This morning I received a concept document by the Parliamentary Millennium Programme for events in Cape Town to support the international One Billion Rising Campaign. The statistics cited in the document made me choke in my coffee. According to the United Nations 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. This is more than 1 billion women and girls alive today. In South Africa it is reported that a woman is raped every 26 seconds and that 30% of girls below the age of 15 are at risk of being sexually violated in South Africa.
The One Billion Rising Campaign is about women around the world standing together in their masses on the 14th of February to say that we “refuse to stand by as more than a billion women experience violence, millions live in constant fear and countless women suffer daily across the globe from domestic violence, sexual assaults, and rape”. From the concept document I could see that Cape Town is well organised; they are planning flash mob dances at the Waterfront, Grand Central Station, the Cape Town Civics Centre, drumming circles, Thai Chi and yoga, prayer services, concerts and what not (take a look here).
I am living in the small town of Oudtshoorn in the Southern Cape however, and I was wondering how we could participate in this event as a community. The One Billion Rising Campaign website offers a host of resources, including a complete toolkit with music, poster templates, press releases, stencils, stickers and even a curriculum that can be used by educators for a special lesson on the day. That got me seeing in my mind’s eye how girls from all six our high schools are doing a flashmob dance and stopping traffic in the busy main road of Oudtshoorn, making a statement in a way that their fellow citizens cannot ignore. I decided that I would try to convince the school principals and local press to organise such an event and to illustrate the importance of the cause I quoted local statistics. A small selection of only the most recent cases (up to September last year) included reports in local newspapers of a two year old girl who was raped by her father, a 78 year old man who raped a teenager; a 29 year old who forced a 11 year old to drink alcohol and then raped her; a policeman who raped his 16 year old stepdaughter. In fact, just last week there were three rapes reported in the town and surrounding rural area.
Violence and abuse against women and children is not only a problem in India or somewhere else in South Africa, it is a very real problem in your own community, town or city. It is a problem that can shatter the life of your wife, mother, daughter, girlfriend or friend within the next 26 seconds. Leonardo da Vinci wisely remarked the following centuries ago: “I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” Organise an event to create awareness around this problem in your community on the 14th of February – don’t only be one of the billions that rise – be one of the much needed few that help the billions to rise.