A song, a dance and a source of hope for millions of women around the world — that’s what the One Billion Rising campaign is hoping to spread, said Lysa Salsbury, coordinator of programs at the University of Idaho Women’s Center.
Thursday will mark the 15th anniversary of V-Day, an activist movement to end violence against women and girls worldwide. The movement was inspired by playwright, performer and feminist Eve Ensler’s play, “The Vagina Monologues,” as a way for women to stand together in hopes that gender equity is reached and violence is stopped.
Salsbury said, quoting statistics from this year’s V-Day spotlight campaign, one in three women is beaten or raped — amounting to 1 billion women worldwide. This year’s V-Day spotlight campaign is One Billion Rising, a movement to stop the global violence on women and girls.
“The educational message they’re trying to get across is that 1 billion women on the planet will be raped or beaten … which is a horrific number — 1 in 3 women,” Salsbury said. “The goal is to create a global unifying response to that statistic in the form of a dance strike.”
The “V” in V-Day stands for Valentine’s, vagina and victory, bringing together the three key points of the V-Day celebration.
“All around the world people are learning this dance,” Salsbury said. “The idea is that we’re all going to perform it on the same day.”
Salsbury found three local dancers to learn it, teach it and spread the message to as many people in the community and on campus as possible. These three women helped participants learn the dance to the official song of this year’s V-Day One Billion Rising campaign, “Break the Chain.”
Salsbury said the group has been rehearsing for the past two weeks for the Feb. 14 performance date, but still has one more group rehearsal. If individuals can’t make it to the rehearsal but are interested in performing, she said there is also a step-by-step tutorial on the V-Day website.
“It’s a much bigger movement — it’s not just about what we’re doing on our campus,” Salsbury said. “We’re in solidarity with hundreds — maybe even thousands — of groups around the world. This is really powerful.”
Making a difference in the lives of women worldwide doesn’t have to be a lengthy commitment, Salsbury said. Taking small steps such as performing in the One Billion Rising flash mob, going to see the campus production of “The Vagina Monologues,” or taking a personal stance to refute violence against women and girls are powerful and well-appreciated.
“Sometimes the extent of these problems just seem so enormous and so insurmountable to us, we wonder how we, in our small pocket of the world do anything to change that — that statistic (of how many women in the world will be or have been abused),” Salsbury said. “But being involved in the V-Day campaign, the activism component … really makes a difference.”
Ensler, creator of “The Vagina Monologues” — another portion of the V-Day campaign — creates a new work each year depending on what sector the fight to negate violence she believes needs more attention.
Women’s Center Director Heather Shea Gasser said the One Billion Rising campaign is the new creative extension of Ensler’s work and is a unique way to reach out to a large population in efforts to stop gender-based violence.
“This particular campaign is really inspiring and gets a lot of people engaged in a really positive and uplifting way,” Gasser said.
While the Women’s Center is continuing to put on V-Day events like “The Vagina Monologues,” and has already shown a screening of the documentary “V-Day: Until the Violence Stops,” Gasser said creating the flash mob for One Billion Rising is an additional event, and has taken many hours of organization to put together.
“It’s a lot of work getting things like that underway, and Lysa has done a great job coordinating that this year,” Gasser said.
Danielle Eastman, a dance fitness instructor from Pullman, is one of the women Salsbury selected to help carry out the campaign on campus. Eastman said she is excited about the opportunity to learn the dance herself, then teach other interested individuals.
“I had been looking for more ways to get involved with the center ever since I heard Gloria Steinem speak at the Kibbie Dome last fall,” Eastman sad. “I love to dance, and I love the message of the One Billion Rising campaign, so it seemed like a great fit.”
The groups have practiced in the Memorial Gym Multi-Purpose Room as well as at Eastman’s dance studio, Bliss Studio, in Pullman.
“We’ve had a variety of women — even one awesome man — attend, (ranging) from age 10 to 65,” Eastman said.
She said the level of dedication has been outstanding, even if some of the participants can’t perform in the flash mob Feb. 14, and some students also simply practice the dance to get a workout.
“Some won’t be able to join us for the flash mob itself, but they wanted to learn the dance anyway,” Eastman said. “Others have additional obligations … but still wanted to learn the dance to be a part of the movement. I think that is awesome.”
Dancing for a cause, Eastman said, is a powerful experience. She said giving individuals this opportunity to dance together will create awareness for the V-Day campaign on campus as well as worldwide.
“Many of us want to be involved in helping to make the world a better place, (but) don’t know what to do, or don’t know where to begin,” Eastman said. “This, however, is such an easy activity to get involved in — and it is so fun, uplifting and empowering to be dancing for a cause, to be part of a global movement.”
While this is the first year the V-Day campaign has focused on a global initiative rather than a specific political movement, Eastman said the worldwide effort is a big part of how powerful the campaign will be.
“I think any folks who can come dance with us or have the chance to see the dance will really feel the rising,” Eastman said. “And that, to me, is making a difference.”
The flash mob will perform at noon Feb. 14 in the Idaho Commons Food Court. The next and final practice for the flash mob is at 7 p.m. Feb. 13 at Bliss Studio in room 208 of the Gladish Community & Cultural Center, located at 115 NW State St., Pullman.
Chloe Rambo can be reached at email@example.com