One Billion Rising Global Coordinators – Reports from 2015

Fartuun A. Adan – Somalia

This year, V-Day Somalia was done in conjunction with the support of the government. We had MP’s, the Chairwoman for the Somali National Women organization in conjunction with district community officers who all attended the event in Mogadishu. Local women’s organizations alongside youth groups from universities came to celebrate and dance with us. Security was another challenge, thankfully we had no surprises! Moreover, the V-Girls were a hit and are becoming local celebrities, various media all came to the event and we were the primetime news in the evening. We also had an original Somali song created for the event called “1 Billion Rising.” Traditional dhaanto dance, alongside fire throwers and lively plays made it a wonderful VDAY!

Rada Boric – Albania, Bosnia And Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia And Slovenia

BALKAN REVOLUTION: Refuse The Status Quo To End The ‘Culture Of Violence’

Actors, TV editors, sportsmen, and rock bands in Zagreb supported the event on the central square by publicly expressing their commitment to end violence against women and by reading publicly the main parts of the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, requesting its ratification.

This request joined Croatian President Ivo Josipovic, who said that the ratification of the Convention unfortunately did not happen. This is the task of all politicians and it’s a big step forward, Josipovic said, adding that he is for the third year participating in the campaign, “dancing here with the same goal,” but that’s not enough because the state must do their job in preventing violence.

There was a revolutionary atmosphere and a lot of positive energy. Solidarity was created by drummers, rock musicians, and support of TV journalists, along with dancing groups and college students, to end suffering resulted by violence.

This year some regional police departments joined the campaign, as well as mayors, county perfects, Gender-equality committees in local governments, and NGOs and groups of women and man with disabilities, and more.

There is a growing interest within the young population to participate in OBR as well as men both as individuals and in groups.

Nico Corradini – Italy

This year risers were more motivated and committed and we saw an incredible increase of students and young people. The use of music and drumming was more “free,” spreading energy all over streets and squares. Not even rain could stop the risings in Trento Modena and Reggio.

This year we had little issues with police permission as almost all of local municipality know and “accept” (and support!) OBR events. Creativity of posters, music, drumming, tarantella, tammuriata, all kind of colorful dresses and artistic performances made 14 February an unforgettable occasion, harvesting energy, passion, connections, and new vision for this country and the entire world.

The message of “REVOLUTION” continues to be interpreted as a private and daily practice. It is being seen as more than a political issue against the system, rather a joyful commitment to overcome fears and laziness and to move in a new direction together. We believe that the action and the call itself ” Stop violence against women and girls” is easier to understand, capture, and assume as a political goal and it’s a strong seed that will expand in the coming years. Among other initiatives we’ll launch a project on March 8th to have 400 taxi drivers with banners on their cars saying, “Respecting women is my religion” (as was previously done as part of OBR in Deli).

Lynne Franks – United Kingdom

Our UK Love Revolution, which focused on healthy love and healthy relationships to take the place of the terrible sexual abuse against children and vulnerable young people which is endemic in British society, centered on a major Rising in London’s Marble Arch.  Singers, politicians, poets, artists, activists, women, men, young people and children danced, drummed and rose as one while the British media filmed, interviewed and quoted us as we planted the seeds for a new kind of British society based on love, not abuse of power and fear.

Colani Hlatjwako – Swaziland

“Women And Girls Leading The REVOLUTION For Peace And Justice”

The street of Manzini came to a standstill when women and girls in their festive attires filled the street singing and dancing. What was amazing is that the march was not only attended by women and girls, but Members of Parliament were also part of the March as well as men. This year was different because women from all sectors were represented. This included women living with disabilities, girls, artists and NGO’s. After the march there was a dialogue, where Members of Parliament committed themselves to push for the enactment of the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Bill also to make sure that in their constituencies’ women issues are made a priority and that women are protected. They also committed that next year they will make sure that they mobilize more members of Parliament to be part of the Rising. During the dialogue with one Member of Parliament, Honorable Jan Sithole took a moment to explain to everyone what a REVOLUTION means, he said he wants to clear any fears that people may have when they read the word REVOLUTION. He said in Swaziland we indeed need a REVOLUTION so that women and girls can be protected to any form of Violence or abuse.  Honorable Member of Parliament Mkhosi Dlamini, who was attending the rising for the second time, emphasized that it is time that women in Swaziland are given equal opportunities with men.  Women and girls applauded the way this event was coordinated and requested that it continue the following year.

Lindsey Horvath – Los Angeles, USA

As the entertainment capital, Los Angeles knows the power of art and creativity in creating REVOLUTION. Singer Goapele joined us in West Hollywood, actor Sufe Bradshaw & G. Hannelius joined us at LA City Hall, and artists, dancers, actors, musicians, and performers joined throughout the region to RISE for REVOLUTION. We are RISING for women in prison and homeless women and at-risk girls and laborers. We are RISING to change media and culture and attitudes and laws and communities.

We’ve had a weekend of revolution with events taking place all over Los Angeles, kicking off with a candlelight vigil service to remember the women and girls who have been victims of violence all over the world. A broad coalition of partners joined this year – Million Mamas Movement, the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the US National Committee for UN Women, It’s Time Partnership Summit, Compassion Games, Hollywood NOW,, Revolution Books, Peace Over Violence, A Place Called Home, A New Way of Life, Flash Mob America, UNITE HERE Local 11, CODEPINK, NCJW-LA, and many other organizations joined together to RISE for REVOLUTION.

Khushi Kabir – Bangladesh

Throughout the afternoon and evening, the crowd was free flowing through the area, and taking their time to watch and participate in the different activities happening. Approximately, at a single time more than 3000 participants must have taken the time to stop and be part of the event taking place at Shahbag.   Shahbag   has now become the central focal point for all protests, events and statements to be made. On the 14th February, this year, Shahbag was taken over by OBR.   Others including left political groups had to find some place sandwiched between us, or else others who are usually there, joined us.

Apart from the main event at Shahbag, Dhaka there   were events held all over the country. In almost all   towns   and boroughs/sub-districts, many different events were organized   by local groups. The full report will be sent as soon as we have collected all the information.

Whilst talking to a young political activist, a woman who was in the front lines of what we now call the Shahbag movement, the youth movement that took Bangladesh by storm from February 5, 2013 onwards, said that being a part of OBR for the first time this year was a learning and life changing experience. She realized how much easier and more effective it was to use such interactive methods to reach out to general masses and get them involved and interested in the issue than the normal political activism that is traditionally used by political groups. Yay!! I second that.

I do have to mention that this year was even more difficult than the previous years. The political situation has turned to an all time low. Strikes and blockades continue for months now, with people having to go out to work and carry on with their lives for their survival. The agitators, in order to terrorize them into staying at home, have started throwing petrol bombs on buses, cars, torching them and recently at all public gatherings, markets, streets, randomly at passersby. It was in such a grim situation that we arranged our events and despite the fact that if there were not this scare, we would have drawn much larger crowds, we did bring out the seriousness of our call as being totally relevant for today, in Bangladesh, in the global sphere. We got good coverage in the press, both electronic and print.

Marsha Pamela Lopez Calderon – Central And South America

OBR in the region has a very deep impact in educational systems, more schools, universities, and colleges got involved. In Guatemala especially we felt how the Judicial System is totally involved with OBR and really committed to work for justice in VAW cases! The local organization in each country has owned the campaign which means that this is not over but strong in each place. And a very nice things that is a phenomenon is that it has turn into a month long campaign for the violence against women awareness that goes from 12 February 12 until 8 March!

Marya Meyer – Miami, Florida

One Billion Rising Miami rEVOLution 2015

Downtown Miami roiled with activity for a full day of RISING on the Miami Dade College Campus with an ever-expanding community of leaders, public and private partners who are poised to change the tide of modern day slavery, supported by everyday people who are listening, learning and pledging to take the info cards with both WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW & WHAT YOU CAN DO, back to their neighborhoods and networks; believing what the State and US attorney’s office as well as Chief of Police shared—they cannot do it without us, especially stopping Child Sex Trafficking.

Over 500 high school and Miami Dade College students from across the city participated in panels about human trafficking and gender violence, fronted by cutting-edge law enforcement, attorneys and activists.

Over 60 Community organizations populated the plaza and we permanently “on stage” as the true center of change;  “infotainment” from inner-city male high school spoken word genius communicators, multitudes of dancers, drummers, singers, food trucks with empowered youth running them, personal power and space-awareness jujitsu, roving sociology lab, meditation with harmonium, songs from this year’s Best New Artist Latin GRAMMY Marina Vega, Mayor Tomas Regalado, Police Chief, Superintendent Schools and US Assistant Attorney, Barbara Martinez sharing “state of our city” information and declaring the need of the public to understand and act;  a mass picket march lead by Haitian Ra Ra band across Biscayne Blvd to the Friendship torch with One Billion Rising dancing flash mob choreographed with huge letters;   Original song MY REVOLUTION IS by OBR creative leader Lela Lombardo performed by extraordinarily diverse cast of performers, joined by the public and V-Man Albert Gomez leading the final Pledge where the entire crowd committed to Speak Up and much more…until Sex Trafficking and Abuse are HISTORY!

To the survivors who were there with us who dare to break through, we honor you and thank you in the name of all of those we hope will not be coerced because you spoke up.

As the nation’s top-rated School Superintendent, Alberto Carvalho, said to the crowd, “Enough is enough. It is on us to find a solution.”

Jessica Montoya – Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe’s Rising took place over 4 days and included youth, Veterans, local artists and survivors.

Our rising began on Thursday night with 90 students from Capital High School, who danced with such passion and joy they brought tears to many people’s eyes.

On Friday, we invited our community to join us at our State Capitol building, The Roundhouse, for Community Testimonials.  Members of our Legislature shared why ending violence against women is important to them, we had young men rise up to challenge other men to speak out, an Air Force Veteran survivor spoke of her sexual assault in the military thirty years ago and a survivor of human trafficking spoke for the first time in public. We ended with “Break The Chain” flash mob.

On Saturday, we invited our community to start our RISING on the Southside of our city with an art installation “Draw The Line” – in which they traced bodies on the concrete to illustrate the women harmed or killed by violence.  As we danced later in the day, we ‘erased’ those statistics.  Participants also wrote “Their Revolutions…” on our local traditional farolitos that served to spell out RISE.  Our program began with a poignant song performed by local college students of the cast of ‘For Colored Girls,’ local leaders in city government, survivors, men and Veterans for Peace recited the ‘Man Prayer,’ an all female mariachi group, Mariachi Buenaventura, played us into our 2:14pm flashmob.  As four local radio stations played “Break the Chain,” and local singer Krystle Lucero sang in both English and Spanish, six Zumba instructors lead the crowd that included high energy stilt walkers, in three renditions of the flash mob.

Our outreach to the marginalized and grassroots women of our community was incredibly successful as many thanked us for recognizing the need to host the event on the Southside of town.

The Rising continued with a photographic exhibition of the past two years One Billion Rising portraits and local college production #DyingToTextGary – an interactive exploration of love, obsessions, selfies and break-ups!  As we wound down after an exhilarating and powerful community weekend, we were proud to be on a panel after the screening of the Academy Award nominated documentary, The Invisible War, hosted by our Veterans for Peace.

It has been an extraordinary experience of community solidarity and serves as a reminder of the grassroots activists who inspire revolutionary acts of bravery every single day.  It moves me to tears to think of the many lives saved and the hearts touched just by a simple word spoken, a lyric sung or the beat of a drum during our event and this for me is truly a REVOLUTION!

Andres Naimes – Mexico

This One Billion Rising for Revolution has shown me that the liberal society can paralyze if it stops being auto critical. You can’t stop fighting for your dreams because life will not solve them for you. Mexicans have realized children are the key to having a violence free society. That’s why more than 500 elementary schools joined us to build a peaceful revolution. Change is inevitable. If not now… When? If not you… Who?

Dr. Isatou Touray – The Gambia

On Saturday, we witnessed in awe the Gambia rise, rise, rise for an end to violence against women, particularly calling for the elimination of FGM. Hundreds of women, men, and children joined us in this fight, and their spirit and determination left us even more passionate for this amazing cause.

Our revolution occurred in No Kunda, a village in Upper Badibou in the North Bank Region of the Gambia. The celebration was centered around Fatoumatta Dampha, a now ex-circumciser who has great influence in her region, so much so that her decision to drop her knife and protect the children in her community has influenced up to thirty other circumcisers and assistant circumcisers to do the same. This was her public declaration, one that will no doubt save hundreds of children from FGM, as her statement is causing a ripple effect throughout the region. She is brave, strong, and determined. This day was for her, and for all of the ex-circumcisers who have made the decision to join the fight against FGM.

Our V-Day was deliciously full of dancing, singing, marching, protesting, and RISING. A group from the village, including over 200 children, representative of the future empowered generation, marched to Fatoumatta’s home, and then ceremoniously proceeded back to the celebration grounds with her in tow. Once there, we danced, sang, and rose some more. Spirits were high, enthusiasm was bursting from all in attendance. We realized, without a doubt, that our fight was won. Because of strong women like Fatoumatta, FGM will end with this generation.

We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for instilling in us the passion of which our V-Day celebration was made. With your help and inspiration, many lives were changed for the better that day. Many lives were saved.

Attached to this email are photos from our celebration. Included is a picture of Fatoumatta, our stunningly fabulous ex-circumciser.

May we all maintain this enthusiasm and passion, so that everyday has the potential that V-Day has!

Monique Wilson – Hong Kong

Today was a really amazing and emotional day here in Hong Kong. Last year Erwiana, a domestic worker from Indonesia working in HK was severely tortured by her HK employer and was close to death from the cruelty and severity of the violence inflicted on her. At last year’s Hong Kong One Billion Rising for Justice event, thousands of migrant and domestic workers from all over Asia working in HK and migrant groups based in other countries called for Justice for Erwiana as part of their OBR call. Thousands of domestic workers took part. Because of the committed and steadfast efforts of the organised Filipino and Indonesian migrant groups in HK and in Indonesia, Erwiana’s case went to court and last week, her employer was found guilty. Last year as she lay nearly dying on her hospital bed, Erwiana spoke to the OBR risers at the event via phone. Today, a year later, after her victory in court, Erwiana was with us for One Billion Rising Revolution-  dancing with us all afternoon, our two Philippine OBR songs and “Break The Chain” all of which everyone danced over 16 times! The energy was amazing as migrants and domestic workers called for revolution and for an end to modern day slavery, forced labor export policies that exploit people for profit (all domestic workers pay hefty fees to their home governments), social exclusion, and called for social change so that one day they can all go back home to their families and not have to work abroad where they suffer other forms of violence. Over and over again migrant and domestic workers highlighted international solidarity.

We honoured Erwiana for her bravery and inspiration, for her courage to face her perpetrator and go through her public trial and re live all the pain and agony she went through. It was an emotional moment as all she kept saying to me as we embraced onstage was thank you to the solidarity and support everyone had given her. And true, equally moving and inspiring was the truly powerful and unbreaking solidarity her fellow migrant and domestic workers had given her. This was why the non stop dancing was like no other. It was joyful and militant, celebratory and radically empowering, and the collective energy it was harnessing was indescribable.

Erwiana danced with all of us, laughing and giggling, and it was so moving to see her happy and smiling and well, after remembering the horrific photos of her so severely beaten and tortured last year. In her speech she thanked all the fellow migrants and domestic workers for their support, and thanked One Billion Rising for the national and global solidarity it gave her.

At dinner tonight as we embraced to say goodbye, Erwiana invited us to come to Indonesia. She told she me is planning to organise a huge One Billion Rising Revolution event at her school where she is now a college scholar taking up economics. I looked around me, at her – a beautiful young woman with the most amazing spirit, and I looked at all my migrant Filipino and Indonesian friends, members of Gabriela and Migrante HK- many of them my friends from 15 years ago when we did “The Vagina Monologues” for and with the migrant communities here, and I thought to myself – for me this is the heart and core of One Billion Rising Revolution: the most marginalized voices at the forefront, their issues prioritized and made visible, the profound power of dance to empower and bring together people for a shared cause, both in joy and in militant rage, and the power and value of global solidarity- of knowing how profoundly we are all connected to each other. How other people’s issues are our own. Today, dancing with thousands of domestic workers in Hong Kong, from Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Nepal – and Rising for Revolution together with them to end modern day slavery- I am humbled and inspired to my core. They teach me what it means to deeply love and to truly care, and to stand fully side by side with each other for a future they dream and fight for: a future with dignity. This is revolution.

Monique Wilson – The Philippines

Global Filipinos #Rise4Revolution vs impunity, violence & poverty – Filipinos Rise for Truth and Accountability

For a third time in a row, Filipino women and their male supporters gathered en masse to mark the annual One Billion Rising (OBR) global event with drums a-pounding, furious community dancing, and a clarion call to decisively end violence against women and girls everywhere.

As the Valentine’s Day sun rose over Manila, hundreds of families struck yoga poses and sweated out in zumba dance rhythms at the Bonifacio Shrine in downtown Manila, and were joined later by throngs of GABRIELA activists and other women’s groups who earlier marched around the city demanding the Aquino government’s accountability in the prevalent brutality that victimizes Filipinas. The One Billion Rising Philippines campaign is led by the Gabriela Women’s Party and Gabriela – a National Alliance of over 200 grassroots women’s organisations made up of urban poor women, peasant women, women workers, youth, children’s alliance groups, migrant women and indigenous women.

The One Billion Rising Revolution demand is nothing less then a systemic change of structures that oppress women from different social sectors – and so its main call in Rising for TRUTH AND ACCOUNTABILITY -is a COMPLETE SYSTEM CHANGE.

The Revolution calls also include Rising and demanding an end to poverty and to all the neo liberal policies that keep poverty and economic violence and exploitation in place; demanding an end to militarisation, mining, sex and human trafficking, electronic violence, and labor export policies that force 600 Filipinos a day (80% of whom are women) to work abroad as domestic workers, nannies, caregivers; demanding an end to foreign intervention of the US and the Visiting Forces Agreement; demanding an end to contractualization of workers and demanding higher wages and work benefits; demanding an end to commercialisation of education, of privatisation of social services, of home demolitions and plunder of our environment – and of putting profit over people.

OBR dance mobs are also erupting to the 2015 OBR Tagalog song “Bangon sa Rebolusyon” in many different places nationwide, including Baguio, Naga, Daet, Legazpi, Iloilo, Tacloban, Kalibo, Cebu, Davao, Ilocos , Compostela Valley and all around the Philippines.

The days leading up to Valentine’s Day also saw advance flash mobs led by students in hundred of colleges around the country, such as the massive dancing by students and school administrators in St. Scholastica’s College.

Migrante International and GABRIELA chapters overseas also geared up to fill plazas in cities across the globe. In Hong Kong on February 15th a large gathering of migrant and domestic workers from the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Nepal held an OBR Revolution event, celebrating the court victory of Erwiana, the Indonesian maid who sued her employer found guilty of torturing her. In San Francisco, DC, Seattle, New York, and Los Angeles, Filipino-American groups led by Gabriela USA held dances with allied grassroots activists. Other Philippine migrant groups also held OBR Revolution events in London, United Arab Emirates, Doha, Japan, and many more are about to take place in other countries in Europe.

In all, over 250 Philippine Rise for Revolution events are being held from between February 10th and March 8th all over the Philippines and within Philippine migrant communities abroad – all carrying the call for SYSTEM CHANGE – RISING TO END VIOLENCE, POVERTY AND IMPUNITY – and RISING TO DEMAND TRUTH AND ACCOUNTABILITY. Part of the Revolution call for system change is the demand for the Resignation of Philippine President Aquino for his criminal neglect, exploitation and grave injustices inflicted on the Filipino people – with Filipino women and children suffering the worst forms of abuse.