We would like to say a huge, collective thank you to activists and groups around the world, for the incredible global risings that took place on and around 14 February 2014, and for the risings taking place throughout Canada and the world tomorrow on International Women’s Day. We thank everyone for going deeper into the justice issues in each community, city, and country, for coming together to address impunity, for gathering and dancing together to show our collective strength and energy in our demand to end violence against women and girls. We thank you for all of your amazing creativity, artistry, energy, courage, and determination.
As global coordinators, we are in awe of the work that you did to deepen the campaign in your communities, and humbled by the broad and committed engagement. Through your work we saw multiple sectors coming together to demand justice, and we saw coalitions being formed and led mostly by grassroots activists who have been doing the work of ending violence for years. We thank you for affirming what a global solidarity movement truly means – people coming together for a uniquely local, yet shared global vision of a world where women can one day live with equality, freedom, respect, and dignity.
As International Women’s Day approaches – and risings continue to take place – we would like to share highlights of a few amongst the hundreds of Risings from 14 February. We encourage activists all over the world to keep Rising for Justice until the violence stops!
– Rossana Abueva, Fartuun Adan, Sajjad Akbar, Iman Aoun, Abha Bhaiya, Kamla Bhasin, Nicoletta Billi, Rada Boric, Delia Cohen, Nico Corradini, Anne-christine d’Adesky, Jason Day, Ines Eichmuller, European Women’s Lobby, Laura Flanders, Allison Gars, Fahima Hashim, Karin Heisecke, Colani Hlatjwako, Lindsey Horvath, Khushi Kabir, Marsha Pamela López Calderón, Dianne Madray, Marya Meyer, Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende, Elena Montorsi, Naomi Mwaura, Andres Naime, Mbachi Joyce Ng’oma, Mathamkaze Ramakau, Pat Reuss, Nighat Rizvi, Nyasha Sengayi, Zubeida Shaik, Ivana Smith, Thea Tadiar, Hannah Tarindwa, Isatou Touray, Mily Trevino-Sauceda, Karabo Tshikube, and Monique Wilson
In Bangladesh, despite the political turmoil in the country which lead to a total stoppage of work until after the elections on the 5th of January, the focused theme of justice meant that local mobilisation and organisation was more evident as communities rose through theatre, petitions, rallies, human chains, and more on specific, local incidents of violence against women which have not yet seen any form of justice. Indigenous communities took the lead where they were present, and the most marginalised communities were at the forefront in all the other areas. Reports from the most remote areas are still pouring in however it is already evident that the response was phenomenal throughout the country regardless of location and funds. Our reports say that over a hundred thousand people organized One Billion Rising for Justice manifestations all over the country, which is not counting the thousands more who participated in the events. In Dhaka and other district towns, there were a number of programs and human chains surrounding the courts. Three cases where impunity continues to reign were highlighted as being the national focus. One, the abduction of Kalpana Chakma, indigenous leader of the Hill Women’s Federation in the Hill Tracts in 1996 by military forces and where an investigation report is still pending prior to the case being taken up for hearing. Second, the young journalist physically assaulted by fundamentalist forces, a case ignored by all and not taken up as yet. And lastly the rape of a Hindu women during the recent spate of religious bigotry.
Prior to 14 February, the campaign highlighted local transgender survivors of acid and other forms of violence, and on the 14th these women joined the various groups participating in One Billion Rising, including survivors of violence, garment workers, and survivors of fire and collapse of factory buildings where cases are still on and no redress given either by the retailers or buyers nor the Industry, nor the Government.
In Bangladesh it would be absolutely impossible to take part or organize unless inclusion of the excluded, marginalized, those who have been subordinated were prioritized. The One Billion Rising manifestation was for that moment in time, a great social, class, and gender leveler. The fact that One Billion Rising is a global campaign brought forth the fact that women all over the world faced the same situation regarding the lack of justice and that people need to mobilize collectively, make a loud noise to get heard, to get justice delivered. The media, both electronic as well as print gave wide coverage to the rising and the campaign.
The theme of “Justice” for the Cross Regional Coalition groups of the Caribbean assessed the need to look at the development of many of the laws put in place to help women and children and the realization that there were many deficiencies and weaknesses in the justice system for implementation accounted for by lack of qualified professionals, inadequate resources to train and remunerate officers, and staff, along with out-dated systems and practices.
For example, Guyana has the Act No. 7-THE SEXUAL VIOLENCE ACT-2010 but unfortunately since its design and creation no sustained effort has been put in place for its implementation in the Police Curriculum or other designated agencies. Women in abuse situations have disappeared before court hearings or during violent abuse, and there became a desperate need to put in place the “Missing Person’s Act.”
St. Lucia on the other hand has NO SEXUAL VIOLENCE ACT. There are 400-600 students to one counselor per secondary school, and no counselors in the primary schools. We put forth a call to action asking for: more trained counselors to address the issues of trauma; training in sensitivity and confidentiality; the creation of better de-briefing avenues for school counselors, and more education for counselors on how to better deal with juvenile delinquency and at risk youth. The impact of One Billion Rising provided many of our Caribbean women to unite in a Cross Regional Coalition. Standing together and beginning to recognise that change will not come unless we UNITE. This movement allowed everyone to review the Caribbean Communities who remain in an awareness-raising stage in a “Rape Culture” causing us now to recognise that rape culture and gender based violence can NO LONGER be IGNORED.
Since February 14 I have noticed that the word VAGINA is developing some comfort level in social media conversations. Through these conversations it is scratching past the surface to eventually bring about a change in attitudes and behaviors. This movement allowed so many of us to recognise the theme “Rising for Justice” and understand that by standing together as Collated Regional Teams from around the Caribbean we can create a VOICE for the Caribbean at large.
‘Rise for Justice’ events took place in Panamá, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Venezuela, República Dominicana, and Brazil, with a total number of 60 One Billion Rising for Justice events taking place across the region.
Guatemala is one of the few countries in the region with specialised crimes of femicide and violence against women judges, so people danced in the parking lot at this court that has over 300 judges. The event, which saw a Supreme Court judge dance alongside local activists, lead to the creation of a Special Cabinet for Women in Guatemala.
A huge rising also took place at Paseo Cayalá where 2,000 students of all ages and from different schools danced. At the school the human rights advocator for youth rose with the students and opened a phone line dedicated to deal with calls regarding violence against women in an anonymous way to keep women and girls safe. More risings took place all over the city, in parks and in schools. A flashmob took place at the Lawyers National School creating the V-Lawyers network – envisioned to deal with cases of violence against women and girls.
Other highlights from Central and South America include:
One Billion Rising for Justice 2014 gave women’s groups an opportunity to focus on ‘institutional violence.’ During the event, Ombudsperson for Gender Equality as well as President of the Republic spoke about an inefficient judicial system when violence against women and girls was in question, underlining that there would not be progress in the country unless women and men are treated equally. Women’s groups prepared and read a Protest letter to the Croatian Judiciary demanding justice for women victims of all forms of violence, including justice for women survivors of sexual violence during the war/conflict in the 90’s. There is ongoing debate on support and reparations for women who were sexually abused during the war and we demanded that newly proposed law adequately address women’s needs -provide psycho-social support to them and their families as well as proper financial reparations.
Media coverage has been extraordinary –almost all TV stations covered the event, and prior to the event different programs hosted our coordinator and members of the organisational team to talk about the issue of violence against women and justice and to present One Billion Rising. Presence of the President of Croatia, City Mayor, Ombudsperson, women from Croatian Parliament, popular sportsmen and actors gave additional symbolic value to the event. The main city radio transmitted the whole two-hour program live and contributed with their popular ‘masters of ceremony.’
Economic injustice was specially underlined in our demand for justice, due to a deep economic crisis in Croatia, with austerity measures additionally affecting women workers. The One Billion Rising campaign gave space to women workers’ voices who lost their jobs and working places due to the ‘transition of capital.’ Former workers of textile factory Kamensko, known in Croatia for their protest by hunger strike, joined the campaign.
One Billion Rising brought this year women’s and civil society organizations and individuals who otherwise do not/would not cooperate on regular basis (dance studios, volunteer’s firefighters, members of the Green Party, etc). The campaign gathered organisations and activists creating an inspiring community that enjoyed regular weekly meetings while preparing the event, sharing creative ideas, information and enthusiasm. All together more then 20 local organisations joined the February 14 event in Zagreb.
The One Billion Rising 2014 India event took over the entire nation with an amazing sense of energy. It brought out the best talent and creativity as well as a deep commitment by large sections of various communities. People of various religions, multiple Sexual identities, different ethnic/ tribal groups, as well women and men spread throughout rural areas of the country, came together for this campaign and provided a fundamental shift. The new dimension also included auto rikshaw, and taxi drivers thus the outreach became more extensive as well as crossed the class, caste, and gender divide. The most extensive energy as well as display of public presence came from school and college students all over the country. The media events such as street plays, flash mobs, and press conferences gave nationwide publicity. The number of participants has been mind boggling. In many cities and rural areas people came out in the thousands on the street. The participation of men also saw a definite increase from 2013.
The Public hearings held at multiple sites ensured intersectionality of economic, social, and familial justice. The inclusion of issues of minority identities, displacement due to big dam, mining projects, and corporate plundering also became central issue in many parts of the country. Conscious efforts have been made to establish links with various types of injustices found in the society and how the issue of violence against women is made worse due to displacement, mining, migration, armed conflicts, capitalistic-monopolistic economic policies, shrinking opportunities of earning livelihoods, unresponsive behaviour of establishment, erosion of traditional crafts and skill sets, ethnic cleansing, targeting of minorities, racial supremacy etc.
Because of One Billion Rising, newer and stronger forays have been made. Capitalizing on the experiences of the past, people have been able to include many new groups and strengthen their relationships with existing partners. For instance we have been able to reach out to newer constituencies like ethnic tribes, the LGBT communities, differently abled people, sex workers, students of technical and physical science departments, schools of women’s studies, auto rikshaw and taxi drivers, health workers of government programmes, literacy resource centers of government supported programmes, and students from various schools/colleges/universities.
Furthermore, groups have addressed issues emerging from changing the socio-legal framework in the country and how the issue of justice is still elusive for a majority of people facing violence and discrimination.
On February 14 2014, more than 150 Risings took place in 119 cities in Italy. Compared to 2013 we felt an increase of self-awareness and motivation, more solidarity, the need and joy to share stories and facts with other countries and cultures. Young people and students shared thoughts of the larger meaning of Justice: respect, value, guarantee for equality and social justice, pointing EDUCATION as crucial starting point.
One Professor from Palermo wrote:
“In order to stop violence, injustice, discrimination and abuse of power it’s necessary to change the culture that generates it. School text still describes Mums at home baking cakes while Dads owns the Family.” A relative of a survivor of violence was also quotes as saying: “In the courtrooms victims are exposed with a second “murder”, as they go through shrinked procedures, reductions of punishment of the abusers, minimal consideration of civil rights. We need a Justice which is not dedicated to the slaughters but driven by the respect of the ones who have been deprived of life.”
In Lesotho, a rising activity for young women of Lesotho was organised after realising that young women often lack a space where they can talk about issues affecting them in this country. The activity was held at Teyateyaneng in the district of Berea. The rising activity was kick started with the performance of The Vagina Monologues followed by the story cycle of violence against women and girls whether suffered directly or indirectly. There was also a motivational speaker/pastoral counselor invited in this space and she began by giving her own testimony of the abuse she encountered in her first marriage. What was evident from the stories shared was the fact that they have no trust in the system of justice in Lesotho or that by disclosing their stories publicly they could get any form of justice. For the first time they appreciated the importance of speaking out against violence as a strategy to end violence against women and children and claiming justice for women as economic injustices are very common to women and girls in Lesotho.
‘Rise for Justice’ events took place all over Mexico, addressing the issue of human trafficking as one of the main themes of their One Billion Rising for Justice campaign. Thousands danced in town plazas all over the country. The rising at the Mexico City Alameda Park that took place on Saturday February 15th resulted in the closing of one of the major prostitution dancing halls in the city. Because of the campaign, one girl who had been missing was found, after her photo was seen at the Rising at the Alameda. Another highlight of the Mexico Rise for Justice event was the engagement of the House of Representatives – who all danced the One Billion Rising dance as they promised to do everything in their power to end human trafficking. The government also committed to making Mexico City a violence free zone for women and to make human trafficking a priority issue that needs to stop. New organisations joined the campaign this year, and the catholic churches were also very supportive. Norma Bastidas, the “fastest woman in the world,” began her “run to stop human trafficking and for One Billion Rising for Justice” last March 1st – starting in Cancun and ending up in Washington DC in 50 days.
One Billion Rising for Justice in Lima saw nearly 50,000 people pack the city square – and it has been ten years since the square was packed. The square stayed full from 6pm to 1am, another historical feat – with people from all sectors of the city rising and dancing and demanding justice. The participation of so many groups from so many sectors has changed the culture – from football players wearing One Billion Rising t-shirts at their games, and construction workers committing to treating women with respect and putting an end to sexual harassment on the streets. Risings took place all over the country, with the involvement of so many men and youth groups. Over 50 major women’s and human rights organisations also joined the campaign.
At the forefront of the One Billion Rising for Justice Philippines campaign was a call for justice for the victims of the storm Haiyan/Yolanda that left thousands dead and millions displaced, highlighting the escalating risks of trafficking and prostitution of women and children because of poverty. The campaign called to task the President of the Philippines for his criminal neglect of the survivors of the storm. Nationally coordinated efforts led by the Gabriela Alliance of grassroots women’s groups took place all around the country – with militant, political protest justice actions taking place in the morning outside various places of injustice – the Supreme Court, Department of Foreign Affairs, The National Housing Authority, The Department of Education, The Japanese Embassy for justice for the comfort women, and the Presidential Palace among others.
On the day, over 150 Rising events took place around the country, and before February 14th over 100 lead up ‘Rise for Justice’ events took place on the streets, in mining sites, schools, garbage dumps, prisons, factories, in urban poor communities, and outside women’s hospitals that were being shut down in the name of profit and privatisation. In the afternoon and evening of February 14th, all over the country cultural performances, rallies, and marches took place also highlighting the other justice calls of the campaign – rise against corruption, rise against militarisation, rise against price increases of basic goods that affect women and their families, rise against forced labor, rise against exploitation of workers, and rise against privatisation of public services that deny women and girls basic rights to health and education – among many other political calls.
Student across the country led their “Rise for Education” campaign – where they demanded “NO prostitution for tuition”, and “No to commercialisation of education” which denies young girls a right to quality education. The Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) – one of the 15 strong One Billion Rising task force members made up of grassroots groups from various sectors alongside Gabriela (KMU women workers, Migrante, Salinlahi and Arscea children’s advocacy group, Center for Women’s Resources, ACT Teachers party, Lila Pilipina Comfort Women, Women’s Ecumenical Church Forum, Amihan peasant women, Gabriela Youth, UP Gender Diliman office, National Union of Students of the Philippines and the People Surge group of storm survivors) also held ‘Rise for Justice’ events in Congress, including the Pledge for Justice campaign engaging Congressional representatives to pledge to end violence against women in their constituencies, and the ongoing ‘Dialogue for Justice’ initiatives where GWP leaders go into communities to discuss the justice issues facing Filipina women.
The One Billion Rising for Justice campaign brought to the forefront all the intersectional issues that continue to perpetuate the violence being done to women and girls – poverty, economic exploitation, environmental injustice, corruption, militarisation – and brought huge media attention to who the grassroots women’s movement consider to be the main perpetrators of the continued state instigated violence: the Philippine government led by the Philippine President Aquino. The justice calls are being sustained through a vast series of actions throughout the upcoming year.
Narrowing down the focus of the 2014 campaign to ‘demanding justice’ for victims and survivors of abuse ensured that the increasing violations against women and children are elevated to global platforms of political and social discourse. It is a well recorded fact that violence against women and children is a social ill not removed from other environmental influences. What the One Billion Rising Global Campaign allowed for was a more thorough examination in each region of root causes and issues directly contributing to this malevolence. In South Africa the high unemployment rate, extreme poverty, and excessive substance abuse, especially the alarming increasing rate of drug abuse, repeatedly reared its ugly head during community outreach. So did the high levels of intolerance of people with diverse gender identities, a moral decay that is eroding the value of human life, resulting in actions that one can never find any logical, plausible explanation for. Including the rape of babies as young as three months old, grandmothers beyond the age of eighty being brutally raped by their own grandchildren, or daughters and sons being sexually abused by parents, siblings, and others charged with the responsibility of protecting their innocence.
The collective effort of coordinators and supports throughout the world placed greater pressure globally – on government agencies in particular – to be more transparent and held them directly accountable for the disdain with which most victims, survivors, and their families are treated. In South Africa alone, a marked increase in persecutions with harsher sentencing was witnessed and welcomed over the past few months. Although much work remains, there is no doubt in my mind that the One Billion Rising Campaign of February 2014 has caught the attention of policymakers, raised the level of conscientiousness of ordinary South Africans, and left an irreversible mark on the psyche of those who have for years remained apathetic.
One Billion Rising for Justice 2014 gave Swaziland an opportunity to focus on the justice issues that impact women’s lives (mostly grassroots women). This campaign has brought about issues that were ignored by the country and the society at large. Part of the issues that One Billion Rising brought about are issues of justice regarding domestic workers, extra judicial killings by game rangers, domestic violence (this include issues of widows property grabbing, rape, the rampant killing of women by their partners, and the issue of minority status of women). It was the first time in history to see women taking up issues that affect themselves, without having organizations talking on their behalf. This attracted the media and it spread all over the country. We got coverage in the local TV station (Swazi TV) – this is our only TV station. These were discussed in our only radio station (Swaziland Broadcasting Information Service (SBIS). We also got coverage in our two local print media houses (Swazi Observer and Times of Swaziland).The event was graced by legislators, traditional leaders, and lawyers for human rights, as well as directors from local NGOs. It was amazing to hear a Member of Parliament in his remarks saying he will make sure that in the 10th parliament of Swaziland he will push the agenda of women issues. Despite that, in Swaziland only ONE woman was voted into parliament from the 55 constituencies in the recent elections. Traditional leaders committed themselves to bring change in as far as women’s issues are concerned. In Swaziland traditional Leaders are the custodians of culture and this culture is often used to suppress women and girls.
On 14th February, 10 local organisations were part of the rising with information desks. They shared what each organisation is doing and how they can assist women in ending violence against women. They all committed themselves to the OBR campaign.
One Billion Rising has helped us as women in Swaziland to realise that change will only happen when we come out as a team and work together. As a result, a women’s movement called Swaziland Women in Action was formed. This is a group of women from the different sectors of the country who have vowed that they will never allow violence to happen to any woman in the country. This has brought back the spirit of sisterhood. Any woman who has been violated is supported by this group which is comprised of feminist activists from the different sectors, including lawyers, teachers, nurses, women from workers unions, social workers, and ordinary women. The group travels around the country to raise awareness on different issues that affect women. Swaziland Women in Action has created a plan of action for the whole year leading up to February 2015.
In trying to address some of the issues, a domestic workers union has been formed and employers have been engaged to address the issues that affect the domestic workers. This has gained huge support from government in the ministry of labour. In addition the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (which is one of the organisations which supports the One Billion Rising for Justice campaign); is currently conducting a campaign on extrajudicial killings. A task team from different organisations has been established which will be spearheading the campaign. They have requested that this is made to be part of the One Billion Rising for Justice Campaign, since they believe in solidarity with the international world.
Over 50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr changed the conversation of our country when he spoke of non-violence and civil rights. On February 14, activists, leaders, and citizens of Atlanta including Hispanic, Latino, African American, White, Transgender and more gathered at The Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, the spiritual home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to have a conversation about today’s most pressing human rights issue: violence against women and girls. Local leaders in areas of sex trafficking, domestic violence, and policy educated, informed, and alerted us to the status of these issues in our city and what we can do to effect change. We expanded the conversation to include sixteen inter-sectional leaders who are working with justice issues including incarceration, environment, voting rights, and immigration. We were all stunned to learn that in our state, Lumpkin county is home to the largest private detention center in the country, where only undocumented immigrants are detained with no access to pro-bono attorneys or legal representation of any kind. There is limited medical care, no mental health care, insufficient food, clothing, and hygiene supplies and cruel and inhuman treatment. We are committed to expose this issue to our community.
We were proud to join together on the stage two local International organizations working daily on the core issues of violence facing women and girls, Bernice King, CEO of The King Center and Karin Ryan, Senior Project Advisor Human Rights at The Carter Center. Thousands gathered together to RISE, RELEASE and DANCE in solidarity to end violence against women in girls in our city, our state and our world. One Billion Rising for Justice in our community is today and everyday!
One Billion Rising for Justice 2014 gave South Florida a powerful opportunity to focus not only on the known justice issues in our community, but also the harsh realities of a booming and horrific business of human trafficking, sex trafficking (rape slavery) and, particularly child sex trafficking in South Florida. Media coverage has been extraordinary and we are grateful that a sincere effort is being made to expose and address this relatively hidden, commercially thriving business of injustice. The media shined a bright light on these issues around the Rising, and have credited One Billion Rising for helping bring attention and growing the conversation. State Attorney for Miami, Katherine Fernandez Rundle expressed that she believes that this is just the kind of support necessary to enable the administrations to become continually more aggressive in their work.
One Billion Rising charged us with assessing what the salient women’s justice issues were locally and so, in conjunction with The Women’s Fund of Miami, we gathered activists and organizations together to create a community conversation that was so energizing and well received that it has now been made into a monthly gathering where resources and issues can be shared. Additionally a full 30 local organizations joined the February 14 Rising, with informational tables, conversation, and literature that showed locals what they can do, empowering the entire community and taking away the sense of helplessness when facing the realities of continued violence. Immigrant issues for Haitian and Latino communities were at the forefront and were particularly addressed.