A definitive advance for women’s struggle

By Satur C. Ocampo
At Ground Level | The Philippine Star

An altogether different way to celebrate Valentine’s Day occurred last Thursday simultaneously in over 170 countries, including the Philippines. The unique celebration was a gigantic project. It took a year to drum up the campaign to get a billion women, as well as men and children, to participate.

I refer to One Billion Rising (OBR), the global campaign that called on women and those who love them “to strike, dance, and rise” on Valentine’s Day to end violence against women. The main event here was held along Tomas Morato St. in Quezon City, with counterparts in the cities of Baguio, Cebu, Davao, and Dumaguete and in Los Banos, Laguna.

Curiously, whereas the build-up to the OBR was given publicity in the local media, when it happened neither news report nor photo coverage appeared the next day in two major newspapers.

Elsewhere, these reports courtesy of The Guardian:

• Women in countries ranging from Somalia to Australia took part in OBR. In Afghanistan women protested through the streets without being dispersed. In Egypt they danced in five events; in Ethiopia women and girls called for change; in India tens of thousands joined rallies and dance events.

• In Germany, events unfolded in 126 cities. In England, Parliament debated on sexual relationship in education and Prime Minister David Cameron twitted about OBR.

The campaign has etched a historic mark for the women’s movement. It got over 5,000 organizations to join, won backing by the United Nations Secretary-General’s Office, plus the endorsement cum support of progressive religious ministers and a wide spectrum of groups, professionals and celebrities in different countries.

OBR has scored a definitive advance — of varying degrees and extent, to be sure, from nation to nation — for the women’s movement against violence, and for justice and gender equality.

Salute the women who conceptualized and carried OBR through to its realization. No matter whether a billion people did participate or not.

Main credit goes to Eve Ensler, the playwright-activist who authored the celebrated play, The Vagina Monologue. Its staging play in many countries (including the Philippines) served to convince millions of women to sign up for OBR.

Fifteen years ago Ensler organized V-Day, the worldwide movement aimed at ending violence against women. (A website says the “V” in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine, and Vagina).

Through the years, V-Day has acted as catalyst for conceptualizing and promoting events to foster popular awareness on women’s issues (such as rape, battering, incest, female genital mutilation in some African countries, and sex slavery). It has raised funds and helped reinvigorate anti-VAW organizations.

In 2012 alone, the movement sponsored 5,800 benefit events.

Among V-Day’s organizational accomplishments in Africa, Middle East, and Asia are the following:

1. It opened the first shelters for women in Egypt and Iraq;

2. Held annual workshops and three national congresses on VAW in Afghanistan;

3. Sponsored a conference of South Asian women leaders called “Confronting Violence”; and

4. Founded Karama, a program that brought together women’s organizations and related formations in Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan, and Lebanon.

The OBR was timed to crest on, and to highlight, the 15th anniversary of V-Day.

Its agitational lines declare:

• One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.

• One billion women violated is an atrocity.

• One billion women dancing is a Revolution!

Eve Ensler gives her own assessment of V-Day’s successes and continuing challenge thus:

“We have broken taboos, spoken the word “vagina” in 50 languages in 140 countries… (Yet) we had to escalate our efforts to break through the patriarchal wall of oppression and denial, to transform the mindset that has normalized this violence, to bring women survivors into their bodies, their strength, their determination, their energy and power and to dance up the will of the world to finally make violence against women unacceptable.”

In the Philippines, the campaign to end violence against women has gone beyond the context in which V-Day has promoted it. Mainly through the initiative of the women’s coalition, Gabriela, and its partylist Gabriela Women’s Party which has authored anti-VAW legislation, the campaign has been expanded to cover broader social, economic and political-military issues.

As a Philippine STAR front-page photo last Feb. 13 shows, local OBR stalwarts stage actress Monique Wilson, QC Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte, actress Angel Aquino, GWP Rep. Luz Ilagan and several others, vowing to end violence and poverty, held posters containing the following calls, among others:

“Rise against the sellout of our national patrimony and sovereignty!”; “Scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement!”; “Rise for the victims of violence against women and human rights violations!”; “Rise for genuine agrarian reform!”; and “Rise for education for all!”

“When we rise against violence,” explains GWP Rep. Emi de Jesus, “we want to show up primarily state-instigated violence — all of the government policies that open the gate for Filipino women to experience different forms of violence.”

On the call to scrap the VFA, she asks: “Why do we allow the use of Philippine soil for (US) military exercises when we are not associated with their wars of aggression?” So aptly put.

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E-mail: satur.ocampo@gmail.com
February 16, 2013

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