Notes from the Field

Bangladeshis Join V-Day’s One Billion Rising to End Violence Against Women

March 6, 2013

For International Women’s Day, the UN declared 2013 a “time for action to end violence against women,” as the theme of the annual global event. In the lead up to IWD, on February 14 tens of thousands of events were held in 207 countries across the globe, including here in Bangladesh, for V-Day’s ONE BILLION RISING – the largest global action in history to end violence against women and girls.

One Billion Rising in Bangladesh

On February 14 tens of thousands of events were held in 207 countries across the globe, including here in Bangladesh, for V-Day’s ONE BILLION RISING. Above, residents form human chains across Dhaka to demand an end to violence against women and girls.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Bangladesh ranks fourth among the world’s nations with respect to violence against women. Almost every day, women in Bangladesh are subjected to different forms of violence, including rape, murder, acid attack, trafficking, domestic abuse, forced marriage, torture related to dowry, and abduction. Since 2001, there have been 184,422 reported cases of violence, according to the police headquarters. And it is well-documented that most cases are never reported. In 2012 alone, there were 19,617 reported incidences of violence against women in Bangladesh.

ONE BILLION RISING began as a call to action based on the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at 7 billion, this adds up to more than one billion women and girls. American playwright and activist Eve Ensler, who founded ONE BILLION RISING, said before V-Day: “When we started working on this issue 14 years ago, we had the outrageous idea that we could end violence against women. Now, we are both stunned and thrilled to see that this global action is truly escalating and gaining force, with union workers, parliament members, celebrities, and women of all backgrounds coming forward to join the campaign. When we come together on February 14, 2013, to demand an end to violence against women and girls, it will be a truly global voice that will rise up.”

And indeed it was. All over Bangladesh participating organizations held events, film screenings, made human chains, and arranged flash mobs. In Dhaka, colleagues from our office joined the human chain in protest of violence against women in front of one of the busiest intersections in the capital. With extraordinary solidarity, women and men, from all walks of life, from factory and office workers to reporters and university professors, formed human chains for a half hour from 1 to 1.30 pm in 42 locations throughout Dhaka city, as well as in all 66 districts of the country. The longest stretch of the human chain was formed from Mirpur to Asad gate moving up to the Parliament building, where Parliamentarians and MPs joined together in red shirts, hoisting red flags and banners. Women and men joined across the country in numbers larger than ever before, for a cause that has been long overdue.

In Sylhet district in northeast Bangladesh, The Asia Foundation arranged a special book donation to mark the occasion, including teachers, students, and educational specialists from 38 schools. It was a poignant celebration, with students enacting a mini-play on the theme of child marriage, a gross human rights violation that remains a serious issue in Bangladesh: according to a UNICEF report, 63 percent of all women from 20–24 years old were married before the age of 18. There were also songs of freedom, poetry, and speeches, and a screening of Eve Ensler’s film, “Man Prayer,” translated into Bengali. The program ended with all the audience chanting and vowing to do their bit in protecting women against all forms of violence.

I felt proud to be alongside these men and women across Bangladesh not only to show solidarity but also to stress the fact that women’s rights are not secondary, personal, or isolated. February 14 is not an end, but rather a starting point and a step forward for future discussions and action on violence against women. Organizations can now use this platform to consolidate and coordinate efforts and challenge discriminatory practices and laws through awareness-raising activities, training, outreach, and advocacy.

Eeshita Azad is The Asia Foundation’s head of Communications in Bangladesh. She can be reached at eazad@asiafound.org. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and not those of The Asia Foundation.

One comment on this post:

  1. Dr. M.A. Obaydullah:

    Congrats to you, Eeshita, for the excellent post. The piece has indeed made an interesting reading for me.

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