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Thursday February 7, 2013
United in one dance
By SHEELA CHANDRAN
The Body Shop and Women’s Aid Organisation are helming a series of flash mobs in conjunction with One Billion Rising, a global campaign to end violence against women.
ON Feb 14, The Body Shop and Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) will join women from all over the world for One Billion Rising, the biggest gathering organised by V-Day – the global activist movement to end violence and promote justice and gender equality for women worldwide.
The gathering of thousands of activists and women’s groups started off as a call based on statistics that one in three women around the world would be raped or beaten in her lifetime.
Equally alarming is the 2002 World Bank statistics reporting that women, aged between 15 and 44 years, are more at risk of rape or domestic violence than cancer, car accidents, war and malaria combined.
Of more concern is the United Nations Women annual report (2011-2012) showing that 603 million women still live in countries where domestic violence is not a crime and 2.6 billion have no criminal legal protection from marital rape.
On Valentine’s Day, Malaysians can head to any The Body Shop outlet nationwide and join the flash mobs (a dance called Break The Chain) along with celebrities and activists across the world to express concern and outrage against violence against women. Learn the moves at onebillionrising.org.
“People need to recognise that gender violence is something that happens every day, all around us. Nor is it something that is purely physical. When a woman has her handbag snatched or is verbally abused, these are forms of gender violence as well,” says The Body Shop managing director Datin Mina Cheah-Foong.
Cheah-Foong hopes the campaign will remind women from all walks of life that violence should not be tolerated.
“Gender violence cuts across countries and races, affecting the rich and the poor, the educated and uneducated alike. We cannot emphasis enough the need for homes, the workplace and public streets and places to be safe places for women,” explains Cheah-Foong, who was sold on the idea to host the flash mobs here after reading an inspiring article onOne Billion Rising by V-Day founder, playwright and activist Eve Ensler who wrote The Vagina Monologues.
The Body Shop is no stranger in the fight against gender violence. In 2000 – together with WAO – The Body Shop launched a nationwide campaign called Stop Violence Against Women. Four years later,Sixteen Days Of Activism – Speak Out campaign followed suit. In 2007, there was the 2km Walk Of Love – a campaign to raise awareness against violence. The following year, both organisations spearheaded the drive for Break The Silence On Domestic Violence.
The upcoming collaboration further cements the organisations’ zero-tolerance stand on domestic violence.
“By participating in One Billion Rising movement, we hope to enable our staff and tell women that violence is unacceptable. Women are empowered to speak up and stand up against gender violence,” said Cheah-Foong, whose company clinched the Prime Minister’s Corporate Social Responsibility Award on Empowerment of Women in 2010.
Despite growing measures to push for laws that benefit women, WAO executive director Josiah explained there needs to be greater efforts to combat violence against women.
In Malaysia, between 2001 and 2011, police statistics show that incidences of reported rape have increased from 1217 to 3301. There were 35,684 domestic violence reports from 2000 to 2010. There were also 20,783 reports on outrage of molestation in that period.
“We may have laws and police are in place but as long as men continue to abuse and harass women, there will always be a form of violation against women,” said Josiah.
A Billion Voices
One Billion Rising, held in conjunction with the 15th anniversary of V-Day, goes by the global theme Strike, Dance, Rise!
Over the years, the movement has served a catalyst to raise awareness, increase funds and generate broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation and sex slavery.
Ensler was inspired to launch this campaign after a series of extreme attacks on women became international headlines.
Among them is the horrific case of Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old Pakistani student shot in the head for advocating girls’ education. Adding fuel to the flame was the case of a 23-year-old medical student who was savagely gang-raped on a bus in New Delhi, India and died two weeks later.
“These are only a minuscule fraction of the unthinkable incidences that take place daily around the world – in numbers so alarming. The campaign will culminate on Feb 14, when V-Day invites one billion women and those who love them to walk out, dance, rise up and demand an end to this violence,” says Ensler in an article on womensmediacenter.com.
She adds: “Everybody can be a part of One Billion Rising. You can really make it as elaborate or as simple as you desire. You can dance in your backyard or organise a dance for thousands at your town square. But getting involved in it is stepping into One Billion Rising, stepping into the possibility of all of us shifting the paradigm and realising that another world is possible.”
So far, over 180 countries have signed on to take action and over 13,000 organizations around the globe are participating, including MTV, Amnesty International USA and International Rescue Committee, making it the most ambitious V-day campaign to date.
Aside from organisations, celebrities such as Jane Fonda, Rosario Dawson, Donna Karan, Charlize Theron, Dylan McDermott and Robert Redford are also activating their networks to spread the word on violence against women.
Locally, the theme is Expect Respect with an aim to raise awareness on the importance of respect for women and that women have human rights too, says Josiah.
“To add more significance, we are inviting women and men to participate in the flash mob. V-Day is equally special as it falls on Valentine’s Day. It serves as a reminder to look beyond love and romanticism and reclaim this special day and show love and respect to women,” explains Josiah.
Cheah-Foong hopes to mobilise as many Malaysians (men, women and children) to join the flash mobs being held at all The Body Shop outlets.
“It’s a convenient place for a gathering of a good cause. We want people to join us in a public expression and use dance as a communal effort to express the desire to support violence against women. Revolution starts with the mind,” she says, adding those who participate in the flash mobs will receive a token of appreciation from The Body Shop.