About a dozen people used their Monday morning to add UC Merced to a global campaign to end violence against women and girls.
Students and staff shot a video under the shadow of UC Merced’s “Beginnings” statue, where they danced to R&B song “Break the Chain.” It’s part of a campaign that encourages people all over the world to shoot similar videos.
The effort is called 1 Billion Rising, which takes its name from a United Nations statistic: 1 in 3 women will be beaten or raped over their lifetimes. That means more than 1 billion women and girls have been physically or sexually assaulted.
“People from all different countries are doing this dance as a form of protest,” said Molly Bechtel, coordinator of women’s programs for the university.
The UC Merced dancers were a few days early, as the day to bring recognition to the violence is Friday. Bechtel said the group plans to launch the video on the UC Merced Women’s Program and the 1 Billion Rising websites on Friday.
Last year, on Feb. 14, the 1 Billion Rising campaign kicked off when people from 207 countries participated in events to raise awareness. It was spearheaded by Eve Ensler, author of “The Vagina Monologues.”
There were reports of participants in several U.S. cities, along with India, Peru and South Africa, to name a few. The campaign resonated in India, according to reports, where discussions about violence against women were prevalent after the highly publicized gang rape of a 23-year-old female student.
One of the dancers on Monday, Sonamtso Lama, 21, had a hand in organizing the video, in which the choreography took more than two hours of practice. She said getting people to recognize the violence is the most important part of the campaign. “It’s almost so common that, sadly, it’s forgotten about or it’s not talked about,” she said. “So what little awareness we can create, I think is great.”
Lama, originally from Oakland, said it was important to her to let survivors know they have allies on campus. She said she hopes that the campaign’s visibility will embolden victims to seek support. “We will stand with our sisters and our daughters and our wives, or whoever it may be,” she said. “I think from that, it creates a stronger community of people.”
For more on the event or to see videos from participants, go to www.onebillionrising.org. The UC Merced Women’s Programs site is http://studentlife.ucmerced.edu/content/womens-programs.