By Sandy Cohen
LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Thousands danced in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Hundreds chanted in South Africa, carrying signs and candles. The Philippines held a 24-hour dance party. Scores of students in India gathered for a candlelight vigil.
Organizers say these are among thousands of events taking place in 205 countries Thursday as part of One Billion Rising, an international call led by Eve Ensler’s V-Day organization to end violence against women and girls.
Ensler, author of “The Vagina Monologues,” announced the campaign last year, urging women and men around the world to walk out of work or school on Feb. 14, 2013, and dance to raise awareness of the troubling U.N. statistic that one in three women worldwide will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.
“It’s happening, and what we’re seeing is really huge uprisings,” Ensler said Thursday in a telephone interview from Congo. “It’s amazing because it goes from huge events like in Collins Square in London to six girls in a living room in Iran. That’s what’s so beautiful about it, like the whole world’s doing it in the way they can do it.”
International officials have also endorsed the event, including prime ministers of England and Australia, the president of Croatia, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who tweeted, “I rise with people of good conscience to stand up against intolerable acts of violence against women around the world. (hash)1billionrising.”
“The UN has officially endorsed it, and I think unprecedentedly they, at 12:30 today, stopped their work and had a rising at the UN,” Ensler said.
She added that the global event is “also impacting legislation and mindset and legislation,” citing legislative efforts in Britain for universal sex education.
“The pressure of One Billion Rising is forcing these people to have to say they’re going to do something about it,” she said.
Scheduled stateside events included flash mobs in San Francisco, a Zumba dance party with Jane Fonda in Los Angeles, a special program at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom featuring Rosario Dawson and Glenn Close, and a rally led by Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter Bernice A. King on the sunny streets of Atlanta.
The outpouring of participation surpassed even Ensler’s hopeful dreams. Widespread press coverage of the brutal gang rape in Delhi and the Taliban shooting of a 14-year-old Pakistani girl mobilized the world, she said.
“I think we all know that we’ve reached a moment where it has to stop,” she said. “It’s enough.”
Ensler is convinced that the global reach of One Billion Rising has achieved its goal of raising awareness of the worldwide problem of violence against women and will inspire leaders to act.
“I don’t think violence against women will get marginalized again,” she said. “I think it has moved to the centre of the agenda as of today.”