Jane Fonda is rising in Los Angeles. Miri Shalem is rising in Israel. Kristyn Wong-tam is rising in Toronto.
They are among an estimated one billion women who will get together in flash mobs all over the world to dance and express their outrage about violence against women, an action they describe as “rising”. They will wear red and black, and hold one finger high in the air to symbolize the one billion women who will be participating.
“It is in our stomping feet and uncontrollable hips that the path and the energy will be created to bring in a new world,” said playwright Eve Ensler, one of the organizers. “We will galvanize the will and the passion of everyone rising around the world to create change.”
Organized by V-Day, the global activist movement to end violence against women and girls, they have planned more than 2,000 events in more than 203 countries from the Congo to India to Gambia to Egypt to Israel. They say that one in three women will be beaten or raped during their lifetime.
That is more than one billion women in total – hence “One Billion Rising.”
California regional coordinator Lindsey Horvath told The Media Line that the initiative has already received international backing.
“The Secretary General of the United Nations has signed on to support us,” she told The Media Line. “The European Union Parliament did a flash mob in Brussels recently in solidarity.”
In each country, women face different challenges. In Israel, women from the mostly-religious town of Beit Shemesh were being told they must sit in the back of the bus, separated from the men. One little girl, Naama Margolis, was spat on because some of her neighbors said she wasn’t dressed modestly enough.
Miri Shalem, the director of a community center and member of a women’s council, said she and a friend, Liat Amar, choreographed a large flash mob against this practice.
“We saw the huge impact of the dance,” she told The Media Line. “We created a movement for social change.”
After widespread outrage, bus drivers were told they could be sued if women were harassed on their buses and the practice has abated.
Choreographer Amar said that although Israel is a Western country with gender-equality laws, 19 women were killed last year by their partners.
“It begins with commercials on TV showing women as sex objects,” she said. “The way that Israel treats women has to change.”
The campaign is making extensive use of social media. There is even a free app that posts video and photos from around the world.
In Izmir, Turkey, a YouTube posted shows women in a ceramics studio leaving their pottery to rise and dance. In Lebanon, about twenty young women move their hips sensuously. They will dance in the souk, the ancient marketplace of Beirut.
Actress Jane Fonda said she personally was affected by violence against women.
“I’m rising because my mother was sexually abused when she was eight years old,” she said in a YouTube post. “It damaged her life forever. She was never able to really love or not feel guilty and she killed herself when she was 42.”
In Canada, city councilwoman Kristyn Wong-tam hopes thousands of women will “rise.”
“Every six days a woman in Canada is killed by her domestic partner,” Wong-tam said in a YouTube video. “There are 3,000 women living in shelters. Over 50-percent of Canadian women will have experienced one incident of sexual or physical violence by the time they reach sixteen. Why would you not take action?” Africa has one of the highest rates of rape in the world. Eve Ensler will “rise” in the City of Joy, a center in the Democratic Republic of Congo for survivors of gender violence. According to United Nations statistics, the country with the highest rate of rape is South Africa, with 402 incidents for every 100,000 people. The UN cautions that many rapes go unreported and even the definition of rape is not universal.
One Billion Rising is asking the participants to take a pledge to do one thing in the next year to end violence against women.
“It can be a simple action, or a monumental one,” its website suggests. “It can be personal or political; it can be quiet or loud, but these actions –taken together – will create change.”
Organizer Lindsey Horvath doesn’t expect to get much sleep over the next 24 hours.
“This is a revolution,” she said. “Global action like this takes the conversation from the margin to the mainstream.”