Published: 4 April 2013

by Colette de Troy & Valentina Brogna, Regional Coordinators (European Women’s Lobby)

One Billion Rising was an exciting way of campaigning against violence against women. We used music and art, we danced and sang, using our bodies to protest and to occupy public spaces so that our message could not be ignored and could be conveyed in a positive, non-violent way. It was a great opportunity to rise for the eradication of violence against women for several reasons.

It was, first of all, a call on women to use their own body without shames and occupy the public space through dances. Women were asked, through their physical public presence, to assert their existence, their importance and their dignity: they were asked to take an active part within the public space. We all know that women cannot use public spaces as men do: a woman always has to pay attention to where she is walking, how she looks at men, how she dresses etc. This event let women be there and use the public space to express themselves and raise awareness about violence that many of them encounter in their lifetime.

One Billion Rising was conceived to raise awareness among women and to encourage them to speak up, not to feel ashamed if they have suffered from violence. It was an opportunity to invite them not to tolerate anymore and start denouncing violent behaviours and acts: “This is MY body. My body is HOLY. NO more excuses, NO more abuses”, the song tells us.

It was a call on men too (of course, perpetrators are for the vast majority men). Men were asked to acknowledge the existence of this worldwide movement against gender based violence and to take the pledge not to harm women. “Men who love women” were also asked to take an active part to the dances and events organised. In Brussels, men’s participation was welcomed and we had quite a lot of men, especially young ones.

The global nature of this festive event is also a feature to acknowledge as new and as a positive aspect of globalisation. We wouldn’t have had such a big success, hadn’t this festive idea been so widespread. Women (and men) all over the world were gathered on the same day to dance for the same cause. This produced a wonderful energy, as we knew we were not alone, we were billions dancing and expressing ourselves, affirming our importance and dignity, demanding respect.

The energy created by this worldwide initiative now cannot be wasted; it has to be conveyed towards better policies, namely better prevention, more certain punishment, better data collection and better protection for women who decide to denounce. Women must be sure that they are not alone in front of their aggressor; they have to perceive and be sure that the society is with them and that it is not them who have to feel guilty or ashamed for the violence suffered. Mentalities have to change and One Billion Rising can be seen as the biggest mobilisation ever contributing to this change.

One Billion Rising was thus a unique occasion to put the issue of violence against women again high in the media and, we hope, on the political agenda at all levels of decision-making. As part of the European Women’s Lobby, working every day to reach equality between women and men in Europe, we always bear in mind this political perspective. Changes in attitudes and policies go hand in hand and One Billion Rising is, for us, a big success but also an important starting point to build upon for a more gender equal Europe and a more respectful world.

Our Victories (what we have achieved through One Billion Rising in Brussels):

We have aided women to speak up and feel free to dance and sing to assert their dignity! We have helped activists, women’s associations and large public united to rise up and dance together against violence against women! We have brought men, especially young ones, to dance with us! We have encouraged local and international media to discuss again the issue of violence against women!