Rising (OBR) campaign is motivating women and men to “Strike. Dance. Rise. against the violence that is happening all around us”.

Increasingly, crimes against women have been normalised and trivialised to such an extent that the ordinary person on the street barely acknowledges its gravity or intensity.


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India:
Sonali Mukherjee Rises From The Ashes, Fights Violence
By Kamayani Bali Mahabal

Dhanbad-based Sonali Mukherjee, an acid attack survivor who will soon be appearing in a special episode of ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’on TV, was once so disheartened that she publicly demanded her right to euthanasia. The response to her call was immediate. Media houses, civil society groups and ordinary individuals came forward to help her. The Mumbai-based NGO, 'Beti', in association with the media group, Headlines Today, raised Rs 30 lakh as part of Project Hope, which aims to give Mukherjee a new identity with the help of facial reconstruction. The 22 surgeries will be carried out in New Delhi at the B.L. Kapur Super Speciality Hospital. That hope of regaining a face and a life has made her feel like a true survivor. Having experienced the horrific nature of a personal assault, she now believes the time has come for national and international campaigns against violence against women.

“That night I felt I was engulfed by the arms of death and life stood still.”


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India:
Mumbai Rising: It's Students Against Gender Violence
By Geeta Seshu

'We take one step forward, then another, and another…and slowly, we will be able to reach out with our message to end violence against women. But if think the task is too huge and don't take that first step at all, we'll never get anywhere.' This is how Santosh Wayangankar, a college student, describes her activism mantra against gender violence. Youngsters like Wayangankar have been involved in a myriad programmes initiated by the Mumbai-based NGO, Akshara, as part of the Indian leg of the international 'One Billion Rising' (OBR) campaign to end violence against women. College-goers in the city are doing street plays against sexual harassment and have initiated a campaign to popularise a helpline for women in distress. They have even conducted safety audits of different neighbourhoods in the city and sent feedback to civic authorities so that civic infrastructure for women can be improved.

*The OBR campaign has decided to use the powerful medium of cinema to focus on gender violence. A film festival screening around 90 films spread over five cities will be launched in November 2012.


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India:
Youth Speaks: Rising Against Violence In The Virtual World
By Azera Parveen Rahman

No longer is Facebook, or any other social media platform, just a place to hang out, chat or share pictures with friends. Thanks to innovative campaigns that refrain from the usual 'lecturing' mode and speak in the language of the youth, youngsters are now increasingly connecting to social issues like gender violence and spinning the wheel of change. Campaigns like One Billion Rising (OBR), a global call to stand up against gender violence, too, are engaging with people through the social networking medium motivating them to speak up on the issue, share their thoughts, stories and even give updates of events being planned to raise awareness on violence against women in their community. The success of movements like Must Bol, a by-the-youth, for-the-youth movement on violence, and the Gurgaon Girlcott initiative against sexual harassment of women, has already proved the relevance of conquering the virtual world for a cause.

*"The OBR campaign is spread over a few months so we have designed it in such as way that people can engage with the issue for a longer period of time. The idea is to also create synergies. It's the essentially a people's campaign."


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NEPAL:
Rising In The Himalayas: Nepal Says Stop Violence Against Women
By Pamela Philipose

A staggering number of women around the world will experience rape or other violence in their lifetimes. UN estimates puts this number at one out of every three, which translates into one billion women. A new global campaign, ‘One Billion Rising’(OBR), conceptualised by American playwright Eve Ensler, founder of V-Day, will see women and men from over 160 countries globally challenge the widespread acceptance of violence against women. Nepal – which has long been witnessing rising levels of such crime – recently launched its OBR campaign with great gusto. After students and women activists signed petitions, clapped and argued for change in a packed hall at the centre of Kathmandu, and politicians – including a former prime minister – pledged to support the campaign, a disabled dancer brought the house down through her spontaneous celebration of a life free of violence.

*“I want to rise and dance. I may be disabled but nothing can stop me from dancing for this campaign!”


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India:
Think, Act, Build… A Rainbow Coalition To End Violence Against Women
By Kamla Bhasin

“The word ‘husband’ in English translates as ‘controller’, ‘domesticator’, ‘manager’ . In Hindi, Bangla, or Tamil, ‘husband’ and ‘god’, are synonymous through expressions like: “Pati-parmeshwar”, “swami”. Every day we repeat these words. The moment we get married, as per Hindu rites we touch our husband’s feet. In the Christian marriage, the father “gives away” the bride…” In her much-acclaimed appearance on Aamir Khan’s show, ‘Satyamev Jayate’, that was how Kamla Bhasin explained patriarchy. In this piece for WFS she makes the link between patriarchy and violence against women. Adding her voice to American playwright Eve Ensler’s global campaign, ‘One Billion Rising’, that will see women and men in 140 countries rise together against all forms of violence against women, Bhasin argues that the time for South Asia to speak up is now. No matter what the issue ” honour killings in Pakistan, acid attacks in Bangladesh, domestic violence in India ” the forces that make such assaults possible need to be confronted and defeated.

*“You know I write songs. My songs are popular. But they may reach only a few thousand at best. ‘Munni badnaam hui’ reaches millions with that one gyrating woman surrounded by 20 men lusting after her. I see a direct link between this and what happens on the streets of Guwahati, or anywhere else.”


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