There are now 7 billion people on the planet, roughly half of whom are women.
Recent statistics state that 1 in 3 women will be raped or beaten during her lifetime.
So even by low estimates, we are facing a worldwide epidemic of Violence Against Women that will affect -- no, devastate -- ONE BILLION of our mothers, daughters and sisters.
AND for every ACTION there must be an equal and opposite REACTION.
Eve Ensler and V-DAY have launched a massive international campaign entitled ONE BILLION RISING. Inspired by, and in sisterhood with, the wave of protests raging across South Asia today, One Billion Rising is part of the global REACTION to rape.
This V-DAY, February 14th, ONE BILLION OF US will rise up in towns and cities around the world. People like you and me, coming together to show their support for a different kind of world.
Because chances are, if you're reading this, you have been beaten or raped (at least once) or you know someone who has. You have survived, they have survived, I have survived- and now it's time to focus our energy into changing these odds for the sake of our daughters and their daughters to come.
To begin with, here is the ultimate fact everyone needs to understand:
WOMEN ARE INDESTRUCTIBLE.
For every woman killed by the fist, the stone, or the pyre, countless women wake up, stand up and join the movement to end Violence Against Women. Every senseless death must breed a thousand new warriors for change. They may be able to separate us individually and attack us on the streets, in our homes, in the courtroom... but once united, we form a force more powerful than rape that cannot be defeated.
FOR ONE BILLION RAPED, ONE BILLION MUST RISE.
And that's where you come in: Women, girls, men and boys.
Men and boys have a role to play in this movement too, especially men in positions of power. They can be models and teachers on how to love and support the women and girls in their lives. And every man should speak up and take action when a woman is being harassed, threatened or abused. Two-time Super Bowl Champ Jarvis Green has joined V-DAY's Call To Action For Men, setting an example of how male role-models can help us put an end to Violence Against Women.
We must also begin to look beyond the back alleys for the root causes of Violence Against Women and shed light on the places where impunity and complacency fester. Dr. Vandana Shiva does an illuminating job at unveiling the connection between violence targeting women and policies that disregard the role women play in the world economy. Reminding us "that the rape of the Earth and rape of women are intimately linked, both metaphorically in shaping our worldviews and materially in shaping women's everyday lives."
As an activist focused on the human rights of women and girls in war zones, I have seen more than my share of the destruction caused by rape and state-sponsored Violence Against Women. I have been made sick by it.
But one thing I learned from my sisters in the Congo, where nearly every woman I met had been raped, is that once the stigma is erased, once enough women have been ravaged and left for dead, what's left behind is courage and intelligence and an unbreakable strength that continues to rise... and we rise with a primal scream that roars "you're going to have to kill every last one of us to keep us quiet!"
And what happens when every last woman is gone? Mankind's future is wholly dependent on womankind and our wombs. By attacking women and raping little girls (you know who you are and now I'm speaking to you), you only add fuel to our firefight; you multiply our armies for justice and security; you amplify our collective furor.
The only end game I can see is either we win, and violence against women ends, or we die trying... and in both cases you lose. Checkmate rapist!
When I'm feeling distraught and consumed with grief from yet another gang rape on a bus, I turn instead to the stories of everyday heroines out there. These are the women waking up every day, putting on their armor and taking on the Goliath that is Violence Against Women. Women like those of La Ruta Pacifica in Colombia, whose groundbreaking direct actions join campesino, black, indigenous and urban women in massive mobilizations, or "rutas," held in locations controlled by armed groups who specifically target women. Or heroines like Radhia Nasraoui of Tunisia, who has spent more than 30 years standing up for increased legal protections for women, despite being consistently harassed, threatened and beaten.
These women, and thousands like them, are leading us out of this violent nightmare. Inspired by their will, their steadfast vision and their immense courage, I am motivated to rise up too.
Although I am in the relative safety of my home in the United States, women are being raped and abused in record numbers all around me! That sad fact should infect you like a parasite, and take up host in your brain, as it has in mine...until you can't help but get off the couch and join us in doing something about it.
Events and flash mobs are planned all over the globe! CLICK HERE to find the event nearest you, and GO HERE to learn the flash mob dance "Break The Chain" at home (also available for those with compromised mobility HERE).
Join us to add your voice to the Global Movement To End Violence Against Women. Just by showing up at an event, you are altering the course of history and making our numbers greater. If you can't get to an event, at the very least, SIGN THIS PETITION to tell the leaders of the world that Violence Against Women is deplorable and demand change now!
ONE BILLION RISING IS:
• A global strike
• An invitation to dance
• A call to men and women to refuse to participate in the status quo until rape and rape
• An act of solidarity, demonstrating to women the commonality of their struggles and their
power in numbers
• A refusal to accept violence against women and girls as a given
• A new time and a new way of being
We may not be able to win every battle, but together we will win this war.
Kiri Westby is a featured contributor to Be The Change By Ed and Deb Shapiro, with forwards by H.H. The Dalai Lama and Dr. Robert Thurman.
CLICK HERE to hear Kiri Westby talk about meditation and activism on Blogtalkradio.com