Artists for One Billion Rising, India

Artists for One Billion Rising, India

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One Billion Rising, the global campaign whose creativity, energy and vision spurred the participation of almost every country in world, saw the people of India also rise to join the movement.

V-day, a global activist movement founded by Eve Ensler (author of The Vagina Monologues), was created with the intent of ending violence against women and girls. V-day celebrated its 15th anniversary on February 14, 2013. To mark 15 years of struggle against violence, they sounded a global call to action – One Billion Rising. UN statistics say that one in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime; that makes one billion women worldwide. V-day chose Valentine’s Day 2013 to call on these one billion women and those who love them to Strike, Dance and Rise; to walk out of their jobs, schools and homes, take to the streets and dance.

"Dance is dangerous, joyous, sexual, holy, disruptive, contagious, it breaks the rules. It can happen anywhere, anytime, with anyone and everyone, and it's free. Dancing insists we take up space, we go there together in community. Dance joins us and pushes us to go further.” Calling it a creative, non-hostile, inclusive expression of solidarity, a refusal to accept the status-quo of rape culture, Eve Ensler asked women to reclaim their space in the world through dance. “One billion women violated is an atrocity. One billion women dancing is a revolution.”

A video series, “I Am Rising”, featuring celebrities like Anoushka Shankar, Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, was featured on the Guardian in the run up to the event. People from around the world took the cue, sharing videos and photos depicting their reason to rise. Flash mobs danced to the theme song, Break the Chains, in many cities around the world.

Attending the event in Bangalore was moving on many levels: the huge turnout on a weekday afternoon, the support of the city police cordoning off roads and diverting traffic to create space for the dancers, people from different classes mixing together and dancing unrestrained, the presence of senior citizens lending support across generations, the participation of men, speaking out and dancing as enthusiastically as the women. The afternoon’s events included dance, singing, artists painting in the park, poetry, story-telling, drumming and zumba. As part of building awareness for the campaign, we emailed young artists from different parts of the country, asking them to illustrate for the movement. What we got in return was a response overwhelming in both generosity and creativity. From Delhi to Pondicherry, illustrations and posters poured in. The power that art holds, to reach people, to inspire and move them to action is a story witnessed many times over; we watched the support grow and the conversations gain momentum as these beautiful images were shared widely in online spaces.

Many thanks are due, to the people who helped organize the event and more importantly, to all the people who went back home and initiated conversations in their circles. That simplest, most effective first step at changing a mindset can also be the hardest and most daunting. So thank you, if you have. | Anisha Rachel Oommen.

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