A unique Valentine's Day and the One Billion Rising in India

According to the UN estimate the number of women who have been raped and violated in their lifetime stands at one billion. On February 14, when the whole world celebrates LOVE and observes the Valentine's Day, the 'One Billion' rises to stand against violence against women, for justice and to promote gender equality.

I have seen the face of violence. I know what trauma looks like. It is a cycle that continues in different manifestations. When it is fresh the manifestation is different, when it is old, the manifestation changes its appearance.It never really ends.The best way to deal with trauma from experiencing violence is to extend to those who have been there too, in some way- either experienced it personally or seen it happen to someone close(a family member, friend,colleague or a passer by).This year I did something to join the billion to take my personal stand against violence that affects women and girls globally. I resolved to celebrate 'One Billion Rising' every year and in the 'getting together' commit to spread awareness to as many girls and women who bear violence either at home or outside 'silently' for a sea of reasons. In this 'getting together' perhaps someone somewhere will draw courage to walk out of violence and confront it.

What is One Billion Rising and the year 2013 in India?

One Billion Rising is one of the biggest global campaigns to end violence against women and started with thousands of events held on February 14 in more than 190 countries since the year 2012 . On September, 2012 people from 160 countries signed in to be a part of the campaign against violence against women and on February 14,2013 the rally was held in more than 190 countries.

Last year, women around the world danced in a show of collective strength. I witnessed the large gathering of women and girls who flocked to the heart of my city, Bangalore (India) to claim their space in the celebration. It was a critical time in India with the death of the Delhi girl who was gang raped in a moving bus that drew millions of protesters on the streets in my country to demand for justice. Women from every strata was here, unwilling to be subdued by the rising crime against women in India.In the 50 metre long canvas, girls and women painted words that came pouring out of their hearts but the few that stayed on in my mind included messages like these:

\"Today we have come out on the streets to reclaim our lost spaces.Women want it back,what was taken from us.The city is as much ours as it is yours!!\"

\"The rush today is created by us women AND WHY NOT????\"

\"These are not mere words. These are my fears that I paint.\"

\"This is not a canvas.This is our thoughts. And our thoughts scream.\"

\" I am sharing what happened with us. Maybe now you will defend us better.\"

\" We will dance, we will sing and we will not be bogged down.We will set aside our fear and promise to not let fear rule us.
We will stand against the rising crime against women in India.\"

\"This time it was Nirbahaya(Delhi girl who was gang raped in a moving bus), who is next? Till when will we see this?\"

I remember striking a conversation with several women about their personal brush with violence, their journey, their thoughts on the rape cases that were increasing by the day. One woman, Ragini, who had travelled 100 kms to take part in this celebration, told me, \" I feel very strong and fearless right now. I just want to say that I am not scared of the recent happenings (Delhi rape and death of Nirbahaya in Feb) and I will not stop doing what I used to be doing before the crime against us women stepped up in our country. It is important at this point to transition from a woman who used to be fearful to a woman who is not!\"

Another woman who called herself Satya told me, \" I have never faced violence against me in my life nor anyone close to me, but I feel bad for women who have seen such misfortune. I feel for them. Women need to get together. We need to make other's sufferings ours to be able to take it out from our society !\" Many girls and women felt that if women and girls stand together in solidarity, they stand a better chance to resist the rising crime against women in the country.

I made an entry too. I used orange paint to write, \" We are together.Now we are stronger.\"

How did we celebrate One Billion Rising in 2014 in Bangalore?

This year at the Chancery Pavilion on Richmond Road in Bangalore between 7 pm to 11.30 pm women and men walked out and danced to rise up and demand an end to violence against women. The aim was to garner collective strength cutting across strata and borders and invite people to refuse to accept violence against girls and women, to refuse to participate in the status quo until rape and the rape culture ends.Supported and sponsored by several companies and individual donors, the programme saw participation from both genders.

What all happened in India?

Change.org launched its campaign as a global call for justice,a call to women survivors of violence and those who love them to rise, release, dance, and demand justice.Star and Indian Bollywood actor, Aamir Khan who had earlier voiced such issues through his debut TV show 'Satyamev Jayate', endorsed the campaign along with actress and Miss India, Gul Panag (Link: https://www.change.org/en-IN/about/one-billion-rising). It was observed in Punjab University on the theme 'rise against injustice' , in Jaipur more than a dozen cases of rape , superstition and witch hunt were heard at a public gathering, a short film 'Beyond the Viel' was screened by activists to end violence against women. In many parts of India, women rose to align themselves to the global need to come together to say 'no' to violence.

Anoushka Shankar in a video message disclosed she had been abused by a trusted friend of her parents over several years when she was a child. In her message speaks about her abuse and if she will ever recover. She said-

\"...........as a woman I find I'm frequently living in fear, afraid to walk along at night, afraid to answer a man who asks for the time, afraid I'm going to be judged or treated in ways based on the way I might choose to dress or the make up I might choose to wear, and you know, enough is enough. I'm rising for women like Nirbahaya(Delhi girl who was gang raped), for women like her, with the amazing women of my country I'm rising for the child in me who I don't think will ever fully recover from what happened to her.\"

And for this fear that resides in each and every girl and woman in my country, and the ever present threat to our safety, we RISE, WE DANCE and WE STAND FIRM on this day, February 14, 2014.

Urmila Chanam
A Social Development professional in HIV/AIDS, Gender Rights Activist &Journalist
Bangalore, India

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