February 14 is more than just Valentine's Day. In Hamilton and across the world, it's also V-Day, a time used to raise awareness and work towards ending violence against women.
In Hamilton, McMaster University and the YWCA are hosting events all day to mark V-Day. Started 15 years ago as a way to raise awareness, V-Day this year is marked by One Billion Rising, an event aimed at bringing together 1 billion women across the globe in dance, celebration and reflection to end violence against women.
'In no way do we think that getting together and dancing is going to end violence. We're providing information and support, but women can also dance and feel that they're a part of civic engagement.'—Audra Petrulis, Hamilton YWCA
"The name came from the statistic that one in three women in the world will experience violence in their lifetime," Audra Petrulis, project coordinator at the Hamilton YWCA, explained.
"If you look at the population of the world, that works out to 1 billion women who will experience violence or already have."
The main focus of One Billion Rising is a coordinated dance routine, learned by community groups in cities around the world, as a symbolic message of healing and outrage.
"If we all dance together at the same time, 1 billion women, we can shake the Earth, literally and figuratively," Petrulis said.
The dance is just one small part of a larger conversation they're hoping to introduce in Hamilton. The events at McMaster, city hall and the YWCA today are also aimed at spreading awareness and giving women access to the resources the community has to offer.
"In no way do we think that getting together and dancing is going to end violence," Petrulis said. "We're providing information and support, but women can also dance and feel that they're a part of civic engagement."
The afternoon's activities at McMaster run until 6 p.m. and include a zumba class and belly dancing. There is also yoga and a reading from The Vagina Monologues at the Women's Centre of Hamilton, a flash mob at city hall starting at 5:30 p.m. and a dance party at Good Shepherd Women's Services centre starting at 5 p.m.
The day is not meant to circumvent Valentine's Day celebrations, but to work alongside them to get the community engaged, Petrulis said.
"Healthy relationships are great and we obviously want people to have them. I like flowers and chocolates too," she said.
"Because we're here in Hamilton we know it's happening here, and we really want to spread the word."