One out of three women on the planet will be beaten or raped in their lifetime—that’s over a billion women who will experience some type of gender-based violence, according to the United Nations. On Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, people in 205 countries across the globe took to the streets dancing in an attempt to increase awareness of the realities faced by women and girls as part of the One Billion Rising project.
One Billion Rising stems from the work of an organization called V-day that was founded in 1998 by Eve Ensler, author of the award-winning play The Vagina Monologues. Every Valentine’s Day since, Ensler’s group has allowed theater groups around the world to hold a production of the Monologues, while encouraging people to hold events promoting equal rights for women.
This year is the 15th anniversary of the V-day group, and the celebration has developed a far greater following than any other event. “Nothing we have ever done has spread so fast and happened so easily,” Ensler told the Guardian. 2012 was a particularly dark year for violence against women, with the shooting of Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan, the gang rape and death of Jyoti Singh in India, and the gang rape of a high schooler in Steubenville, Ohio. “All these stories have built the outrage and ignited a fire burning through the world,” said Ensler.
She believes that this year’s project could be the beginning of a real, lasting change for women. “In the last year, we’ve finally seen stories about violence against women breaking through in big ways, such as in India,” Ensler explained to the Huffington Post. “One Billion Rising in fanning the fire and allowing that energy to continue so that real legislation and real laws, real action is beginning to happen.”
Violence against women is a universal problem and can take many forms – physical, sexual, psychological and economic. According to World Bank data, women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and Malaria. These statistics apply to western countries as well as nations in the developing world. In the U.S., one-third of women murdered each year are killed by intimate partners, while in Canada a study of teenagers aged 15 to 19 found that 54% of girls had experienced “sexual coercion” in a dating relationship. In the Democratic Republic of Congo an average of 36 women and girls are raped every day; in Guatemala, two women are murdered each day.
Follow the One Billion Rising on Feb.14 in the Guardian’s live coverage of events taking place across the globe.