Finding strength in numbers

Munster women are joining the global call for an end to violence and rape, writes Sharon Ní Chonchúir

THE gang rape and subsequent death of a young woman in India shocks the world. There is a public outcry when an Irish woman watches her rapist father walk free.

These recent stories represent a shocking statistic. One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. This Valentine’s Day, women around the world are saying this has to stop. Enough is finally enough.

“That statistic has always haunted me,” says Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues and founder of the One Billion Rising event. “Our aim is for one billion women and those who love them to walk out, dance, rise up and demand an end to this violence.”

So far, groups in more than 190 countries are taking part in One Billion Rising and there are 11 events happening in Ireland. One of these is being organised by Amantha Murphy in Faha, Killarney.

The event starts at 7pm and all donations will go to the Rape Crisis Centre in Tralee.

Amantha has been involved in women’s issues for years. She even tried to stage The Vagina Monologues in Kerry (the first time it would have been shown in Ireland) 12 years ago. She couldn’t get permission from anyone to use their venue at the time but she has been in touch with Eve Ensler ever since.

“As soon as I heard she was organising One Billion Rising, I was on board,” says Amantha. “Women are waking up. The story of Savita Halappanavar dying in Galway, Fiona Doyle’s story of abuse at the hands of her father; women are getting angry. They are speaking out for their daughters, their granddaughters and for their mothers who were unable to speak.”

She hopes her event sends out a strong message. “No more,” she says. “We’re saying no to violence and no to not being heard.”

Rose Mummery is organising an event in Bantry. Unlike Amantha, this is her first time being involved in anything of this kind but she is just as passionate about its importance.

“I’m fortunate that I don’t live in fear and I can speak out,” she says. “There are others who are fearful and who can’t speak. It’s my duty to stand up on their behalf.”

One of the things that drove her was having children of her own. “I have a daughter and a son and that drives it all home,” she says. “You want to make a better world for them.”

Rose’s event is taking place in the Square in Bantry at 1.30pm and consists of 30 minutes of dance. “It’s a dance party,” says Rose. “There will be a short flash mob which people can learn from our Facebook page. Whoever has learned can dance along and the others can shake, shimmy and party too. We can all connect through the music.”

She has also invited the West Cork Women against Violence organisation to participate. “This is not just a problem people have in other countries,” says Rose. “It’s here on our home turf too.”

Jenny Fahy in Cloughjordan in Tipperary has organised a slightly different event for One Billion Rising. “Ours is more of a rambling house,” she says. “We’re a rural community and some people don’t like dancing so we’re having an evening of music and song, with some dance, in the local parochial hall from 8pm. It will be a celebratory event and everyone is welcome.”

Like Amantha, Jenny is raising money for the Rape Crisis Centre. “They need €12,000 a month to keep going so we’re doing what we can to help,” she says. “We’ll have an information session during the evening, telling people about One Billion Rising and the work of the Rape Crisis Centre.”

She’s been very pleased with the response so far. “There’s been a huge shift in society,” she says. “Everyone has heard of these issues and there’s not as much of a taboo anymore, not as much fear about talking about them. This can only be a good thing because these are issues that affect women everywhere.”

Kasia Kowalska is organising an event in Ennis. Although she has never been a victim of violence, she has overcome difficult experiences and found dancing a great help.

“I got rid of so many frustrations when I started dancing,” she says. “It really put me back on track. So, when I read that this event involved dancing, it made sense to me.

Together with a friend, her Zumba dancing teacher and Clare Haven, a local organisation that helps victims of domestic abuse, Kasia set about organising a special evening.

“It’s much more than just dancing,” says Kasia. “Clare Haven will speak about the myths there are about domestic violence, how it’s something that could happen to anyone. A member of the gárdai will talk about the procedures involved in such cases. Women often worry about what will happen to them and their children. It’s important to let people know that there is help out there, that they will be protected. We might hold this event every year until we bring proper change.”

- www.onebillionrising.org

Picture: Jane Jenkins, Marie Mullholland, Jesie Slater and Rose Mummery, who are participating in the One Billion Rising event in Bantry, Co Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan

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