According to a 2003 study by UNIFEM, now known as UN Women, and a 2008 study conducted by the UN Secretary-General, one in three women worldwide will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. Given the current population of the world, that translates to one billion women who will be sexually or physically assaulted. One billion women. When I first heard that statistic it made my blood run cold. One BILLION women.
American playwright and activist Eve Ensler has taken that number as a call to action, and has organized One Billion Rising in response; a V-Day initiative that demands an end to violence against women through a day of action, dance, and rising up against the rape culture that permeates our societies and allows these crimes to continue. On February 14th, 2013, the 15th anniversary of V-Day, women and men from over 197 countries will raise their voices and declare that one billion women is one billion too many. The violent and horrific attacks on women that occur every day in every country of the world must stop, because the destruction of women’s bodies and souls is destroying the very foundations of our humanity.
I have always greatly admired and respected Eve Ensler, because in writing The Vagina Monologues, she dared to put on stage all that is wonderful, complicated, joyful, and horrific about being a women in today’s modern world. She wrote bluntly, yet compassionately, about women’s dreams and aspirations, our fears and our insecurities, and in doing so, she gave women the world over a chance to find their voice, to stand up, and to be heard. Not content with mere performance, Ensler took the money generated from The Vagina Monologues and created V-Day, a worldwide movement that fights for the rights of women and girls all over the world; a movement that has been a monumental force for change in the journey towards gender equality over its 15 year history. Sadly, recent global events show that true gender equality has a long way to go.
Maybe that is why Ensler writes on the website for One Billion Rising that she is over it, because after years of advocacy, education, and activism, women and girls in every country still live in fear of being raped, beaten, or assaulted every day. I don’t blame Ensler one bit for being over it, because I’m over it too. I’m over being told that I don’t have any sense of humour when I take offence at sexist jokes. I’m over having my opinions and actions invalidated because of my gender. And more than anything, I am over reading these horrific statistics and wondering when the odds will turn against me. One billion women is a disgusting and inexcusable number, and the time to stand up and demand a better world for women and girls is now. On February 14th, stand up with One Billion Rising, make your voice heard, and demand that one billion women will not have suffered in vain.