Indian activists dance during a One Billion Rising event this year in New Delhi (Photo: AP Photo/Manish Swarup
According to the UN, one in three women experience abuse from an intimate partner. That means that around the world, over a billion women are impacted by such gender violence. The startling statistic is what inspired the activist group V-Day to start the One Billion Rising campaign last year. The concept was simple: men and women around the world were called upon to demand justice for victims of violence against women by taking to the streets to march and, in particular, dance. In 2013, people in 205 countries participated, and buoyed by that success, V-Day is running the campaign again this year.
V-Day holds events each year on its anniversary, February 14. The organization was started by Eve Ensler in 1998, four years after she wrote The Vagina Monologues, a play that confronted issues of female sexuality, rape and sexual violence and was based on dozens of interviews with women. The play became a worldwide sensation — it has been produced in 140 countries — and the experience of seeing Vagina Monologues travel around the world inspired Ensler to start V-Day.
"I began to understand that this worldwide violation of women, this denial of desire or pleasure, this blaming of women for their sexuality when they are abused, is actually universal," she recently told The Guardian. "When you suddenly understand that violence against women is the methodology that sustains patriarchy, then you suddenly get that we're in this together. Women across the world are in this together."
V-Day's mandate is simple: to end violence against women. "We have to have an idea that it's possible to end this," Ensler told The Guardian. "Because if we all keep going around as if, well, it's just part of what life is, it's part of the human condition, it's who men are, it becomes permanently normalised."
In its 16 years, V-Day has put on performances of Vagina Monologues, produced a documentary called Until the Violence Stops, and started the City of Joy, a centre in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo set up to help victims of gender violence.
One Billion Rising events were held today around the world. In Canada, though, various cities held Women's Memorial Marches to honour and remember victims of violence against women. The annual event began 14 years ago to draw attention to the disappearance and murder of women on Vancouver's downtown east side. It has since grown into a national event. To respect the marches, Canadians were asked to hold any One Billion Rising events until March 8, which is International Women's Day.
Below you can watch George's interview with Ensler, in which the two discuss her fight to end violence against women.