Created by Eve Ensler, playwright and author of the famous play The Vagina Monologues, the V-Day global activist movement aims to raise funds to combat violence against women via artistic and creative projects. To celebrate its 15th anniversary, V-Day invited one billion people – this is the number of women victims of violence across the world, i.e. one woman out of three – to rise and dance on 14 February. In 2014 the campaign covered 160 countries with a new focus on justice for survivors of violence. Major places like Trafalgar Square in London became a dance floor to welcome the famous Break the chain dance. In 2013, numerous personalities were mobilised and joined the movement, like former UN Women Director Michèle Bachelet or the Dalai Lama.
François-Henri Pinault was the first Chief Executive Officer to announce his engagement in a video supporting the movement: “Time is getting short; it is time to rise and take action on the occasion of this international event involving both men and women. This is why I am asking you to join the movement and to rise too!” Kering brands, in particular Gucci and Stella McCartney, cascaded the One Billion Rising campaign on their corporate social media. An internal flash mob event was also organised at the Kering headquarters, involving one quarter of the staff members.
“As the chairman of an international company, it is my responsibility to raise awareness among our employees and stakeholders about violence against women.” François-Henri Pinault, Chairman of the Kering Foundation.
Eve Ensler is an American author, playwright and women’s right activist. She created the ground-breaking "The Vagina Monologues" whose success propelled her to found V-Day - a movement to end violence against women and girls everywhere and raise funds through creative and artistic projects. Last 14 February, through the One Billion Rising worldwide campaign, she invited people to celebrate women's strength by rising and dancing in the street.
(credits: Brigitte Lacombe)
Where does your commitment to end violence against women come from?
I am a survivor/ I know what violence does to women. I know how after you are raped or beaten or violated you spend your life recovering and surviving rather than thriving. I know how long it has taken me with generous resources to rise out of the self hatred and pain and i simply do no want any other woman to go through that. Women are the primary resource of life on the planet. If we maim, cut, rape, beat, burn, attack, undermine, sell, humiliate, destroy them, we do the same to our future.
You have been a women's rights activist for many years now, what are the main achievements you have noted since the beginning of your fight?
I think V-Day has been able to create a global grassroots movement in hundreds of countries. We have raised through our activists, 100 million dollars to end violence against women which has stayed in the local communities. We have broken taboos, we have changed and created laws, we have helped women recover from trauma and reclaim their power and bodies. And we have done it with theater, with art.
From your point of view, what are the main brakes and main ways of action today to fight against VAW?
I think the hardest thing we have to confront is patriarchy, the mindset of patriarchy which has been drilled for thousands of years into our body and cells and thinking. The objectification of women for mens pleasure, the ownership of women's bodies by men, the institutionalized inequality of men and women. I think we have to go at the problem of violence against women from many angles.
We must create laws and then fight to make sure they are applied, we must develop women leaders who have violence against women in the forefront of their agenda, we must make visible the intersection of violence against women with poverty, workers rights, racism, religion, militarization, homophobia, climate change.
We must expose a rape culture or mindset that treats women's bodies the same way we treat the earth. Men must join us in this struggle with the depth and intensity of our own commitment. I have never understood how this became a women's issue. It turns out we don't rape ourselves.
We must educate girls and boys at a young age in sex education and teach them what violence is and what respect is and what equality means.
We must make this issue the major issue of our time. If women thrive, everything thrives.
What is your strongest memory(ies) in your fight for women's cause during all these years?
One Billion Rising has been a truly amazing campaign. Witnessing and working alongside some of the most extraordinary activists and feminists in the world, seeing the depth of their commitment to revolutionary change seeing the diversity of the groups involved from migrant workers, farmworkers, artists. dancers, ministers, lamas, nuns, teachers, activists, students that cut across class, tribes, religions and countries. The clarity when women and and men, the one billion, rose and danced in 207 countries that violence against women was not particular to family or nation, but was a global epidemic. The strength, power and healing that arose from our numbers, from our solidarity, from our dancing from our pledges to go further and join more deeply in this struggle. I was in Congo and I rose with thousands. It was fierce and gorgeous. I have endlessly watched the thousands of videos, the brave women dancing in Mogadishu, the lone women dancing in her house in Tehran, the throngs in the major cities on every continent. The joy, tears anger and determination in peoples faces as they dance, the gorgeous movements of bodies of the world dancing dancing dancing dancing madly to be free.
Learn more about ONE BILLION RISING, click here.
Discover One Billion Rising documentary by Eve Ensler and Tony Stroebel, premiered at Sundance 2014 Click here
Discover One Billion Rising short film Click here
Discover "Break the chain" video procuced by Eve Ensler and V-Day Click here