Last February 14, there was a global campaign about violence against women. It was called 1 Billion Rising and it involved, based on my limited knowledge of it, flash mobs of dancing women in different cities worldwide.
I don't see anything wrong with dancing women. Go ahead and dance all you want but never--not for one second--believe that it's going to solve the problem of VAW.
True enough, more than a month later, all the hype fizzled. The budget was spent, the shirts were given out, the videos and photos were posted. Only the tarps and posters along Morato are left flapping wildly in the air. I wonder how many women came out of the dancing empowered to fight the very real violence that plagues her every day.
My good friend said it was all about awareness. Well, it's not like people are unaware. We already know it's happening, we see it on the news every fucking night. A young girl was raped, a call center agent was kidnapped and raped, a student was robbed and left for dead, a businesswoman shot to death, and so on and so forth. Every. Fucking. Night.
Yes, I am angry. And you should be, too.
We don't need more campaigns that will tell us it's happening. We need campaigns that will empower women, give us the skills and the knowledge to fight back.
My disappointment about 1 Billion Rising was the fire that gave birth to Girl Power, a self-defense workshop for women. Of course, compared to the global dance campaign, this little project is such a tiny tiny tiny effort towards the same goal. I don't have the budget to launch a worldwide training program. But give me that kind of money and I assure you thousands of women will know how to fight for their lives in case they are placed in a crisis situation like rape, robbery, and the like.
I am grateful to my organization, Peace Blossoms Internal Arts Society, for supporting this initiative. I am grateful to our Director, Irene Chia, for believing in the project. And of course to the martial artists, Ton Delgado, Mar Salvador and Oscar Ejercito, who made the workshop possible. I am grateful to the few women who took the time to wake up one Sunday morning to learn skills that could one day save their own lives.
I am not a veteran activist in the women's movement. But I am a woman whose life has been shaped by fear and risks and many such unspeakable things. I know whereof I speak. And I assure you a dance number isn't what the women need. Next time you get a hefty budget to launch an anti-VAW campaign, spend it wisely. Think twice about inviting the artistas and the beauty queens and teaching women how to boogie. Teach them instead how to fight back, empower them and give them the skills to defend themselves.
(All photos by Irene Chia.)