The air was warm, the sun beaming down, and as I looked to the sky, I knew my sisters and brothers across the globe were dancing with me.
There are few moments in time when words escape me; when I can’t quite encapsulate how something made me feel. But the events of February 14, 2013 was one of those rare times.
In 205 countries, from cities across the United States to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Brazil, New Zealand, the Phillipines, Taiwan, India, and South Africa, Eve Ensler’s movement, One Billion Rising, brought men, women, and children to the streets to call on societies, governments, and individuals to finally put a stop to violence against women.
I attended the One Billion Rising event at San Francisco City Hall. As I approached, I was almost unaware of my surroundings; I just wanted to be a part of this movement. One of the most beautiful things about One Billion Rising, is that everyone in the crowd was free to participate as they wished. We could dance or not dance; sing or not sing; sit, stand, rise and spin in circles; hold our children; hold our pointer finger in the air to symbolize that we are “one” of the One Billion Rising.
We also listened solemnly to stories of survivors and violence, to a poem written by Ms. Ensler herself that sent chills through the crowd. We were reminded why we were all there.
Since this glorious and energizing day, I have spent some time thinking about what it means and what role it can play in stopping violence against women.
It’s easy in our busy lives to attend an event such as this and soon forget why we rose in dance and song to give a voice to one of the most important human rights abuses of our time.
So, what can One Billion Rising do? I came to a few conclusions and I’d like to share them with you.
Rise for the Future
First, this is about the future of our world, our communities, and our children. The historical importance of this event will be defined by how we all rise in our own lives to ensure that the future looks very different from the past.
I was struck by the number of young children I saw at One Billion Rising, most of whom were prepared with signs declaring that they were rising “for my future.” Events like this bring the issue to the forefront, but soon the news will stop reporting, the tweets will slow down, and our lives will move on. But, the solidarity we experienced on February 14 is always there. And it’s time to harness it for the future of our women, men, and children, the stability of our world economy, and the rights of every human being to live without fear of violence.
Speak with Honesty
One Billion Rising gave this movement a voice: all major news outlets, local, national, and international, had a story about the event, if only to report what happened in their city on February 14th. For those few hours and days, violence against women was something that couldn’t be ignored. One billion women and men were protesting around the world. That makes news.
The challenge remains, however, that this is a hard issue to talk about. Now that it’s been placed squarely on the table, we, as a society, must continue to talk honestly about its prevalence instead of leaving it to lurk in the shadows.
Raise Your Voice
There is no one solution that will end violence against women. The causes and repercussions, the contexts and stories, vary within communities and across international borders. But what we can take with us is the fact that your voice makes a difference. For both of the challenges I raise above, there is a relatively simple solution: raise your voice.
Regardless of where you are in life, whether you are a parent, a student, a teenager, or the matriarch of your family, change only comes when we speak honestly about how these challenges manifest, why they exist, and what we can do as individuals and as communities to make a difference.
One person cannot put an end to violence against women, as much as some of us would like to try. But, as Ms. Ensler said, “One billion women violated is an atrocity. One billion women dancing is a revolution.”
And that is why we need all of our voices to continue to rise as one: we need a revolution, and this could be the beginning.
How does this look practically? Get involved with a local organization that combats domestic violence. Educate your children, your sons, about how to treat women and what healthy relationships look like. Talk with peers and friends about their own experiences and take that with you as part of your own story. We are all connected, and the most beautiful thing in the world is to see women and men across the globe dancing together to give violence against women the attention it deserves.
Now, the responsibility to continue that conversation lies with us.