Can One Billion Rising End Violence Against Women?

Many Caribbean countries participated in the global One Billion Rising campaign. You can view photos from the events across the region and even add yours to the pool.

Barbados held two events:  One at the Cave Hill campus on the University of the West Indies which focused on sexual violence since three Caribbean countries are in the top 10 globally for rates of reported rape.  The other took place in the capital and featured collaboration among many women’s organisations, artists and UN WOMEN. The Bridgetown gained significant publicity in the mainstream media, particularly radio and press.  The following letter to the editor details the UWI event which was hosted by the Institute for Gender & Development Studies: Nita Barrow Unit.

Barbados might be interested to know that the UWI Cave Hill Campus also held a significant One Billion Rising event that mainly targeted students, but also involved staff in the audience and as performers.

I write this letter and hope it is published because of what emerged. Female students at the campus routinely face harassment, sometimes physical, on ZR vehicles. Some also continue to face the problem of voyeurism (peeping toms) in some private residences around campus. Obviously this is unacceptable.

The Cave Hill campus administration does what it can from what I can see, including establishing protocols and addressing safety issues. In fact, the event was hosted by the university’s Institute for Gender and Development Studies – Nita Barrow Unit as a means of gathering just such data.

Students testified, a Guild of students spokesman informed that the Guild’s position was zero tolerance on campus and off, one male students spoke touchingly of the solidarity he feels his colleagues should express to prevent not only physical but also emotional abuse of young women.

Staff members and students performed poetry and sang songs relevant to the theme of rejection of violence in all its forms, and the need for the embrace of more loving, respectful and self-respecting behaviours by men and women singly and collectively. One staff member spoke of the fact young men are themselves victims of sexual violence by other men, and this underscores the evident necessity for men to strongly support the eradication of this scourge.

Violence against women is a feature of vulnerability, especially when men congregate in even temporary gangs.

It is good to see the solidarity your paper offers in highlighting these issues. I certainly ask our community of ZR drivers, conductors, owners and the owners of private residences around the campus to join you in that solidarity and put measures in place to secure the young women using their services. It is just the right thing to do.

– Margaret D. Gill

Source: This article originally appeared in the Barbados  as a letter to the editor.

Guyana also hosted a significant One Billion Rising event in which many women’s organisations participated. There were events in St. Lucia, Grenada and Antigua as well.

A recent comment on the CODE RED blog called into question the political strategies of the One Billion Rising Campaign:

I wish every Feminist initiative, everywhere around the globe, wholehearted success.

But… I have a seeeerious problem with the “Let’s All Dance!” focus for the “One Billion Rising” event. Could someone tell me WHY – and in a way that makes pellucid sense to me, WHY Women, in their seemingly chronic male-designation as Abuse Fodder, would choose the carefree, spontaneous, *celebratory* act of …dance: to (somehow?!?) symbolize the One Billion Rising initiative?

The whole things seems miscued, somehow; it appears – at least to me, like some desperate psychological “buffer” being enacted by Women globally, to try to distance themselves emotionally from what I have NO FEAR in stating as The Harsh REALITY: i.e., WOMEN’S RIGHTS IS ON A STEADILY DOWNWARD CURVE!

Consequently, to “Dance While Women’s Lives are BURNING TO HELL…smacks oddly of a SIMILAR Roman initiative. Only I think the Ancient used FIDDLES to distract themselves whilst their Home-Space INCINERATED!!!

So – as they say in Showbiz: “Break a Leg!”


This Huffing Post article took One Billion Rising to task for a lack of feminist consciousness, a refusal to name the causes of violence against women in favour of feel-good dancing in which everyone could participate and a false notion of sisterhood which perpetuates racist hierarchies.

What do you think? Is One Billion Rising a celebrity-driven, white-feminist-saving-the-Third-World-woman danceathon/mediafest that lacks political edge? Or were local organisers able to “creolise” the One Billion Rising to make it meaningful for their communities as part of wider and ongoing efforts to address violence against women?

3 thoughts on “Can One Billion Rising End Violence Against Women?

  1. Patrice says:

    At a Caribbean feminist conference, during an energetic discussion about the various levels of activism, one of my feminist sisters reminded the group that not everyone could be all things to all people. I appreciated her very practical and candid reminder about the realities of feminist/gender-justice organising. In other words, not every action, event, initiative or strategy is designed to have the same impact or achieve the same goals. Each event is to be taken on its own merit, based on the goals it has set out to achieve.

    Take a feminist professor for example. His or her role is to influence students to bring a feminist eye to their world, predominantly in the educational sphere. S(h)e is not directly influencing policy or having bills signed into to law but she is influencing the way her students think about the word in terms of power and gender privilege. Because her work is only in one sphere, is it pointless?

    How about the parliamentarian that drafts a gender policy? Is the gender policy useless because it is a piece of paper and too removed from the lives of the people? Then there are the community activists. If they do grassroots work, but do not work on getting laws changed and policies enacted, is their activism a waste of time?

    In the same way, the One Billion Rising event, in my opinion, is not meant to be the be-all-and-end-all of gender-based violence activism. It has its own specific aims and its own specific goals and is designed to fulfil those goals. I think whether or not it fulfills its objectives ought to be the test of whether or not it was successful.

    One Billion Rising is meant to start conversations. In my experience so far, it has been doing that. People are asking about the event and this brings the issue of gender-based violence onto their radars. Regardless of their various feelings and opinions about GBV, at the very least, the discussion is being had. There is a good chance that, without something as striking as the world dancing, many of these conversations would not have been held.

    One Billion Rising is meant to raise awareness. In talking about One Billion Rising, I have had the opportunity to share information and statistics which have startled, alarmed and disgusted people. People are more aware and this awareness can impact the conversations they have and entertain, the political candidates they endorse, the demands they make of their leaders and the overarching climate of the country.

    One Billion Rising is meant to signify solidarity. Having citizens of approximately 200 countries rise up in any activity in partnership grabs the attention of the world and the mass media. Again this leads to heightened awareness.

    As for the dancing, I do not see the dance as a dance of ignorance and distraction. The dance is not to make mockery or to make light. Indeed, many of the dancers will be the women who are still burning. The originator of the movement herself burned physically and sexually at the hands of her father for years. I see dancing, especially as woman, as rebellious. So many political wars are fought on and around women’s bodies that, as a woman, taking control over your body and bucking tradition by moving it, wiggling it, shaking it, bouncing it and simply owning, embracing and enjoying its movements in that moment, can be a powerful experience.

    As I said above, I think each event has its own purpose and aims. Some events will be serious, some will be exuberant. Some will focus on statistics, some will address areas of psychological trauma, some will be the work of one passionate activist and some will bring the whole world together. Some will take place at the UN and some will be like Lady Godiva’s naked ride. Taken together, as part of a greater tapestry, we will effect change.



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