New Delhi, February 3, 2017: Over the last five years, the One Billion Rising campaign (OBR) has brought together over half a million young people, rural and urban women, men and a cross-section of communities from as many as 25 states and 300 districts. The numbers are also growing globally with 200 countries, including the eight South Asian nations, observing OBR Day.
As attacks on women and girls shake the country, OBR has emerged as a global platform that civil society, including community collectives, are using to amplify their voices to challenge structural injustices. The campaign has attracted large numbers of people who see it as offering an alternative paradigm through which to engage with the world; one in which the power of love and not the love of power is celebrated.
As recently as January 29, 2017, students of Karve Institute of Social Services who had planned to conduct an awareness campaign on ending violence against women, decided to make common cause with the OBR campaign. Explaining this decision, Neha said, “We consider it our duty and responsibility towards society and humanity to be part of this larger effort to raise awareness on the issue.” There are scores of such examples of youth groups and community collectives from all over the country joining the OBR campaign.
Affirming the statement, Kamla Bhasin, feminist, activist and South Asia Coordinator of the OBR campaign, spoke of how “OBR has expanded and deepened our friendships and networks locally and globally and enhanced our creativity. Moreover, this global campaign has strengthened our resolve and courage. During 2017, we will be raising our voices against the exploitation of women workers and reiterating our solidarity with them.”
This year, OBR Day will be organized at Central Park, Delhi on February 5, 2017 to raise consciousness and give expression to the ‘Rise’ of the billion movers and shakers through dance, theatre and music and thereby leverage the power of global solidarity and collective action. In fact, the many communities and groups that gather there will use various cultural and artistic forms to express their zero tolerance for violence against women and their solidarity with millions of women who are struggling to secure the rights they are entitled to as workers. The organizations who are partnering and shaping the OBR event will also take this campaign forward across bastis and settlements in Delhi and NCR, on February 14, 2017, to commemorate the day the campaign was launched in 2013.
On January 19, 2017, as part of a series of Risings bringing together art and activism, campaign partners held an evening of soulful music, spreading messages of peace, harmony, and love. Artists included renowned Sufi singer Sonam Kalra, Kabir and Baul musicians Shabnam Virmani and Parvathy Baul, as well as a student choir called Dhwani.
The success of the campaign lies in its ever expanding reach, which is bringing together diverse communities and groups from Dalits and disabled women to religious minorities; with each of the communities and regions adapting and customizing the event to ensure that they are grounded in their realities, concerns and priorities. This year, the focus of the One Billion Rising is on the active involvement of women workers, including garment workers and sex workers.
Speaking on behalf on a Sex Workers’ Network, Bharati Dey, Advisor, All India Network of Sex Workers said, “We face violence on a daily bases and it is not just from customers but also the police who exploit us because of the “illegal status” of our work. Sex workers should also be recognized as other women workers because this is what we do for a living”
Reinforcing the core values of the OBR platform, Shabnam Hashmi, activist stated, “The One Billion Rising campaign has been able to break barriers and reach out to a huge number of people who have not been part of any feminist and progressive movement. More importantly, it has ignited the imagination of the new generation.”
As part of the inclusive outreach, the OBR events will also focus on the engagement and participation of men as allies in the struggle against violence on women and girls.
“Patriarchy is damaging women but at the same time it is also damaging menwhich is very dangerous for them. Therefore, men must come out and dismantle patriarchy to save themselves as well as women. Patriarchy and hegemonic masculinity are a danger to all of humanity. It has become imperative to work with men to challenge both patriarchy and masculinity”, notes Satish Kumar Singh, Additional Director, Center for Health and Social Justice.
This year, OBR partners also joined hands with the activist collective “I Will Go Out”, which was a campaign against street harassment. Undeterred by the persisting discrimination and neglect, growing incidence of violence and the many threats and efforts to silence and shame them, women supported by men and children, are now showing their determination to reclaim spaces that were being denied to them by defying time embargos, reveling in the joys of the night, occupying the streets and demanding rightful access to public transport; thereby altering people’s perceptions of women as the weaker sex that must be kept caged within four walls.
The need of the hour is to focus on the various oppressive structures that affect women and girls: capitalist patriarchy, corporate media, mindless consumerism, cosmetic industries and exorbitant dowries. Therefore, the emphasis must be on questioning these and other frameworks that perpetuate the psychological and economic abuse of women.