One Billion Rising: Let’s All Rise Up and Keep on Going!

Feb 13th, 2013 | By | Category: Family Planning

By Suzanne York,

Kudos to Eve Ensler, performer, playwright and activist. For the past year, Ensler has spearheaded a global campaign called One Billion Rising to draw attention to the sadly pervasive crisis of violence against women.

This coming Valentine’s Day, One Billion Rising actions will take place all over the world, in at least 200 countries. Women and men will be dancing to shine a light on a subject that is not talked about enough, and to build support for policies to end gender violence. According to the official site, world leaders, celebrities, organizations, and activists are getting ready to rise up, dance, and demonstrate “that everyone is ready to say enough and end violence against women for good.”

Prior to launching this, Ensler was founder of the global anti-violence movement, V-Day, in the late 1990s.

The statistics are staggering and overwhelming. One in three women (the one billion in One Billion Rising) on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. In India, a brutal rape that ended in a woman’s death has ignited a much needed discussion in this highly patriarchal nation about how Indian women are treated. Across the nation, a woman is raped every 20 minutes, according to the Indian National Crime Records Bureau.

And just days ago, a 17-year-old South African woman was gang raped then mutilated to death. As in India, this tragedy has sparked a national outcry; on average, a woman is raped every four minutes in the country. A girl born in South Africa has about a one in three chance of completing secondary school, but she has a one in two chance of being raped.

In the U.S., the numbers are just as bad – here, a woman reports a rape to the police every 5 to 6 minutes. For some encouragement, this week the U.S. Senate passed a renewal of the Violence Against Women Act. As for the House of Representatives, they’ll need to hear all voices on the 14th and beyond.

Horrific statistics, and depressing, to say the least. So let’s change the picture. And that is the point of this campaign. After a trip to the Congo, Ensler heard about the plight of women that moved her to do something. In this violent and war torn region, sexual violence is used as a tool of war; eastern Congo has been called the “rape capital of the world.” She returned home and put the spotlight on the Congo, and then launched One Billion Rising to escalate attention on the violence perpetrated globally.

To rewrite this story, start by taking the One Billion Rising Pledge, and join in and spread the message of ending violence against women and girls as the central issue at the local, national and international levels.

Only by talking about gender violence and shining a light on it, can the situation begin to change. It happens, but there is no reason to allow it to happen.

After the brutal rape in India, public outcry led to new laws being pushed through that significantly increase the punishment for stalking, voyeurism, stripping a woman or carrying out an acid attack, and allowing the death penalty for rapes that leave victims in a “persistent vegetative state.”

The levels of violence perpetrated on women reflect society’s inhumanity. Is this how a so-called civilized world acts? Of course not. Women make up half the world’s population; while many gains have been made in the last 100 years on women’s rights, it’s not nearly enough. Most importantly, men must respect women.

Violence transcends gender – ultimately people should respect people, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion. But for now, changing attitudes and putting an end to widespread violence against women is imperative if there is to be any hope to improve the situation for women and girls in every corner of the world.


Suzanne York is a senior writer with the Institute for Population Studies


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