By Kamla Bhasin
On April 22, 23 and 24, 2014 all OBR Coordinators from different parts of the world met in Rome to review and plan the future of this global campaign against violence against women and girls which has taken place during the last two years in 207 countries. This is the largest mobilization ever in human history on any issue.
The meeting was attended by 32 Coordinators (two men among them), plus Eve Ensler from V day, the main initiator of this campaign, Monique Wilson the Director of OBR, three others from V Day team and two film makers/photographers to document the meeting. From South Asia there were three of us, Abha Bhaiya, Coordinator of India, Khushi Kabir Coordinator Bangladesh and me, Coordinator for South Asia.
On the first day the Coordinators shared all that they had done in their Regions, using photographs and videos. It was amazing to see what all had been done for OBR 2014 all over the world. One could see all the creativity which had been unleashed.
After considerable reflection and discussion it was decided that for OBR 2015 we will escalate, strengthen, increase, expand everything we have done in this campaign in the last two years. It will be One Billion REVOLUTION this time.
It was decided that OBR will not be a onetime event. It will be linked to all other ongoing feminist activities throughout the year, on 8th March, May Day, 16 Days Campaign against violence against women and girls, Human Rights day etc.
While we were there about a couple of million people were expected in Rome for the canonization of two earlier Popes. We used this opportunity to address a letter to Pope Francis to ask him to use his good offices and popularity to make violence against women a priority for the catholic community and for all religious confessions.
We released this letter in a press conference held in the International Women’s House in Rome and this news was carried widely, especially by the Italian press.
Our press release said "We have decided to write to the Pope, as one of the most influential religious leaders in the world, because we believe that the Church has a duty to recognise that violence against women is an absolutely central issue" says Ensler "Today, One Billion Rising is present in 207 countries and we would like to think that The Vatican State will join us. We represent a movement of women and men who have transformed their lives and their communities with a global revolution against all forms of violence that destroy the lives of women and girls.
"Let putting an end to violence against women be the will and priority of the Church"
We added the following poem by Eve Ensler to our appeal to Pope Francis.
Until the most marginalized are held in the centre
Until the dots are connected
The silence is broken
And the story is told
Until each part of this struggle is integrated and whole
Until the law is a breathing thing
Until every violence is part of the violence we seek to end
Until every caste, every race, every sexuality and gender
Until there is one story
Until we stop forcing poor women into buildings
On the verge of collapse or into garbage sites or back alleys to make a meagre living
Until we stop sending raped women home to places where they
Are raped again
Until we stop destroying and seizing the land of the indigenous
Until we honour the women who were murdered and beaten and raped in wars,
In cities, military barracks, refugee camps, homes, churches, in colleges, in schools
On buses, in marriage beds, in forests, in work fields and offices
Until we refuse the occupation and excavation of our bodies, bases, fields, resources
Not with more bombs
Not with more death
Not with more pain
Until each violation is uttered
And each hurt is shared
Until the layers of memories
And oppression are uncovered and bared
Until the law serves the poorest
And stops protecting the mighty
Until all are held by the same standards
Until women rise in the knowledge of their
Value and rights
Outside – courthouses, police stations, government offices, work places, military courts, embassies, places of worship, homes
Until we release our shame, guilt, grief, pain humiliation, and rage
Until apologies and reparations are made by governments,
Leaders, husbands, boyfriends, brothers, fathers, priests, mullahs, ministers, uncles, bosses, corporate heads
Until we refuse to accept anything that does not include all
One billion will rise for justice
The Risers all over the world are getting ready to revolutionize their efforts to end this horrendous war against women, to end the dehumanization and brutalization of boys and men by patriarchy and to create a peaceful and loving world for all.