It’s 14 years since we started V-Day. We made a determination that we were going to end violence against women and girls. It was an audacious and almost absurd idea, but we committed to it. We believed we could change human consciousness and make the world a place where women were safe, free, equal, with agency over their bodies and futures. This determination fueled our work with urgency, possibility and wild creativity. It was not about magic (although uttering and hearing the word “vagina” has brought inexplicable transformations and occurrences). The work was practical and painstaking. Thousands of activists volunteered their time and talent and energy year after year. They put on theater that broke taboos, got some arrested, others censored, that raised money and attention. They did this at colleges, in churches, in Parliaments, in offices, in factories, in community centers. They did it in Ithaca and Islamabad, Manila and Manchester. In 140 countries. They did it in solidarity and collaboration with thousands of awe-inspiring local groups and leaders whose daily work was on the front lines in community shelters and hotlines, fighting for laws and policies, advocating and healing.
The work was about brave women survivors breaking their silence, telling their stores, risking their lives and helping others to do the same. It was about holding perpetrators accountable and ending impunity and speaking back to governments and international elites. It was about calling out racism and colonialism. It was about developing trust and partnerships with male allies. It was about putting the issue of violence against women smack in the center of the conversation, culture and media. It was about turning shame to strength and pain to power. It has been an extraordinary 14 years. There have been many victories.
But we have not ended violence. Today 1 out of 3 women in the world — more than 1 billion women — will be raped or beaten. As economies collapse and the 99 percent struggles with less and less, as global warming increases, and fires, floods, drought abound, the violence against women and girls increases. They become targets. They become commodities, sold in many places for less than a cell phone.
And as we succeed, our victories attract a more virulent resistance. As we get a foothold on our rights and power, the push back from the patriarchal minorities in every country becomes stronger and more dangerous. The recent Republican campaigns in America are examples of this — a very organized and devious attempt to undo VAWA, and the outrageous and mystifying Blunt Amendment, whose aim is to overturn birth control benefits.
We must escalate our efforts. Now is the moment. We must be as disruptive and loud and determined and organized as the small groups attempting to set us back. We must come together, in energy and solidarity, and make a determination to go the distance. We must stop being polite and behaved and find new inventive tactics to shift the paradigm. We are the majority. We literally hold the future in our bodies.
This month I was in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo, where I had the privilege to witness the graduation of the first class of City of Joy, a revolutionary training, healing and leadership center for women in the Congo who have suffered the some of the worst atrocities in the world. I watched the group of women who I met 6 months earlier — women who when they arrived at City of Joy, were traumatized, sick, full of self-hatred, muted, and exhausted. At graduation they were reborn: strutting across the stage, self-possessed, giving speeches without notes, passionately and effectively speaking truth to power, demonstrating proficient and instant knockout self-defense moves, reciting poetry. They were rising in front of us, their determination contagious and insistent.
In honor of the women of Congo who are rising in the face of the impossible, V-Day is calling the 1 billion survivors of violence on every continent of the planet to join and RISE. On February 14, 2013, we are inviting, challenging, and calling women and the people who love them to walk out of their homes, schools, jobs to strike and dance. To dance with our bodies, our lives, our heart. To dance with our rage and our joy and love. To dance with whoever we want, wherever we can until the violence stops. We know our brothers, husbands, sons and lovers will join us in the dancing. Imagine 1 billion women and those that love them dancing. Imagine us taking up space, expanding our borders and possibilities, expressing the depth of our desire for peace and change. Dancing, 1 Billion Dancing. The earth will surely move and violence against women and girls will end. Because it can.
Join us at onebillionrising.org and follow us on Twitter @Vday: #1billionrising.
Follow Eve Ensler on Twitter: www.twitter.com/eveensler