One billion voices unite to end violence against women

According to an estimate, one in three women on the planet is likely to be raped or beaten in her lifetime. So on 14 February 2013, the 15th anniversary of Valentine’s Day, one billion women in unison across the globe, along with their well-wishers, hope to walk, dance, rise and demand an end to this violence. This historic day will see the collective strength and solidarity of women transcending all borders of caste, creed, religion and social status. It would be the clarion call to all women and men to refuse to accept and participate in any act of violence against women and girls and to end the rape culture.

Thousands of women, men and youth from all strata of society will come together on this day to express their solidarity for the nation-wide “One Billion Rising India Campaign”. The daylong campaign, will bring together a plethora of women’s organizations, elected representatives, legal luminaries, leading social movements, actors, artists, NGOs, academic institutions and individuals who will express their support for the campaign through songs, dance, plays, rallies and the sharing of experiences, to raise awareness on the issue of violence against women and children.

As the dawn breaks on 14th February over Kerala, the famous artist Sajitha will begin work on an art installation in the Durbar Hall ground, in Kochi. Aptly called ‘Strike, Dance, Rise in India’, Sajitha's work, will symbolize the inner power of the Indian woman rising towards a new beginning: rising to say 'End the Violence'.

In Lucknow, over 30 women’s organizations and groups will come together for an ‘Odhani Ka Parcham’ (banner of the scarf), signifying freedom, in tandem with poet Majaz’s plea to women (written more than 50 years ago) to make a banner or flag out of their veil-- Tere maathey pe yeh aanchal bahut hee Khoob hai laikin, Tu is aanchal sey ek parcham bana leti to achchha tha (although your veil looks nice on your forehead, it would be better if you make a flag out of it). Women and girls, along with like minded men and boys, will march together the streets of Lucknow fluttering their odhanis (scarfs) in the air-- singing, dancing and performing street plays--signifying freedom from  violence against women. This great rising will culminate in submitting a memorandum  to the government which include demands like the creation of fast track courts, presence of women police personnel at all times in all police stations, facility of online filing of first information report, installation of cameras in public buses and proper implementation of the Domestic Violence Act. Elsewhere, across the state, women and girls will use various art forms to express their feelings on the campaign theme –‘Enough! No more Gender Based Violence Against Women’.

In Ahmedabad, dancer Mallika Sarabhai will perform the traditional garba dance with more than 20,000 men and women at the Sports Ground, Gujarat Vidyapeeth. “We chose the Garbha not only because it is a traditional dance form but also because men and women do the Garbha together and men do not lead this dance. Men and women both lead it. We want society to be the same-- led by women and men, "she explained.

Mumbai’s Bandra Fort will see dalits, lesbians, sex workers, transgenders, and several Bollywood celebrities sharing their thoughts and experiences on the theme, ‘Why I am Rising’ and performances by the Odisi Dancer, Jhelum Paranjpe, protest rappers and other movement singers. In Andhra Pradesh, the state wide campaign will include the Andhra Rural Rising, where lakhs of women and men from 20000 villages, Self Help Groups of women and MNREGA workers will take a pledge, sing songs, take out a rally through their villages to end discrimination and violence against women.

In Bhopal, cutting across ideological and party lines, a rainbow coalition comprising members of leading social movements (like the Narmada Bachao Andolan, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathana, Khedut Mazdoor Chetana Sangath); women’s organizations; student bodies; NGOs, academic institutions and individuals will come together, along with actor Shabana Azmi and the chief Minister, at an event titled ‘Bol ke Lab Azad Hain Tere’ (speak as your lips are free). Testimonies of grassroots workers representing Dalits, Bhopal gas victims, women living with disability, survivors of domestic violence and custodial rape, and those who are leading the struggle against hunger will also be heard alongside cultural performances by the Baiga and Bheel tribal groups.

Shillong will celebrate the campaign with a cultural evening marked by myriad expressions in the form of songs, dance, traditional drum beats and chants to highlight the demand to end violence against women and children. Live bands will perform at the event and there will be also a flash mob and a signature campaign. In the capital city of New Delhi, the highlight of the campaign will be a cultural event which will see performances by a flash mob of over 100 people, plays and dances on Violence Against Women, and songs by community women and commitments by eminent activists. The event will also be addressed by activists like Kamla Bhasin and others.

And in Pune, as the sun sets on this day, thousands of women will throng the streets, in a symbolic defiance of the patriarchal social tradition that expects women and girls to be back home by 7 pm. they would rise and strike collectively at all that is reprehensible to the dignity of womanhood.

So all ye women arise, and be the winds of change that you want to see. Let your odhanis flutter in the air as the flag of your freedom, and not become a noose that throttles your existence. Let the deafening noise of one billion voices hit hard the deep slumber of the perpetrators of violence and force them to put an end to all atrocities.

Shobha Shukla - CNS
February 2013

(The author is the Managing Editor of Citizen News Service - CNS. She is a J2J Fellow of National Press Foundation (NPF) USA. She received her editing training in Singapore, has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP and taught physics at India's prestigious Loreto Convent. She also authored a book on childhood TB, co-authored a book (translated in three languages) "Voices from the field on childhood pneumonia", reports on Hepatitis C and HIV treatment access issues, and MDR-TB roll-out. Email:, website: