From Gaelick Contributor, Lou
Violence against women and girls continues unabated in every continent, country and culture. It takes a devastating toll on women’s lives, their families and society as a whole – United Nations.
During my final year of college I studied Gender and Conflict. Many of the conflict situations we were learning about took place in countries that I am interested in, but am not likely to be visiting any time soon. I remember being deeply disturbed about what I was learning, to the point that I would feel sick each time I completed our assigned reading. However while I was disturbed by the atrocities affecting females around the world, it was somewhat distanced from me. I felt guilty that I lived in a safer country, a country that while I was quite aware it was far from perfect, was not ‘as bad’ for women in other countries.
It was not until my lecturer told me that 1 in 5 women all over the world, irrespective of where they lived, will be raped or have an attempted rape happen to them, that it really began to sink in that violence against women is a global issue, that while conflict exacerbates the risk of gender based violence, it is not ‘worse there’ or ‘better here’.
There is no government who is not guilty of not fully committing to end violence against women. Every single society, culture and family has their own experiences of gender based violence. If someone were to try to compile memoirs of all of the women who have experienced gender based violence, no one place would ever be big enough to catalogue them, a library of horrors. The violence women and girls have endured both throughout history and taking place this minute is unquantifiable. Of course ‘women’ are not a homogenous group and every experience is unique, but one thing is certain across the world, violence against women is unacceptable and it has to stop.
The UN Unite to End Violence against Women states that 1 in 3 women around the world will experience gender based violence. It is because of this the Eve Ensler – creator of The Vagina Monologues – developed the idea for the One Billion Rising. To mark the 15th year of global activist organisation V-Day’s efforts to end violence against women, there came the idea that people irrespective of gender, could take a stand against the violence. It aims to be a revolutionary movement to ultimately contribute to ending gender based violence, but also to raise awareness and perhaps provide inspiration for the approximately 1 billion women and girls experiencing, or at risk of, rape, beatings, murder and an endless list of other harm because of their gender around the world.
Dance like no one is watching
Eve Ensler aims for this One Billion Rising movement to take place through dance. At first I was sceptical, dancing? What could dancing do to relieve the suffering of women who have had to suffer violence in their lives? However these dances are a strike, to stand up and show in a peaceful way that the one billion women have a voice, a way to get people to pay attention when they are desensitised from hearing about violence through the media. Ensler argues that D
Dancing insists we take up space. It breaks the rules. It can happen anywhere at any time and with everyone. It’s free, it’s contagious and it spreads quickly.
V-Day, the day to be part of the One Billion Rising, takes place on this Valentines Day, February 14th. It doesn’t matter where you are from, what your gender is, what culture you live in any of the attributes that traditionally physically, emotionally or geographically separate people, it is everybody’s responsibility to stop the violence.
For those people in Dublin there will be flashmobs taking part in Dublin city centre and Dun Laoghaire. Everybody is welcome to join the flashmob, a tutorial can be found on the One Billion Rising Ireland Facebook page. For those who are less keen on breaking into spontaneous dance, if you are available, come along and show your support. If you cannot physically be there and would like to support the movement, you can like the international One Billion Rising community on Facebook. You can sign up for the V-Day newsletters and support their campaigns.
Another global movement that deserve attention is the UN’s Say NO to Violence which aims to end violence against women by providing a social platform to bring about mobilisation. If you want something closer to home check out Women’s Aid and the National Women’s Council of Ireland’s websites for how you can take part or keep up with their efforts.
Wherever you are this Thursday, stand up, dance if you can, strike, rise up against the violence. In the words of Eve Ensler “ENOUGH. The violence ends NOW”.