At noon Thursday, women and men of all ages will gather in Portland’s Monument Square to kick off an afternoon of events that include a dance, a march, a short film, prayer and several presentations and performances at the Woodbury Center on the Portland campus of the University of Southern Maine.

It’s all part of “V-Day: One Billion Rising,” a global celebration on Valentine’s Day. The event is a celebration and march that includes a flash mob-style choreographed dance to the original song “Break the Chain,” all in the name of moving people to end violence against women and girls.

“One Billion Rising” is an extension of “The Vagina Monologues,” by playwright and activist Eve Ensler. The campaign is described as a call to action based on the United Nations statistic that one in three women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime.

Ensler, 59, calls “One Billion Rising” a “global strike, an invitation to dance, an act of solidarity, a refusal to accept violence against women and girls as a given, and a new time and new way of being.”

During a conference call from the city of Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo last week, Ensler fielded questions from journalists about what “One Billion Rising” means and why it’s gained momentum.

“We started thinking, ‘What would it be like if a billion women and all the men who love them danced on the same day on the planet?’ ” she said. “Nothing we’ve ever done has caught fire quite the way this idea has caught fire. I really do believe we will see at least a billion people rising and dancing to end violence against women and girls on Feb. 14, and I have to say how pleased we are to see how many men have joined us and will be joining us.”

Ensler says the movement has rallied everyone from the prime minister of Australia and the Dalai Lama to A-list Hollywood celebrities such as Robert Redford and Charlize Theron.

“We’ve seen tribal women, we’ve seen indigenous women, we’ve seen the head of the Steelworkers in America, we’ve seen unions, we’ve seen dancers, we’ve seen artists,” she said. “We have never seen this cross-section of people coming together to rise up to end violence against women and girls.”

Ensler believes one reason awareness of the issue is growing is a shift in how violence against women and girls has been reported.

“It’s not like gang raping is new. It’s not like girls getting shot in the head in Pakistan is new. This is not new news,” she said. “What’s happened is that movements have worked for years and years to bring this to the forefront of consciousness.

“And I think in the last year, what we’ve seen is that finally these stories are breaking through in big ways in the media, in the news, in the consciousness, which is absolutely fueling this movement on a whole new level.”

Robin Farrin, 53, a Portland-based freelance photographer, is the coordinator for the “One Billion Rising” events in Portland.

Farrin said she’s been a fan of Ensler’s work for years, and after seeing her speak at a “Women and Power” conference last fall, she was moved to act.

“Her strength and passion for the women and girls in the world so impressed me, and I felt committed to create an event in Portland,” Farrin said.

But what happens after the dances and speeches end?

“I hope to see everybody there committing to do something. I’m going to ask everyone to take a pledge,” said Farrin, whose own life has been touched by the issue. “It’s really horrific how bad it is, and that’s why I feel so strongly about it.”

Staff Writer Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455 or at:

[email protected]


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