On 14 February 2014 as a heavy mist of ash showered down on Central Java from Mount Kelud, a group of fifty women and men gathered to show their solidarity for the rejection of violence against women. The gathering for One Billion Rising was planned to take place on Jalan Malioboro in Yogyakarta, but because of the blanket of ash the event was moved undercover to the Taman Budaya (Cultural Centre).
One Billion Rising is an annual event that takes place in 207 countries worldwide to raise awareness about violence against women. Every day, twenty Indonesian women become victims of sexual crimes and fifty percent of these cases constitute rape. More women are affected by violence in Java than in Kalimantan or Sumatra.
Tia Setiyani, a survivor of sexual abuse, a young activist and a coordinator of One Billion Rising in Yogyakarta, expressed her concern that women, children and people with disabilities might be vulnerable to violence at evacuation sites, such as one set up for people affected by the Mount Kelud eruption. Setiyani and other organisers discussed canceling the event to honor the women being evacuated from Mount Kelud. The organisers ultimately decided they could remember the plight of these women, as they demonstrated to support the rights of all to live violence-free.
One Billion Rising’s theme is ‘Rise, Release, Dance for Justice!’ In Yogyakarta participants danced together in protest and solidarity, as they did across the world. One Billion Rising’s website explains, “Dance is dangerous, joyous, sexual, holy, disruptive, contagious, it breaks the rules. It can happen anywhere, anytime, with anyone and everyone, and it's free. Dancing insists we take up space, we go there together in community. Dance joins us and pushes us to go further and that is why it's at the center of One Billion Rising.”
After dancing, participants donned sandwich boards with messages inscribed on them and made a circle in the parking area. As ash covered their bodies, and no doubt made it past their masks into their throats and lungs, they each told their stories (including some survivors of violence) and spoke out against hurting women. Each person voiced an intention or thought and some expressed vehement opposition to any sort of violence.
Setiyani said it always rains for One Billion Rising, “last year it rained water and this year, ash. But Yogyakarta always rises nonetheless.” Although One Billion Rising took place in a less public forum this year, participants still felt One Billion Rising was successful. With the change of venue and format at the last minute, those who took part were charged with expressing themselves spontaneously and this added power to their statements.
One Billion Rising is a yearly event and takes place around the world. To find out more, please visit www.onebillionrising.org.
Willow Paule (email@example.com) is a photographer based in Southeast Asia. She was the winner of Inside Indonesia's 30th anniversary photograph competition.