An average day in a city mall. Photo by Kendall Latimer.

People are engaging in dance flash mobs to stimulate global awareness. On Feb. 14, the international community will participate in One Billion Rising. The campaign promotes ending violence towards women and girls from all walks of life.

 

“I think that it is a peaceful way, a joyful way to take a stand,” said Linda Yablonski, from Belly Dance with Linda.

 

The One Billion Rising campaign was derived from the V-day movement which was inspired by Eve Ensler’s play Vagina Monologues. The catalyst for the play was Ensler's interviews with over 200 women about their vaginas.

 

One Billion Rising launched in 2012 and has evolved into an annual event. It strives to generate awareness of violence towards women and girls, like physical, mental, verbal and emotional abuse, female genital mutilation, rape, incest, and sex slavery.

 

The number one billion is representative of the one in three women who will experience violence in their lifetime. “The campaign highlights the fact that violence towards women is a global human issue not relegated to a country or tribe or class or religion,” the campaign website states.

 

Yablonski joined the One Billion Rising movement two years ago. She was introduced to the movement via Facebook and has choreographed a routine to the movement’s theme song “Break the Chain.” On Sat. Feb. 14 she and those who join her will flash mob a Regina mall in honor of the campaign. The specific mall has not yet been announced.

 

“I was struck so deeply when I read it and cried so hard. So many people are so badly mistreated and it’s time to stop it. I love to dance and the whole thing about One Billion Rising is to rise up through dance, song, through drumming, through movement and it doesn’t have to be dance,” she said, adding that “it could be poetry or any kind of performance art and to say, ‘I as a women am not going to put up with this anymore,’ somebody’s got to take a stand.”

 

The Regina Transition House is a local shelter that offers services to women threatened with violence. Their goal is to eliminate all forms of abuse. Carla Beck, assistant executive director at Regina’s Transition House, said that any time a group brings issues of violence to the forefront it is a benefit to those currently experiencing it.

 

“One of the main methods of control that abusers will use in abusive relationships is isolation and fear, so we can counter that and point to allies in the community,” said Beck. “Often women will express to us, ‘I thought it was just me, I thought it was because of something I did.’ When they realize it’s a larger societal issue and that others are experiencing the same thing, it gives them power.”

 

Over 1,000 women and children asked for entry into the shelter last year. Beck said the services and programs have expanded, but the shelter still can’t meet community demand.

 

“Another thing that has impacted us is that the length of stay has increased dramatically because of the housing situation in Regina and the lack of affordable housing,” she said, adding that if women and children don’t have a place to go they can’t leave abusive situations.

 

“Saskatchewan has the terrible distinction of having the highest rate of violence against women in Canada in terms of provinces. I mean the territories are higher, but our rates of violence against women are almost double the national average.”

 

Beck noted that there are many contributing factors when it comes to violence against women and children, and that the solution will not be easy. “This is not a problem that’s going to be solved by building more shelters. It’s important to have them in place, but we need to address violence against women and children at a societal level.”

 

Yablonski hopes to generate societal awareness with the dance flash mob. “I hope that some woman who’s walking by the mall when we’re dancing will see that there are other people who support her, who don’t even know her, but they’re standing up for her,” said Yablonski.

 

“Maybe it’s just enough to inspire someone else to say, ‘Wow I need to take a stand, I need to have a bigger voice, I need to use my power.’”