Around 3,000 people are expected to gather in New Delhi’s Parliament Street this Saint Valentine’s Day to raise their voices in support of women’s rights.
But it won’t be a regular rally: There will a flash mob, a street play and music performances – just to name a few of the events that are part of the Delhi chapter of a global campaign called “One Billion Rising.”
It’s no coincidence it’s happening on Feb. 14. The campaign’s founder, playwright Eve Ensler – best known for her play “The Vagina Monologues” – has long been trying to make it a key day in the campaign to end violence against women.
Ms. Ensler first launched “One Billion Rising” last year. Since then, the campaign has taken root in over 200 countries with the help of local activists.
In India, the initiative comes at a time when women’s rights have become a pressing issue. The brutal rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman on Dec. 16 shook the country, bringing people onto the streets to demand better policing, stronger laws against sexual-assault and tougher penalties for crimes against women.
“We need to establish a global link on these issues relating to violence against women. What happened in Delhi received more attention because here there was a lot more media hype about the case. But, this is a national outcry,” says Kamla Bhasin, a women’s rights activist who heads the campaign in South Asia.
Reecha Upadhyay, an activist who helped organize “One Billion Rising” in Delhi, said she felt the need to join the campaign to keep up the momentum for women’s rights triggered by that rape case. She feared it was “going to die down” otherwise.
Over 80 women’s rights organizations in India are involved in the campaign, mobilizing grassroots support for Thursday’s many events – which are taking place in cities across the country: Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Lucknow, Chennai, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad.
In Delhi, most events are happening in Parliament Street.
Highlights include flash mob dances happening in various parts of the city throughout the day. Participants are set to meet in Parliament Street at around 5 p.m. for a last, collective performance. Organizers are expecting up to 3,000 people to show up. They will be dancing to a song titled “Jaago Dilli Jaago,” Hindi for “Rise Delhi Rise,” composed especially for the event. (Click here to listen to the song.)
A convoy of women taxi drivers – from a women-only cab service called “Sakha,” or friend – is also expected to reach Parliament Street around that time.
After the group dance, artists including classical musician Vidya Shah will also be performing there. A theater group called Asmita is also expected to take the stage.
Other events will take place elsewhere in the city. In the morning, Delhi University is hosting a street play competition inspired by the theme of violence against women. Elsewhere in the campus, there will be performances by famous dancers like Maya Rao and Navtej Johar.