Amongst women aged 15 to 44, acts of violence cause more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined. Whether domestic violence, sexual abuse in schools, harassment at work or on the streets or assault as a tactic of war, women across our world face a multitude of daily threats simply to stay alive. The focus on individual cases can give the impression such horrific events are terrible exceptions, rather than the everyday in every nation. Here in Britain 750,000 children a year witness domestic violence, fewer than one in thirty rape victims can expect to see their attacker brought to justice and 24,000 girls are at risk of female genital mutilation.
One Billion Rising is an international coalition brought together by the vision of Eve Ensler, the creator of the Vagina Monologues and founder of V-Day. It is a global activist movement calling for ending violence against women and girls to be a priority for all Governments. Through combining creativity with campaigning it is generating what some are calling a 'feminist tsunami'. From Norwich to Peru, through Bute, Manila and Luxembourg via San Francisco, Nigeria and Tel Aviv, activists are organising flashmobs, performances and seeking policy changes that speak to our simple message.
What is that message? Enough. We will not wait any longer for change. It is time. Time to say violence against women and girls isn't an inevitable fact of life. And it isn't ok. Whether in India, the Congo, Ohio or Battersea, we can't survive, let alone thrive, in a world where 50% of our population is subject to such persistent brutality and horror. Its time not to ignore but to challenge those who make this issues the responsibility of women to resolve - calling for them to change the way they dress - and instead say it is for all to have a zero tolerance approach to violence against women. Time to say is not a matter of gender to care about these issues, but a matter of principle.
That principle is that all benefit from a world where one in three women being beaten or raped in her lifetime is not seen a fact of life, but an international crisis to which resources and attention are addressed. A world where female genital mutilation or forced marriage are not excused as problems for other countries but exposed as happening here too - and just as unacceptable. A world where our schools are places of learning and attainment for all, not a rat run of sexual persecution and pressure. A world where street harassment or online abuse isn't something we just have to cope with, but is confronted and overcome.
One Billion Rising is not the end, but the beginning of a worldwide call for change- and commitment to hold all to account for achieving it. By rising together in two weeks time on the 14 February we can show our support both for those in other countries and for change in our own. Here in Britain you can be part of this day of action by asking your MP to vote in parliament for sex and relationship education to be a statutory part of the school curriculum so that both boys and girls can be taught about respect for each other. Many have rightly held politicians to account for not recognising the value of this in helping change these patterns of behaviour in future generations. It's time to ensure this does not happen again.
And it's not just MPs who can show leadership on tackling violence against women and girls. Whether you join one of the 100 events being planned across the UK or decide to organise one yourself. Whether you come to London on the day to join the flashmobs and performances and lobby your MP. Be part of the rising. Be part of saying enough. It is time.
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