One Billion Rising (and Fourteen Damn Smart Girls)
If you haven't heard about One Billion Rising yet, here is the blurb from their website that gives you a little information about what they have planned for today.
Today, on the planet, a billion women – one of every three women on the planet – will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. That’s ONE BILLION mothers, daughters, sisters, partners, and friends violated. V-Day REFUSES to stand by as more than a billion women experience violence.
On February 14th, 2013, V-Day's 15th Anniversary, we are inviting one billion women and those who love them to walk out, DANCE, RISE UP, AND DEMAND an end to this violence. One Billion Rising is a promise that we will rise up with women and men worldwide to say, "Enough! The violence ends now."
There are flash mobs and dance groups all over the planet joining the event to raise awareness and add their voices (and dance moves) to the growing group of people calling for an end to violence against women and girls.
I am inspired and happy to know that, in my lifetime, the volume has been turned up. There is some heat under this skillet and the energy is fairly popping. There are petitions being circulated to support the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in Congress. There are media outlets who are committed to highlighting horrific acts of violence against women as well as consistently investigating and reporting on issues such as wage disparity and discrimination against women with regard to their access to health care.
But mostly I am encouraged by the young girls I see every day.
I am not naive enough to believe that flash mobs and petitions will serve to change the deeply rooted, firmly held beliefs of many (men and women) that women and girls are less than. Weaker of mind and body. Deserving of fewer opportunities. There are cultures, countries, and entire religious communities that embrace the notion that women and girls are rightfully subservient to men and their desires.
Last night I witnessed, yet again, a phenomenon that pours a bucket of ice water over that idea. Lola's fifth grade class spent two hours presenting scientific data and original art work to a room full of family and community members. These ten-year old girls have spent countless hours exploring the natural habitat of fresh water and marine animals in our region. They have sailed the Puget Sound taking water samples and analyzing the data, stood in the pouring rain in their rubber boots to see salmon spawning and engaged in research that culminated in the preparation of Power Point presentations that were clear, concise, engaging and humorous.
One group of girls was charged with learning about and presenting information on the Phylum Porifera, a group of organisms most of us know as sea sponges. These creatures have no limbs, eyes, mouths or nostrils. They have no nerves to speak of and cannot move from one place to another. And yet, these three girls dove headfirst in to exploring how they eat and reproduce, what their body structure is composed of, how they are affected by changes in their habitat and why they are important enough that we should care about them. This is no SpongeBob Squarepants with all his attendant quirky personality. These are, by all rights, pretty invisible and boring creatures. And yet these girls talked about them with enthusiasm and knowledge. Their portion of the evening was just as interesting as the talk on octopi and crabs. Each of the girls knew enough about their respective phyla to stand and answer questions from the audience with poise and confidence.
These girls are turning the tide. They are encouraged to take up the mantle of learning and sharing their knowledge and they do it with gusto. They work in pairs and small groups to accomplish work that is challenging and frustrating and find reward in a job well done.
Each group of girls made a mosaic of cut glass that represented one of the species in the phylum they were charged with. There were multiple steps to the creations of these art projects and they took weeks to complete. And yet, when asked if it was difficult to work together, they agreed that there were some creative differences along the way, but the conversation was then re-directed to the outcome. The pride they all had in their ability to work through challenges like that and create something they all had a stake in.
It is occasions like this that encourage me more than anything else I see going on. It is nights like that where I am reminded that investing time and energy in young women and girls to develop their own innate talents and ideas will reap benefits beyond measure. They will not simply dance in defiance. They will refuse to be subjugated because they know that they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. They will have been steeped in possibility and opportunity and grace and it will not occur to them that they are any less than anyone else. While I appreciate the importance of events such as One Billion Rising, I am made most hopeful by these girls who are cultivating open minds and open hearts and who will rise to one day become the leaders of the world.