Thursday, February 20, 2014

Strike, Dance, Rise!

Sign from HKU's OBR event, Feb 14
One in three women will experience some form of gendered violence in her lifetime. Given that women make up over half of the world’s population, that’s more than one billion women who will face things like physical abuse, sexual abuse, economic injustice, exploitation, and discrimination.

One Billion Rising is an international event aimed at raising awareness throughout the world of the violence perpetrated against women. It is the brainchild of Vagina Monologues playwright Eve Ensler, who asked what would happen if one billion people came together to speak out against gendered violence. This year, people in over 200 countries (and territories) held events!

On February 9th, I spent 6 hours dancing outside in the cold and rain. (side note, I don't recommend this. Half of my office ended up out sick the next day!) Despite the challenges the weather produced, we still had a fantastic turnout  of about 1500 to the event. Most OBR events take place on Valentine’s Day (V-Day), but Hong Kong’s event was moved up because the majority of migrant women can only attend on Sundays. We had about 1,500 participants, including Filipino, Indonesian, Sri Lankan, Nepali, and Thai migrants, Hong Kong locals, and other expats from around Hong Kong. Migrant groups worked for weeks to practice the dance, and it was great to see all of their hard work pay off! We were also honored to have Monqiue Wilson, a Filipina actress and one of the international directors of OBR, who came all of the way from the Philippines to participate in our event. 

This year’s theme was “One Billion Rising for Justice,” and served as a platform for women throughout the world to speak out on issues affecting them. Our OBR focused both on issues facing migrants in Hong Kong and on the specific case of Erwiana, an Indonesian worker who was tortured by her employer for months before being sent home. 

During Hong Kong’s OBR event, one of my coworkers at the Mission quoted a Filipina poet in her speech: “To be a woman is to be at war.” Migrant workers face an intersecting (a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw) series of injustices: they face poverty, social and racial discrimination, joblessness in their sending countries, separation from their families, and exploitation from their employers and recruitment agencies. These injustices make up the lived experiences of migrant workers, and they must be understood as interlocking oppressions–they cannot be pulled apart as separate issues, but rather each affects the others. One Billion Rising was a wonderful opportunity for migrants throughout Hong Kong to draw attention to these issues and to share their experiences in a meaningful way.  

Cold, wet Mission interns
Personally, I hope that OBR continues on for years, and that it is indicative of a larger trend of standing up against injustice and gendered violence. It's certainly inspiring to watch!

Check out the video from the event:

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