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Indian women celebrate One Billion Rising

Posted on Feb 14, 10:10PM | IBNS

New Delhi, Feb 14 : With the collective conscience of India awakened by the fatal Delhi bus gang-rape incident of last December, the worldwide One Billion Rising movement for women's rights and safety found a new meaning in India on Thursday on the Valentine's Day with women, men, young and old coming together to regain the public space for the fairer sex as they sang, danced and made themselves heard.

The One Billion Rising movement that was started by playwright and activist Eve Ensler brought out thousands on the streets of India with national capital New Delhi, which witnesses one of the highest cases of violence against women, taking the lead in what seemed like a celebration of womanhood.

"Break the silence to end the violence. This is the message to the whole world," said Ranjana Kumari of Centre for Social Research at the gathering.

Kamla Bhasin, who leads the movement in South Asia, said patriarchy is dehumanizing women and urged all women and men to come forward.

"We are claiming what rightfully belongs to us," said another old woman activist.

In Kerala, people participated in the movement at the Durbar Hall Ground in Kochi city. Popular singer Usha Uthup will lead the campaign here with the 'Strike, Dance, Rise' theme.

"Artist Sajitha Shankar will showcase an installation on the occasion. Over 30 organisations that include women's forums, residents' associations and others have joined hands to form the Joint Women Forum that is behind the show," The Hindu reported.

In Mumbai, a programme has been arranged in the evening.

"Lets strike, dance and rise, bandstand and amphitheatre today 5:30 pm onwards," One Billion Rising: Mumbai Facebook page said.

Similar events were oprganized in other India cities like Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Jaipur.

"Chennai will make Kolams (mandalas made with colors on the floor) outside their homes. For One Billion Rising, Kolams will be made all over Tamil Nadu to celebrate love and justice and equality," One Billion Rising website said.

Apart from India, women across 200 countries across the world participated in marches, singing and flashhmobs added momentum to the campaign.

Events were organized in different cities like Sydney, Singapore and Manila as part of the movement.

"Australia & New Zealand: Over 100 events are planned over the two countries, with Maori women in Auckland Rising and Aboriginal women in Sydney leading a healing ceremony and flash mob in a sports stadium," said the One Billion Rising website.

Speaking about the events organized in UK, trhe website said: "United Kingdom: There will be over 200 events including dance parties, rallies, flash mobs and art festivals from Bristol to London to Norwich and more. There will be a dance rally on the steps of Parliament, and an event at City Hall. A red London double decker bus will bring people around London to attend various events during the day."

Flashmob dances were organized at Manila park in the Philippines.

Several celebrities, including legendary sitarist late Ravi Shankar's daughter Anoushka Shankar, have supported the campaign this year.

Pertinently, Shankar, an accomplished sitar player herself, in a video message through online petition site change.org said she suffered sexual and emotional abuse by a man as a child whom his father and mother trusted.

Calling the abuse of women as enough is enough she said: "As a child I suffered sexual and emotional abuse for several years at the hands of a man my parents trusted implicitly. Growing up, like most women I know, I suffered various forms of groping, touching, verbal abuse and other things I didn't know how to deal with, I didn't know I could change."

"As a woman I find I am frequently living in fear. Afraid to walk alone at night, afraid to answer a man who asks for the time... and enough is enough. I am rising, for (the Delhi rape victim) and women like her. I am rising with the amazing women of my country. I am rising for the child in me, who I don't think will ever forgive and recover from what happened to her," she said.

"So join me, lets rise, lets dance, let us transform ourselves, let us transform the world," the 31-year-old sitarist who is now based in London said on change.org.

Supporting the movement, several celebrities shared their thoughts on micro-blogging site Twitter on Friday.

Actor-activist Shabana Azmi posted: "Women must transform the very notion of Power so it becomes about sharing of power for real change- not about powerful wielding power over weak."

"NOT SAME BUT EQUAL. Women n [and] men r [are] different n [in] this difference need to b [be] celebrated. Women ven [when] empowered shud [should] change the very notion of power," she wrote.