On February 14, one billion women – and those who love them – in 190 countries will rise up in solidarity to demand an end to violence against women. This day will certainly go down in history as a feminist tsunami against violence. There are thousands of organisations hosting thousands of events in thousands of cities around the world – and, yes, there is one in Guyana!

Organisations such as Amnesty International USA, BCBGMAXAZRIA, European Women’s Lobby, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, MTV, NOW, Sonke Gender Justice Network and AFL-CIO are coming together. Even the Dalai Lama is rising!

20130202stellaOne Billion Rising, an international event organized by V-Day – a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls – began as a call to action based on the staggering statistic that one in three women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at 7 billion, this adds up to more than ONE BILLION WOMEN AND GIRLS!

One billion women violated in their lifetime! How can this be so? In their book, “Half the Sky,” Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn gave this statistic: “More girls were killed in the last 50 years, precisely because they were girls, than men killed in all the wars in the 20th century. More girls are killed in this routine gendercide in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the 20th century.”

What makes this violence even more nauseating is that in many parts of the world, including Guyana, a woman can be brutally murdered and her killer will most times walk free. This violence is most often perpetrated by someone she knows, including by her husband or another male family member.

Women are raped every day in Guyana and how many rapists are convicted? Pretty close to zilch.

On maternal mortality rates, Half the Sky had this statistic: “The equivalent of five jumbo jets worth of women die in labour each day” and “lifetime risk of maternal death is 1,000x higher in a poor country than in the west. That should be an international scandal.” But it is not, is it?

Yes, this violence against women is an atrocity. It is why I write on women’s issues, it is why I started an organisation to help and support women and it is why that organisation is bringing the One Billion Rising event to Guyana.

I rise because I simply cannot sit by and do nothing. I rise because these women are not merely statistics to me.

They have faces and I have listened to them tell me their horror stories. I see the face of the teenage girl who was raped by her father and I see the face of the young woman who found the courage to escape from her abuser who not only beat her, but raped her every day as well.

I see the face of the woman who is now raising her grandchildren because her daughter died during a botched abortion by a doctor who had no right to perform the procedure. I see the face of the woman who was brutally beaten to cause her to abort her foetus because the father did not want the baby.

20130202billionI see the face of the mother whose daughter disappeared after visiting her estranged husband who, by the way, promised to make her disappear and pasted nude photos of her all over her workplace when she left him.

Most hauntingly, I see the face of the three-year-old girl who was so savagely raped that she could not speak a word any longer.

How can I not rise? How can I not rise while womenfolk are considered an expendable commodity? How can I not rise when there are women today being put to death for being raped?

How can I not rise when little girls are being shot for wanting an education?

How can I not rise when newspaper letters still blame victims for being raped? How can I not rise when having a female as a Board Member in Guyana is as common as a blue moon?

How can I not rise while every single blasted day women walking down the street in Guyana are subjected to incessant catcalls, demeaning verbiage and aggressive sexual taunts that would strike fear in the heart of the bravest of soldiers?

How can I not rise when my Sisters tell me of what their male boss says to them, what he does to them, what he expects from them if they want to keep the jobs? How can I not rise when I know how many women stay in violent relationships because they have nowhere else to go and no way to feed themselves or their children?

How can I not rise when female representation in Parliament is a measly 31 per cent even though the nation’s female population is around 50 per cent? How can I not rise when Guyana’s female presidential candidates were chased off the campaign trail during the last elections…in one case by actual assault?

How can I not rise while the government refuses to acknowledge that human trafficking is a real issue?

How can I not rise when even a police commissioner can get away with rape? How can I not rise when a woman can be beaten on a street corner or at a sporting event and not one person–not even a police officer–will raise a hand to help her? How can I not rise? I have no choice.

I am rising because I must. And on February 14, I will not be rising alone. I will be rising with millions of women (and those who love them) around the world. When we come together on that day to demand an end to violence against women and girls it will be a truly global voice that will rise up.

One billion women violated is an atrocity. One billion women rising and dancing is a revolution. Now, tell me why you are rising.

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