Dance against violence: The One Billion Rising movement

Pia Ranada
Women of the world: Strike! Dance! Rise! On February 14, Valentine's Day will never be the same.

VAGINA DIALOGUES. Eve Ensler and Monique Wilson talk about women's rights in the Philippines. All photos by Pia Ranada

MANILA, Philippines – One in 3 women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.

Girls in some parts of the world are raped as much as 60 times a day. 

Eleven women die every day due to complications in childbirth.

These are just some of the atrocities being done against women that Eve Ensler, Tony-Award-winning author of The Vagina Monologues, and acclaimed theater actress Monique Wilson can no longer stomach. Along with members of Gabriela, the New Voice Company, Gabriela Women’s Party and countless other women’s groups who have signed up, they will rise against violence against women and children (VAWC).

On February 14, 2013, Valentine’s Day, one billion women and men will dance. Thousands of women and men in factories, schools, farms, market places and communities all over the country will be mobilized. In Quezon City, Tomas Morato is set to be the stage.  

And that’s just in the Philippines.

Global revolution 

CELEBRATION. It's not a party without cake!

One Billion Rising is happening in 176 other countries with over 14,000 groups signed up all over the world. 

“It’s happening everywhere from Siberia to Iran to Somalia,” says Eve during the launch of One Billion Rising Philippines on December 2012 at the Music Museum in San Juan City. 

February 14 is not only a special date because of the day of hearts but also because it marks the 15th anniversary of The Vagina Monologues and V-Day, a global movement created by Eve to stop violence against women and girls. One Billion Rising is meant to take V-Day to another level: a revolutionary one.

Eve says, “What is being accepted is not acceptable. We haven’t ended violence against women.

“Okay, there are 1 billion women. Why don’t we call them forward? If you play it safe, things will stay safe. There’s a language women speak with their body in a way they don’t speak with their words.”

Watch the One Billion Rising short film here:

Dance against violence against women and children

PARTY OR PROTEST? The people behind One Billion Rising say, both

Which is why the revolution on February 14 will not involve picket signs and shouting matches with a megaphone. Instead, it will involve dancing.

Monique Wilson, executive director of the New Voice Company and a member of Gabriela, explains, “Why dance? Sometimes, our bodies become prisons. Dance is a form to break free from that oppression and that pain and to reclaim our bodies back.

“It’s a collective energy, lahat tayo pwede sumayaw (all of us can dance). Dance is not only [an act of] defiance, it’s a celebration.”

On this day, the One Billion Rising Philippines theme song, “Isang Bilyong Babaeng Babangon (One Billion Women Rising),” will be heard in the various dance venues with the dance steps to be taught by One Billion Rising task force members. The lyrics of the song were written by Merlee Jayme of the award-winning advertising agency, DM9JaymeSyfu.

The agency also created the song’s music video which features the choreography of Nancy Crewe, the same One Billion Rising dance steps to be followed all over the world. 

Watch the music video here: 

The activist author

DANCE REVOLUTION. Monique Wilson, Vagina Monologues author Eve Ensler and members of Gabriela dance to the One Billion Rising song

Eve, who has worked with Gabriela in various women-oriented projects in the country — including the performance of The Vagina Monologues every V-Day for 12 years — is positive about the fight for women’s rights in the Philippines.

She told Rappler, “You should be proud of the women’s movement in this country. It’s rare to see women organizing on all levels of society, protesting against mining, war, poverty. You have a lot to teach the rest of the world.”

About developments on the Reproductive Health Bill, she was ecstatic.

“I think reproductive health care is so crucial for women. For me, having gone through cancer years ago, had I not had health care, I wouldn’t be here.

“Women spend so much time taking care of everybody but we don’t take care of women, so to see that kind of bill is very positive.”

Eve also confirmed to Rappler that her new play, Emotional Creature, will be coming to the Philippines, although she is not yet able to determine a date. The play, still running on Broadway in New York, has been receiving rave reviews on how it explores the “secret lives of girls around the world.”

Emotional Creature is made up of a series of original monologues and songs that tell the story of what it’s like to be a girl, including all the rites of passage, joys and pains. The play spans many cultures and continents, showing how similar and different women’s issues are all over the world.

One billion will rise

COMFORT WOMEN RISING. The lolas of Lila Filipina join the One Billion Rising dance

Amidst a maelstrom of confetti, the OBR dance steps were introduced at the launch, with Monique Wilson and Gabriela Youth members leading the pack. They were joined on the rose-petal-strewn stage by members of the Gabriela Women’s Party; Sister Mary John Mananzan, a nun activist for women’s rights; Lola Narcisa and other comfort women who were systematically raped by Japanese soldiers during World War II.

All danced in unison, young and old, men and women. 

The song was as vital and pulsating as a heartbeat, the energy of the dancers on stage infectious. Despite it being a protest against violence, all the dancers were smiling and happy as if no amount of abuse could mar their free spirits. It was a song of upliftment to fight against debasement.

Eve put the invitation best, “Dance is like prayer, it’s like all the great forms of meditation. It’s sexy, it’s daring. I hope you dance with all your spirit on February 14.” –

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at