For thousands of people, who turned up at the Central Park in New Delhi’s Connaught Place, Valentine’s Day wasn’t a rose-colored or a starry-eyed gala as the popular culture wants it to be, says Dar Faisal
Instead, it was an occasion to join hundreds of school-going children, volunteers from various charities and musicians who were performing at the park as part of ‘One Billion Rising’ — a global campaign to highlight and eliminate violence against women.
As the sun went down over the Indian capital on Friday, a motley group of men, women, and children from different communities turned up at the spacious park, popular with lovebirds.
As part of ‘One Billion Rising’, they sang, danced as part of flash mobs, and produced skits denouncing the violence against women.
Dhiviya, whose organization Sangat helped to spearhead the ‘One Billion Rising’ in Delhi, said such campaigns help women ‘voice their stories, be heard and connect to those who can support.’
According to a UN statistic, at least one of every three women is beaten, raped or abused during her lifetime.
And India has recently been in news for dozens of rapes that have shaken the country, which was still struggling to come to terms after the horrific gang rape and subsequent death of a student on a moving bus in its capital.
Diviya, 36, who uses only one name, said: ‘This event (One Billion Rising) is a way to highlight the enormity and pervasiveness of violence that is part of women’s everyday lives here.’
‘We are raising voice against our sexist culture in which victims are blamed for the violence being done on them.’
During the hour-long event, various flash mobs congregated at the Park and presented a dance performance.
Ms Diviya said there was a greater need for such events as women are not valued as ‘people’ in many parts of the world, including India.
She said: ‘Women are not believed when they report violence, harassment and violence is seen as a normal part of society and besides it is seen as women’s fault.’
‘Then there are the rape apologists and victim blamers and the silent ones who let things be.’
She said there was a need to create spaces where women can come forward and report violence without facing stigma, shame, exclusion, silencing and blame.
‘That is where campaigns like this help.’
College and school students danced to the tunes of various songs encouraging women to come forward to make their grievances heard.
Participants cheered and raised their hands in unison as musicians from the Space music band electrified the dais.
Kamla Bhasin, one of the main organisers of the event, spoke why there was a need to speak out against the issues faced by women, not just on the streets, but also inside the four walls of their houses.
Kids from various disabled groups patiently listened to the speeches made from the dais.
Maya Rao– a play on Multilingual Vagina Monologues by students from Miranda house was a highlight of the event.
The students used their creative expressions to highlight the issues faced by women during their menstruation periods. ‘You are impure, you can’t enter the kitchen, you can’t go to the temple,’ the students said in a sarcastic tone.