Emily Pasnak-Lapchick is an End Trafficking Fellow at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.
Last month, on Valentineâ€™s Day, I gathered some of my colleagues here at the U.S. Fund to do some dancing. Why? Because all around the world, on February 14, women, men and children were rising up in opposition to violence against women. We were all part of a campaign called One Billion Rising, which grew out of the fact that 1 in 3 women around the world will be raped or abused in her lifetime. Thatâ€™s more than one billion women and girls.
The V-Day movement, founded by Eve Ensler to end violence against women and girls, launched One Billion Rising in 2012 to inspire women and those who love them to â€śwalk out, dance, rise up, and demand an endâ€ť to violence against women. This year, participants in 203 countries joined in. They took part in flash mobs, dance classes, panel discussions, theater performances and many other celebrations. Global Citizenship Fellow Jessica Oâ€™Herron and I kicked off our own gathering by reading one of Eve Enslerâ€™s monologues called â€śRising.â€ť We then put on some music and danced in solidarity with all who had chosen to rise up on V-Day, and every day moving forward.
UNICEF works around the world to protect women and girls from violence. In 2007, UNICEF partnered with V-Day to run a campaign in the Democratic Republic of Congo called â€śStop Raping Our Greatest Resource: Power to Women and Girls of the Democratic Republic of Congo.â€ť It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of women and girls have been raped since the beginning of the conflict in DRC. Survivors experience psychological trauma, fistula, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, and rejection from their communities. It takes courage for a woman to get up and tell her story, and UNICEF and V-Day provide a platform for women and girls to speak out. At one event, a survivor testified:
â€śOver 50 armed men took me and another woman to the bush where they raped us over and over again. After, they pulled us like goats to the main road where they left us abandoned. Luckily, we were found by some men and eventually I was taken to the Goma hospital where I have had nine surgeries, but am yet to be fixed. Now, despite not having recovered, I am hoping for a brighter future. I hope telling my story will help give me that brighter future.â€ť Stories like this help rally people around the world to rise up and demand change.
As part of their campaign, UNICEF and V-Day created a safe space in Bakavu, DRC for survivors of sexual violence, called City of Joy. Here, survivors are able to develop their leadership skills and recover from their trauma through programs like group therapy, dance, sex education, and economic empowerment. The space serves up to 180 women each year. The City of Joy is just one example of how UNICEF is working with partners to put an end to violence against women and children around the globe.
UNICEF and its partners will continue to fight for the day when ZERO women and girls are attacked, raped, and humiliated simply because of their gender. Join us in our fight for gender equality. You can join our Action Center, or donate to help protect children from violence and abuse.