Uddomey Uttoroney Shotokoti (One Billion Rising), an alliance of rights groups, government and private sector institutions, cultural groups, students and activists, mobilised millions of women and men across the country to rise up, walk out and demand an end to violence against women on Thursday (Feb 14) to mark the global ‘One Billion Rising’ campaign being observed. This was along side 200 other countries who gathered to demand an end to violence against women.
With extraordinary solidarity, women and men, from all walks of life, formed human chains from 1 pm in over 42 locations all over Dhaka city, as well as in all 66 districts of the country. The longest stretch of the human chain was formed from Mirpur to Asad gate moving up to the Parliament building, where Parliamentarians and MPs joined together in solidarity against violence against women. In a historical stance across the country, offices, factories, schools, universities, TV stations, media, agencies, everywhere, people stepped out and stood in solidarity at 1 pm.
With over 384 supporting organizations, millions of workers from different sectors, and people from diverse occupations were mobilized.
To express their stand and demand an end to violence against women, some of the slogans chanted included ‘No more silence’, ‘we demand a rape free society’, ‘we have not forgotten the rapes of 71 and we will not tolerate violence today, ‘May every place be safe for women’.
In red attires, and hoisting red clothes, women and men joined across the country in numbers larger than ever before, for a cause that has been long overdue. The men and women across Bangladesh not only showed their solidarity but also brought home the fact that women’s rights issue is not secondary, personal or isolated. It is a national issue and the time for the society to act has come.
In addition to the nationwide programme, from 3pm, a cultural festival titled ‘Protibaad Kori, Protirodh gori’(OBR Bangladesh) is starting at Shilpakala Academy. The festival will play a tribute to women across Bangladesh and using various forms of artworks, dances, skits, recitations, music, and screenings.
Powerful visuals and art works were displayed to depict the message of breaking the silence, the shackles and challenges faced by Bangladesh women. Each image, each display and portrayal of performances also gave the message that the time is NOW. To stand up, to strike the core of violence and RISE against patriarchy and every force that limits women and their freedom.
The powerful event will followed by a concert, titled ‘No More- Aar Na!’. Artistes at the concert include Arnob, Pantha kanai, Nemesis, Stone Free, Chirkut, Warda Ashraf, Krishnokoli and many others.
The objective of this widespread protest across Bangladesh is to break the silence and inaction about violence against women. The reason for choosing Valentine’s Day is because there is a need to bring about a change in the commercialised nature of the day and establish it to be about loving and respecting women.
The women’s rights movement in Bangladesh has been moving ahead with numerous recent achievements and this movement aims to further strengthen the actions so that more survivors and their families speak up and that they are not denied justice.
February 14 is not an end, but rather a starting point and a step forward for future discussions and action on violence against women. OBR member organisations will use this platform to consolidate and coordinate their efforts where possible and challenge discriminatory practices and laws through awareness-raising activities, training, outreach, advocacy etc.