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One Billion Rising: V-Day’s Eve Ensler Launches Global Day of Action, Dance Against Women’s Violence

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales speak with Eve Ensler, founder of V-Day, the global movement to end domestic violence, and the playwright behind "The Vagina Monologues."

Editor's note: The following is a transcript of a Democracy Now! interview with Eve Ensler. 

JUAN GONZALEZ: Republicans are not only challenging women’s reproductive rights but also the reauthorization of a formerly uncontroversial bill know as the Violence Against Women Act. The landmark federal law comes up for reauthorization roughly every five years and has enjoyed bipartisan support since President Clinton first signed it in 1994. However, in February, all of the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted against the bill when it came up for consideration. Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa led the effort to oppose the bill’s provisions ensuring greater protection for  LGBTindividuals, undocumented immigrants, and Native Americans on tribal land. The measure ultimately passed out of committee on a 10-to-8 party-line vote.

The Violence Against Women Act was designed to offer federal funding for the investigation and prosecution of domestic violence, while bringing public awareness to the issue. This year, reauthorization of the bill would place greater emphasis on reducing domestic homicides and sexual assault, as well as strengthen housing protections for domestic violence survivors. Since the bill was first enacted, reporting of domestic violence increased by more than 50 percent.

AMY GOODMAN: Against this backdrop, the global movement to end violence against women and girls, known as V-Day, has just launched a new global campaign called "One Billion Rising." The founder of V-Day, the Tony Award-winning playwright and activist Eve Ensler, announced her new campaign on CNN’s  Connect the World.

EVE ENSLER: What we’ve decided, moving into our 15th anniversary, is that we are launching a campaign called One Billion Rising. It will be a campaign where next V-Day, February 14th, 2013, we are calling for, inviting, challenging one billion women, and all the people who love them—and we hope many men will join this campaign—to walk off their jobs, walk out of their schools, walk out of their homes, and gather in fields, stadiums, churches, blocks, wherever, beaches, and dance, until the violence stops. We need to do something that’s dramatic and urgent, where women can see their numbers, see the epidemic proportions of violence against women, and understand that it is indeed one of the central issues of our times.

AMY GOODMAN: Eve Ensler of V-Day, announcing her new campaign, One Billion Rising.

In addition to founding V-Day, Eve Ensler is the bestselling author and playwright behind  The Vagina Monologues. Her latest book is a collection of fictional monologues and stories inspired by girls; it’s called  I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World. Eve Ensler has also been awarded the 2011 Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award for her commitment to humanitarian and charitable efforts around her V-Day organizing around the world. And she’s also the director of City of Joy, a groundbreaking new community for women survivors of gender violence in Congo. Created from their vision, Congolese women run, operate and direct City of Joy themselves.

Eve Ensler, we welcome you to  Democracy Now! Not sure which one to begin on, but let’s go there, the last, City of Joy.

EVE ENSLER: I’m actually not the director of City of Joy. Christine Schuler Deschryver is the director. I just want to clarify that. One of the great things, I think, about City of Joy is it’s fully run and directed and owned by the Congolese. I simply find funds in the world to keep their mission and their purpose alive.

And I’m really happy to say I just was there for the month of January in Bukavu, where we had the first graduating class, which was a pilot class of 41 women. All of the women who are at City of Joy have suffered gender violence, and fairly extreme gender violence, and arrived six months earlier very traumatized, coming from villages where often women have seen the worst conflict with very little support, in villages and in the bush, where, you know, they have very little access and very little safety and very little protection and security. And I think we’re seeing some of the worst cases arrive from eastern Congo, women who have suffered gang rapes and attacks on villages, attacks on their bodies, the likes of which I don’t think most of us can even imagine. But the good news is that they arrive traumatized, some with bullet holes literally in their heads, some missing parts of their bodies after being gang-raped, and through the amazing programs at City of Joy, through both therapy, which involves dance and theater and telling their stories and releasing their trauma through education, you know, literacy, learning English, learning self-defense, taking civics courses, taking communication courses, learning agriculture, it’s quite astounding what’s happened with the women. And I was at the graduation in January, where 41 women, who arrived traumatized and really, many of them, unable to sleep, having seriously bad nightmares, some aggressive because of the horrible trauma that was done to them, were some of the most powerful, articulate, passionate leaders I’ve ever seen. And they are now back in their communities, each with $100, a cell phone and a posse, in their communities basically spreading what they’ve learned, teaching women in their communities what their rights are, teaching them what they’re entitled to.

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