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A unique Valentine's Day and the One Billion Rising in India

Join me in One Billion Rising and stop violence against women

According to the UN estimate the number of women who have been raped and violated in their lifetime stands at one billion. On February 14, when the whole world celebrates LOVE and observes the Valentine's Day, the 'One Billion' rises to stand against violence against women, for justice and to promote gender equality.

I have seen the face of violence. I know what trauma looks like. It is a cycle that continues in different manifestations. When it is fresh the manifestation is different, when it is old, the manifestation changes its appearance.It never really ends.The best way to deal with trauma from experiencing violence is to extend to those who have been there too, in some way- either experienced it personally or seen it happen to someone close(a family member, friend,colleague or a passer by).This year I did something to join the billion to take my personal stand against violence that affects women and girls globally. I resolved to celebrate 'One Billion Rising' every year and in the 'getting together' commit to spread awareness to as many girls and women who bear violence either at home or outside 'silently' for a sea of reasons. In this 'getting together' perhaps someone somewhere will draw courage to walk out of violence and confront it.

What is One Billion Rising and the year 2013 in India?

One Billion Rising is one of the biggest global campaigns to end violence against women and started with thousands of events held on February 14 in more than 190 countries since the year 2012 . On September, 2012 people from 160 countries signed in to be a part of the campaign against violence against women and on February 14,2013 the rally was held in more than 190 countries.

Last year, women around the world danced in a show of collective strength. I witnessed the large gathering of women and girls who flocked to the heart of my city, Bangalore (India) to claim their space in the celebration. It was a critical time in India with the death of the Delhi girl who was gang raped in a moving bus that drew millions of protesters on the streets in my country to demand for justice. Women from every strata was here, unwilling to be subdued by the rising crime against women in India.In the 50 metre long canvas, girls and women painted words that came pouring out of their hearts but the few that stayed on in my mind included messages like these:

"Today we have come out on the streets to reclaim our lost spaces.Women want it back,what was taken from us.The city is as much ours as it is yours!!"

"The rush today is created by us women AND WHY NOT????"

"These are not mere words. These are my fears that I paint."

"This is not a canvas.This is our thoughts. And our thoughts scream."

" I am sharing what happened with us. Maybe now you will defend us better."

" We will dance, we will sing and we will not be bogged down.We will set aside our fear and promise to not let fear rule us.
We will stand against the rising crime against women in India."

"This time it was Nirbahaya(Delhi girl who was gang raped in a moving bus), who is next? Till when will we see this?"

I remember striking a conversation with several women about their personal brush with violence, their journey, their thoughts on the rape cases that were increasing by the day. One woman, Ragini, who had travelled 100 kms to take part in this celebration, told me, " I feel very strong and fearless right now. I just want to say that I am not scared of the recent happenings (Delhi rape and death of Nirbahaya in Feb) and I will not stop doing what I used to be doing before the crime against us women stepped up in our country. It is important at this point to transition from a woman who used to be fearful to a woman who is not!"

Another woman who called herself Satya told me, " I have never faced violence against me in my life nor anyone close to me, but I feel bad for women who have seen such misfortune. I feel for them. Women need to get together. We need to make other's sufferings ours to be able to take it out from our society !" Many girls and women felt that if women and girls stand together in solidarity, they stand a better chance to resist the rising crime against women in the country.

I made an entry too. I used orange paint to write, " We are together.Now we are stronger."

How did we celebrate One Billion Rising in 2014 in Bangalore?

This year at the Chancery Pavilion on Richmond Road in Bangalore between 7 pm to 11.30 pm women and men walked out and danced to rise up and demand an end to violence against women. The aim was to garner collective strength cutting across strata and borders and invite people to refuse to accept violence against girls and women, to refuse to participate in the status quo until rape and the rape culture ends.Supported and sponsored by several companies and individual donors, the programme saw participation from both genders.

What all happened in India? launched its campaign as a global call for justice,a call to women survivors of violence and those who love them to rise, release, dance, and demand justice.Star and Indian Bollywood actor, Aamir Khan who had earlier voiced such issues through his debut TV show 'Satyamev Jayate', endorsed the campaign along with actress and Miss India, Gul Panag (Link: It was observed in Punjab University on the theme 'rise against injustice' , in Jaipur more than a dozen cases of rape , superstition and witch hunt were heard at a public gathering, a short film 'Beyond the Viel' was screened by activists to end violence against women. In many parts of India, women rose to align themselves to the global need to come together to say 'no' to violence.

Anoushka Shankar in a video message disclosed she had been abused by a trusted friend of her parents over several years when she was a child. In her message speaks about her abuse and if she will ever recover. She said-

" a woman I find I'm frequently living in fear, afraid to walk along at night, afraid to answer a man who asks for the time, afraid I'm going to be judged or treated in ways based on the way I might choose to dress or the make up I might choose to wear, and you know, enough is enough. I'm rising for women like Nirbahaya(Delhi girl who was gang raped), for women like her, with the amazing women of my country I'm rising for the child in me who I don't think will ever fully recover from what happened to her."

And for this fear that resides in each and every girl and woman in my country, and the ever present threat to our safety, we RISE, WE DANCE and WE STAND FIRM on this day, February 14, 2014.

Urmila Chanam
A Social Development professional in HIV/AIDS, Gender Rights Activist &Journalist
Bangalore, India

A canvas of our souls
One Billion Rising Celebrations in 2013 Bangalore, India
Every girl was keen to take a paint brush, choose a bright color and splash her message on the white canvas
Ragini told me its important to be not fearful to conquer violence
Sathya told me she has not experienced violence but she feels pain at other women's suffering
A call to unite
I Rise Too
Dance to show our collective strength
Women and girls get together
The 2014 One Billion Rising Celebration at the Chancery Pavilion in Bangalore was about dancing together
The mass communication tool this year 2014
The official logo of One Billion Rising in India



I have never seen the face of violence and don't know what that trauma looks like...but I believe that every time a woman is shouted at, or made to give up what she loves, be it a job or anything, its a bottle o water brutally snatched from their pool of confidence and self respect. This also translates to trauma in the not so far future. I share your goal and passion of building bridge against such discrimination. I would very much like to help out in this direction, creating more awareness and maybe convincing people that the age old notion of the women being weaker was a thing of the past, might help.

Urmila Chanam's picture

Changing perspectives

Dear Aditi,

How encouraged I feel to read your words of assurance,"....I would like to help.....". It is important women rise together and in this collective strength, we will confront the very situation around us that permit violence against us. Please keep the good thoughts coming in and be in touch.

In solidarity,
Urmila Chanam
Skype: urmilavoiceofthevoiceless

It takes just one to change many

Y's picture

I have been, and am still, a

I have been, and am still, a victim of abuse in the United States of America, where the religion of Abraham, who abused his wife, the two mothers of his children, and both of his sons, is still honored as the "father" of my country's most powerful religions. I am fortunate to be currently protected and honored by a man with his own moral compass, though our position in the society of the deep south United States is not easy.

I am tired from all my isolated efforts at equality, beginning when my mother allowed my father's whore into our home. I continue to wipe the blood off my body and attempt to rise again. It is time to strongly stand against the "sins of the fathers" in all nations and all generations.

Blessings on all you young sisters continuing in our struggle.


Urmila Chanam's picture

Wipe the blood clean

Dear sister Y,

It was a revelation to hear the voice of a 'survivor' of violence and I can truly understand your emotions. I do. I ask every girl or woman who has seen violence to walk out of it, no matter what the price is because freedom of soul is the basic necessity to live this life and live it well. If anyone still chooses to live with it, I would like to remind you that, that kind of life will just permit you to look after yourself and you will not be able to give back anything beautiful to others because a heart that is sad, has no source of joy to give to others.

Come, let us rise against this cycle of suffering and head for a life that has dignity. Is it not worth risking for with everything we ever had?

Looking ahead to hear from you either here or on personal mail but I need to converse with you more on this, my sister.

Love and hugs,
Urmila Chanam,

It takes just one to change many

Y's picture

"that kind of life will just

"that kind of life will just permit you to look after yourself and you will not be able to give back anything beautiful to others because a heart that is sad, has no source of joy to give to others." This is so beautiful and so true. I am often sad, but I do know where to find deep wells of joy into which I can tap. You young women of World Pulse fill me with hope and joy.

So much of religion and what we often call "love" is based on fear. I have lost so much in my life that I no longer fear anything. In fact, I have to guard against giving too much of myself to others because they often want to give their own power over to me and my leadership and strength. When i allow this to happen, the final outcome is that I am abused by the very people that I was asked to protect and assist.

My (third) husband has stood with me for twenty-five years, but he is now too old and ill to continue to support my warrior woman efforts. He reminded me, when I was in danger of having our house burned down because of my efforts in racial equality, "When they come to burn the house down, I just want you to remember that I'll be in the bed beside you." I moved us to a more diverse area.

No "tribe" wants me because I cannot stay silent as others are victimized and abused. Even when I don't speak with my mouth, my eyes and body language speak very loudly and clearly. "Tribes," like families and religions, insist that all agree to tell the same stories, even when they are lies.

Only when I remain physically anonymous am I allowed to maintain my dignity. I hide my body and share my spirit through World Pulse, Women of Spirit and Faith, my own blog, and my various books.

A wonderfully inspiring book on making change is by M. Scott Peck "A World Waiting to Be Born -- Civility Rediscovered."

Blessings to you, Urmila Chanam


Urmila Chanam's picture

Walk the bridge

My dear Yvette,

How dear you have become to me by sharing an aspect of your life that only comes from trusting someone with your life. And in my acquaintance with you, I have found you to have abundant to give me and to others. I often visit your Facebook page which contains so much of life dimensions, all painted in hues of humour and introspection. And every extension of you gives me strength in one way or the other.

And today I would like you to know that believe in how important you are to me, to our sisters on World Pulse and every one who comes in touch with you and LEAVE YOUR AGONY BEHIND FOREVER.

The first article I wrote 4 years ago was titled, " A puppy once followed me", a story of a puppy I feared would fall off the huge bridge over the river I crossed on foot everyday on my way to school and how I conquered my own fear of heights, trying to protect this puppy. This story keeps me reminded that often you overcome your own fears not from drawing strength from more powerful people but from those who are more vulnerable than you, in trying to protect them!

And so my sister, protect the 'puppies', and overcome your fear, and rise 'yet again'.

In prayers,
Urmila Chanam

It takes just one to change many

Y's picture

"This story keeps me reminded

"This story keeps me reminded that often you overcome your own fears not from drawing strength from more powerful people but from those who are more vulnerable than you, in trying to protect them!"

This is so true that it has brought me to tears. I faked bravery while I had my younger siblings and/or children in my care. All have rejected me as their mother/mentor/protector because my presence is a reminder to them of the times I stood between them and impending danger.

I have three granddaughters and a grandson that I'm not allowed to see. This is how it is when one steps into domestic abuse; the warrior who comes to the rescue is seen as the bully who started the trouble.

I cherish my relationship with you brave young women who are working so honestly and diligently to help create a more just and peaceful world. My prayer is that my grandchildren will be in communion with people like you in building a better earth than my generation handed to you.

Much love,


Dear sister Yvette,

The abuse that comes from home is also the abuse most difficult to handle by law enforcement agencies and legal support system; and by the survivor, for the simple reason that at the other end stands a person you evidently love and you can't severe yourself emotionally!!!! I encourage sisters worldwide to walk out of the violence when all other measures to resolve it don't work. The reason is it is an unfulfilling effort to try and assess why someone is abusive or violent with you and behave accordingly for any kind of behaviour should not justify violence!!

The grandchildren you don't get to see, the children who are distant will cause you less pain if you stop pursuing them and stat silently at your end, leading your life. One day, they will come to you if it has to happen but you will have to find a life away from them too in this situation.

This is the reason most women don't know what to do if doing something means she will lose her loved ones. My question is why do we love people who don't love us back?

Think about this , my sister. And love yourself first to earn the love of others. Then love and care for ones who deserve you. And at last, let the ones who rejected you feel the loss in losing you. It is a mind thing.

Hugs your way,
Urmila Chanam

It takes just one to change many

Cali gal Michelle's picture

Umila- Thank you for sharing

Thank you for sharing your experience and your perspective. Although it is heartbreaking to hear and read of all the violent acts that take place, it is encouraging to know that women are rising together. I know there are quite a few groups and organizations working to change attitudes and end violence against women. We need to make ways to work together I think. I hope to become more involved in this area and find ways to connect women and groups together, changing laws, attitudes and actions. Thank you for taking part in this movement and for sharing it with us!

Let us Hope together-
aka: Cali gal


Urmila Chanam's picture

Not even 10%

Dear Michelle,

While efforts are on, we might have just reached a little below 10% of women in my estimate. 73% of India's population lives in villages, and the situation of women has not changed much in that. Sometimes, I wonder how we approach issues thinking the internet or access to information reaches everyone.

The journey has just begun. Thank you for your encouraging words my sister.

Hope to hear from you more.

Love and prayers,
Urmila Chanam

It takes just one to change many

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