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Stand Up For Women On Valentine’s Day: One Billion Rising

One Billion Rising in solidarity on Valentine's Day to raise awareness about the exploitation of women

Ah, Valentine’s Day. Every year we look forward to it, and for this Valentine’s we even created Candles of Affection with sayings like “kiss me”, “crazy 4 you”, and “ooh la la.” It’s silly and it’s fun.

But here’s the thing. Ever since Eve Ensler started One Billion Rising as part of her V-Day movement to end violence against women and girls, we’ve felt conflicted about this holiday. We love it, but raising awareness about the global abuse and exploitation of females is more important.

Eve established V-Day in 1998 to use performances of her play The Vagina Monologues to raise money to benefit female victims of violence and sexual abuse. The “V” stands for victory, valentine and vagina. One Billion Rising was launched in 2012 as a campaign to raise awareness and culminated in the largest ever global action to end violence against women. The “billion” refers to the UN statistic that one in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime, or about one billion.

It is atrocious that half the world’s population is abused this way. We’ve traveled, we’ve seen things, we’ve listened to women tell their stories. We’ve read articles and watched films, made donations and written posts. It’s hard to to think about flowers and chocolates when there are serious causes to fight for on behalf of women around the world – especially those without a voice.

But what we appreciate so much about One Billion Rising is its positive energy and inclusiveness. There is a great song by Tena Clark, awesome dancing, and lots of men involved. It’s about creating solidarity. Every year millions of people gather at events in every country to share stories, confirm their commitment to end all types of violence against women and girls, and join together in exuberant dance.

If you haven’t seen a One Billion Rising video, check them out below. It’s powerful.

Women deserve dignity, respect and equality. No one should be exploited by anyone, anywhere. Everyone should have the opportunity to thrive. Perhaps it’s naive to think that such a simple statement can change anything, but to us it matters. And we will keep saying it over and over again.

This Valentine’s Day we will rise for women’s equality, safety and freedom. What will you rise for?

  1. Find a One Billion Rising event near you.

  2. Submit an Artistic Uprising between February 14-March 8.

  3. Follow V-Day on Facebook and Twitter to join the campaign.

One Billion Rising 2016

1BillionRising_3

In 2013, we participated in several of the 1 BILLION RISING events here in Massachusetts. It was powerful, meaningful and incredibly energetic. We danced. A lot.

And everyone there – women, men and kids – all of us heard the call-to-action loud and clear:  stop violence against women and girls.

Last year on Valentine’s Day we sent out an email entitled “Women are not a possession,” and it elicited many more responses than usual, mostly thank-you’s, but also questions about why we did it.

We thought we’d reiterate why this movement means so much to us. Why we are promoting their campaign and donating 10% of sales from the past few weeks.

When we started Prosperity Candle, supporting women in regions of conflict was our purpose. The founders had traveled around the world for decades helping people escape poverty through entrepreneurship, and decided that investing in women would be our focus, our way of creating lasting change.

In March 2009, we were traveling to meet with our pilot project partner, Women for Women International, and on the plane started reading about the women in their programs. Women who had not only survived war, but unspeakable atrocities at the hands of men.

We landed in tears. What these women had experienced was beyond comprehension. So was their strength and resilience. Six months later, we began working with a group of these women in Baghdad.

That is how we started, and who we are. All of our candles are handmade by strong women building a brighter future for themselves and their families, here in the U.S. and overseas. Women who have faced and overcome unspeakable adversity. Women who have lost their homes, family members, dignity… and so much more that is beyond words.

We recognize this past, but are focused on the future and doing what we can to ensure women and girls everywhere have an equal opportunity to build a better life. A big part of that is standing up for their rights, and ending violence against women and girls.

February 14th is Valentine’s Day and the worldwide event day for ONE BILLION RISING. We are incredibly inspired by this movement and Eve Ensler’s engaging approach to activism.

We encourage you to visit V-Day on facebook and ONE BILLION RISING to discover powerful videos, images and more.

And check out HeForShe, an organization we also support:

HeForShe_Logo_Header_SupportingPartners_UseOnly_onWhite

And be sure to listen to Break The Chain, Tena Clark’s incredible anthem for ONE BILLION RISING:

Break The Chain, One Billion Rising

ONE BILLION RISING

One Billion Rising V-Day

We sent an email that said women are not a possession. On Valentine’s Day.

It elicited more responses than usual, mostly “thank you.” But many also questioned our purpose.

Here it is.

“Women are not a possession” is from Tena Clark’s Break The Chain, the anthem for ONE BILLION RISING that has become a global campaign to end violence against women and girls. Founded by Eve Ensler, it is women and men gathering in over 200 countries to express outrage and solidarity – and to dance. It’s incredibly powerful.

When we started Prosperity Candle, supporting women in regions of conflict was our purpose. The founders had traveled around the world for decades helping people escape poverty through entrepreneurship. In the places we worked, this is what we observed:

Men have more access to resources. Women face more obstacles. Men often waste their money. Women typically invest theirs more wisely.

When we launched Prosperity Candle with our own limited funds, we chose to invest wisely, in women. It was March 2009, and I was traveling to meet with our pilot project partner, Women for Women International. On the plane I read about participants in their programs, women who had survived war.

I arrived in tears. The atrocities these women had experienced were beyond comprehension. So was their strength and resilience. A year later Wafa’a, a widow who lost her husband to a mortar landing on their apartment, held up her first pillar candle telling President Obama that Iraqi women are strong and independent.

That is how we started, and who we are. All of our candles are handmade by strong women building a brighter future for themselves and their families, here in the U.S. and overseas. Women who have faced and overcome unspeakable adversity.

February 14th is the worldwide event day for ONE BILLION RISING. We are incredibly inspired by this movement and Eve’s engaging approach to activism. It relates to our own purpose and the women we work with, which is why we sent the Valentine’s Day email.

We encourage you to visit V-Day on facebook and ONE BILLION RISING to discover powerful videos, images and more.

Thank you for asking.

And if you missed our email, here are the links:

Break The Chain, One Billion RisingOne Billion Rising video

One Billion Rising: Why I’m Still Rising

Last Thursday was a Valentine’s Day for the history books. In a culture that emphasizes finding your one and only Valentine, I’m proud to say I had 1 billion Valentines.

As I shared previously, dance is a central love in my life so this year I gladly traded the overpriced dinner reservations, schmaltzy Hallmark slogans and slightly stale candy hearts for a day filled with dancing, celebrating, story-telling and public disruption, in honor of the One Billion Rising movement.

Not only did I have the privilege of engaging in one of my deepest passions, but I was also privileged to be invited into the stories and lives of my sisters who have lived through unimaginable violence.

From the first event I participated in – a flash mob at North Station while trains of people poured into Boston at the height of the morning commute – One Billion Rising very quickly became more than just amusing unsuspecting commuters and sharing startling statistics. Two survivors of domestic abuse who just happened to be in the station at that time came up to us afterwards, thanked us for making public an all too often silent issue, and shared their stories.

As I listened to the heart-breaking details of what these women experienced, and thankfully had overcome, it became even more crystal clear why I was rising. One Billion Rising is about creating and claiming a public space for the voices and stories of women who far too often are left voiceless and powerless. As Eve Ensler, the movement’s founder, so eloquently says, “One Billion Rising has broken taboos, lifted the veil of silence, and inspired a radical outpouring of support to reveal the worldwide system of patriarchy, which sustains the violence.”

It was indeed a radical day of collective movement – through flash mobs, public performances, and organic dance parties on the street, and collective movement building – with people in 207 countries rising up in shared outrage about the epidemic of violence against women and girls. In fact, it’s hard to find adequate words to express the feelings I experienced watching my sisters and brothers rising throughout the day across the globe, from Boston to New Delhi to Bukavu to Capetown, and thousands of cities in between.

“Pure raw unbridled joy” was the best I could summon on my Facebook wall as I went to bed Thursday night.

That is what I experienced on Thursday. But what’s more important perhaps to share is what I’ve experienced since Thursday. Coming together physically and virtually was deeply moving and motivating and achieved GREAT things for public awareness (see an awesome recap of outcomes here), but as the One Billion Rising organizers are quick to say, it was only the beginning.

It is not the end of a struggle but the escalation of it, and now the question becomes what next. V-Day is asking all of us who rose around the globe to take a simple pledge, to do one thing in the next year to end violence against women. It could be a simple action, or a monumental one; personal, or political; quiet or loud, but these actions – taken together – will create change.

I am pledging personally to continue to rise by finding more concrete ways over the next year to use my passion for dance as a tool for empowerment and healing.

As a company, Prosperity Candle pledges to use our platform in the international development and social enterprise spaces to further the discussion around how sustainable job opportunities allow women the freedom and economic independence to leave violent situations.

We also pledge to keep our Prosperity network informed about tangible actions they can take to continue to rise and keep the movement going.

One immediate action here in the US is to ensure the re-authorization of Violence Against Women Act – which provides funding and legislation to address domestic and sexual violence. In fact just in time for OBR, the Senate passed VAWA last week, and it is now being considered in the House. Contacting your elected officials and stating your support for VAWA is a simple and significant action step to take this week.

Did you rise up on Valentine’s Day? Did you make a pledge to take action? Share your experiences in the comments below and please post your photos and thoughts on our Facebook page!