By Karen R. Kirk

Why You Should Watch This

One in three women worldwide will face rape or gender-based assault in her lifetime. “One Billion Rising,” released in September, portrays a diverse set of women facing different types of attacks, effectively showing that any woman, in any country, and any social situation could become part of this statistic. But it also shows them symbolically standing up, and uniting with women across the world to oppose this wave of violence.

By watching, you understand that you can incite a change in the status quo by participating and bringing international attention to the issue of gender-based violence.

Video Facts

  • Title of Video: “One Billion Rising (Short Film)”
  • Date Posted Online: September 20, 2012
  • Length: 2:59 minutes
  • Who made it: Eve Ensler and Tony Stroebel
  • Location: Worldwide
  • Human Rights Issue: rape, domestic violence, gender-based violence

Goal: Broadly, this video aims to spread awareness about rape and violence against women. More specifically, though, it is an open invitation to dance as part of a worldwide act of solidarity that will be held on February 14, 2013.

“[…] we are inviting, challenging, and calling women and the people who love them to walk out of their homes, schools, jobs to strike and dance. To dance with our bodies, our lives, our heart. To dance with our rage and our joy and love. To dance with whoever we want, wherever we can until the violence stops. […] Dancing, 1 Billion Dancing. The earth will surely move and violence against women and girls will end. Because it can.” -Eve Ensler

We are being called upon, as individuals and as a global community, literally to rise up and to demonstrate our support for these women who might not be able to do so for themselves. One billion people rising and dancing to fight violence against women will bring attention to this global issue.

Primary Audience: The video’s intended primary audience is made up of citizens of the western world whose participation in this ‘global strike’ will draw attention to gender-based violence. The hope is that celebrities, lawyers, parents, teachers, and anyone else will watch the video, be inspired, and participate.

Message: Violence against women is a real issue that can no longer be tolerated. By showing women from areas ranging from Asia to the West to Africa, this video shows that any woman can become a victim of violence. And its message is that any woman can rise up and fight these forms of violence.

Content/Style/Voices: Without testimonials or narration, this video uses diverse and provocative images to convey that any woman is a potential victim of gender-based violence—and that any woman is also a potential fighter against this violence.

The video initially presents a variety of violent acts against women. Then, as the intensity of the music increases, we see a change in their eyes, and we watch as the women rise up and fight back. The violent images are followed by positive and inspiring images of women standing up for themselves and others worldwide. No words are necessary as women begin to dance and raise one finger to the sky: for the one billion who will rise to end gender-based violence on February 14, 2013.

Though clearly staged, the powerful images provide a wordless narrative. Despite this accomplishment, it can be argued that the polished presentation of these stories is actually a detriment to the message because they put a glossy face on a gritty issue, effectively distancing the viewer.

Advocacy videos are most successful when they are thought provoking, when the viewer who then questions and contemplates that gender-based violence has remained a pervasive issue across the globe. By this measure, “One Billion Rising” is successful. But it does fall short by failing to make the audience question the reasons for these types of violence against women. The video would be stronger if it included some well-crafted statements about violence against women to get the audience to ask themselves “why?”

Did you know?: Eve Ensler is the feminist playwright who penned “The Vagina Monologues.”

Suggested resources:

Join the conversation:
Did this video inspire you to participate? How will you join the movement? Want to dance? Find an event near you!


Karen is an intern with WITNESS’ gender-based violence campaign. She graduated from Davidson College in 2011 where she studied French and Gender Studies.

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