One Billion Rising, One Billion Radiant

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By Mags Z. Maglana

The Point Being

Friday, February 14, 2014


CHANCES are today's fare in mass and social media would include accounts of the horrendous traffic situation in key Philippine cities, difficulties in getting seats in restaurants and entertainment places, the ridiculous cost of roses and other flowers, and the spike in hotel bookings – all occurring largely because of the confluence of three events. Valentine's Day 2014. On a payday. And on a Friday.

But hopefully, there would be more news and commentary about how women, men and children from all over the country came together to join the international campaign One Billion Rising for Justice, more known as One Billion Rising.

The campaign encourages women survivors of violence, their communities and advocates to mass outside places where women ought to be able to expect justice but often do not. But more than just massing up, the One Billion Rising call this year is to "rise, release, dance and demand justice" because as the campaign organizers put it "we cannot end violence against women without looking at the intersection of poverty, racism, war, the plunder of the environment, capitalism, imperialism, and patriarchy. Impunity lives at the heart of these interlocking forces."

As many of us now know, the campaign identity is based on the United Nations analysis that one in three women in our world will be subjected to sexual and physical violence within her lifetime. This high figure translates to one billion women harmed in a world with a population of seven million; hence the call for one billion women and men who will rise up to challenge global violence against women.

One Billion Rising invites people to envision justice for survivors of gender violence in their area. In the Philippines, our imagination entails addressing but also going beyond locating violence against women in intimate contexts, making ensure that State accountability is upheld.

The Center for Women's Rights (CWR) reports that there are 37 laws, executive orders and resolutions in the country that are directed at protecting women and advancing their rights. Nevertheless, Filipinas do get violated.

CWR, in their March 2013 Karahasan Laban sa Kababaihan at Bata report, listed seven forms of violence against women and children in the country - rape and incest, sexual harassment, domestic violence, sex trafficking and prostitution, lowly paid and vulnerable livelihood, lack of/weak access to medical and other social services, and repressive acts of the State.

Accounts of rape are jarring enough as they are, but more so when agents of the State who are supposed to protect citizens are involved.

The same CWR report noted 10 incidents of rape/sexual assault in 2012 where the alleged perpetrators were from the military and police; a number of the victims were in their teens.

Monique Wilson, World Director of One Billion Rising, has been working with GABRIELA and other groups in Southern Mindanao, to make the 2014 One Billion Rising a bigger mass action than it was in 2013.

I find it vital that the One Billion Rising call to rise, release and demand justice is intertwined with the invitation to dance. Eve Ensler, playwright and performer of the famous play The Vagina Monologues, and Monique Wilson remind us "dance is both a personal and collective action - the purest and most powerful expression of art and activism."

I am reminded of the slogan "Bread and Roses" derived from the speech of union leader and feminist Rose Schneiderman who said, "The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too."

There are those who would reduce us to only one aspiration - be it economics, religion, politics or ideology. But the truth is we aspire for a fullness of life that cannot be met by only bread, or in our case, only rice.

In the poem "Bread and Roses," we are reminded that "Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;/ Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!" And so in the face of violence, we dare dance, we must dance.

James Oppenheim who was inspired by Schneiderman's speech to write the "Bread and Roses" poem began by saying "As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,/ A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,/ Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses/ For the people hear us singing: "Bread and roses! Bread and roses!"

One billion women, men and children rising on February 14 are one billion women, men and children radiant with justice against the dark and gray.

Email feedback to magszmaglana@gmail.com

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 15, 2014.

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