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Welcome to V to the 10th

Wed, 09/26/2007

Dear V Activists

Welcome to V to the 10th - the celebration, the call, the decision, the next step. Welcome to the next ten years where together we will raise the stakes, go further, go deeper, increase the power and CHANGE THE STORY OF WOMEN.

Because of your dedication and spirit, V-Day is celebrating ten years of ending violence against women and girls. I am personally inviting you to join us this V-Season, both in your own communities and also with us in April in New Orleans, Louisiana, as we celebrate these victories. Stay tuned for dates and details that will be announced this Fall via V-Mail!

[And there are so many victories: women speaking the word where it was never uttered; women standing up against local and national governments, religious forces, parents, husbands, friends, university administrators, college presidents; the voice inside them that judges and censors: college students across the world making V-Day a radical annual event (it's been noted that there are 2 things on every college campus, a Starbucks and a V-Day). Women reclaiming their bodies; telling the stories of their own violations, desires, victories, shame, adventures. Women finding their power, their voice, women standing up for women in other parts of the world, women being supported by great men who wrote monologues, who directed, who produced, who were proud. Afghan women, Egyptian women, Native American women, Asian women, women standing on stage, on edge, in reds and pinks, with New York accents, southern accents, African accents, Indian accents and British accents; speaking, screaming, whispering, laughing and moaning.

There are so many tales, so many images: a group of about 30 Comfort women between the ages of 70 and 90 chanting PUKI (vagina in Tagalog) with their fists raised, the President of Iceland declaring himself a Vagina Warrior, hundreds of girls in Kenya dancing in the African sun as the first V-Day safe house opened, a Catholic girls school in Cap Haitian overflowing with more than 500 people, packed with men screaming back to the performers, nurses at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, DRC reading The Vagina Monologues, performing Congolese orgasms on a roof top, women in Islamabad, Pakistan dressed in red Shalwar Kamiz and Saris, thousands in the streets of Ciudad, Juarez coming from all over the world standing up to stop the murders and mutilation of women, a 14 hour bus ride to Himachal Pradesh in India to open a sanctuary for women, the mayor of Italy opening the Rome V-Day Summit, My Vagina was My Village being performed at the UN, at Madison Square Garden, in Bosnia, at the Royal Albert Hall, in Johannesburg, Macedonia, Athens, the word vagina standing out, the only English word in an Arabic article written in The Beirut Times, red feathers being handed out at the Indian Country production in Rapid City, learning to sign clitoris in a performance by deaf women in Washington DC, vagina t-shirts, lollipops, buttons, puppets, quilts, panties, posters, votes, attitudes and style.

So much has happened. So much has changed. We can point to places where violence has been reduced or has been stopped altogether or where the consciousness has most clearly shifted. We have had huge victories.

Then of course there is the opposite. The world is still profoundly unsafe for women. Violence escalates. War abounds.

In the last year, during V-Day's Spotlight on Women in Conflict Zones, I traveled to Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I visited women in cities throughout the U.S. and Europe. I met with our V-Day sisters from Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan.

In Haiti I found rape, a tool used in the war, now essentially normalized, now rampant.

In the DRC, I heard the stories of atrocities towards women- sexual torture and raping of hundreds of thousands of women and girls, heinous and soul cracking.

Throughout North America and Europe, the story of women still raped in colleges, beaten in their homes, trafficked and sold in the streets.
In Iraq, the destruction of women's rights since the U.S. invasion, a rise in honor killings, rapes and murders of women.

In Afghanistan, war lords, former rapists and murderers in power, the Taliban coming back, girls afraid to go to school, women teachers murdered, outspoken women in parliament threatened and censored.

In Egypt and throughout Africa, still women are genitally cut-nearly 2 million a year.

We have broken through many barriers, we have changed the landscape of the dialogue, we have reclaimed our stories and our voice, but we have not yet unraveled or deconstructed the inherent cultural underpinnings and causes of violence. We have not penetrated the mindset that somewhere in every single culture gives permission to violence, expects violence, waits for violence, and instigates violence. We have not stopped teaching boys to deny being afraid, doubtful, needy, sorrowful, vulnerable, open, tender and compassionate.

We have not yet elected or become leaders who refuse violence as a possible intervention, who make ending violence the center of everything rather than amassing more weapons and proving how macho and unbending we can be. We have not elected or become leaders who understand that you cannot say you believe in protecting women and children and then support bombing Iraq. Exactly whose children do you believe in protecting? We have not yet elected or become leaders who understand that the same mechanisms of occupation, domination and invasion on an international level influence and role model what happens in the home, on a domestic level. We have not elected or become leaders who are brave enough to make ending violence against women the central issue of our campaign or office.

If we are going to end violence against women, the whole story has to change. We have to look at shame and humiliation and poverty and racism and what building an empire on the back of the world does to the people who are bent over. We have to say what happens to women matters to everyone and it matters A LOT.

Even raising money to stop violence against women can make it some thing other, something separate from the human condition, from every moment of our daily lives. It creates a strange fragmentation and an even more bizarre fiction. We concretize what is abstract and integral because we need to raise money and people feel better writing checks. And so we have constructed an anti-violence movement that has built shelters and hot lines and places for women to run to be safe. And although these places are crucial, they keep the focus on things or places rather than the issue, on rescue rather than transformation. It is the culture that has to change--the beliefs, the underlying story and behavior of the culture.

I have said from the beginning that ending violence against women cannot be the thing we get to later. Yet we are still, all these years later fighting for crumbs--morally, politically, financially. V-Day now raises more money than any group in the world to stop violence against women. This is not good news. In one year we raise 4 to 6 million dollars. That is the cost of 10 minutes of the war in Iraq. One out of three women on the planet will be beaten or raped. You do the math.

Ending violence against women is actually about being willing to struggle to be a different kind of human being. It means not accepting force as a method of coercion and oppression. Ending violence against women means opening to the great power of women, the mystery of women, the heart of women, the wild unending sexuality and creativity of women, and not being afraid.

The idea of V to the 10th is to multiply vagina power by 10. Do this in any way that comes to you. If you had 100 people at your last event, shoot for 1000. If you raised $2000, shoot for $20,000 [or 200 shoot for 2000]. If you changed one law, fight for ten more. If you reached ten friends, think of ten more. These last ten years have been triumphant. We can build on that energy. Now is the time to CHANGE THE STORY OF WOMEN!

This year, make your event the boldest and most ambitious yet. We will be shining a spotlight on the incredible women of New Orleans, Katrina Warriors. These women have come to symbolize the universal plight of women in conflict zones and highlight the need for full acknowledgment and resources to the still devastated community. As part of our 2008 Spotlight Campaign we are working together with service providers, first-responders, artists, educators, activists and V-Day New Orleans organizers to create The Katrina Warrior Network, grassroots groups dedicated to helping women and girls living and returning to New Orleans to rebuild their lives. Collaboratively we hope to unite, activate, involve, and transform the New Orleans community forming a structure that will last through the rebuilding and beyond.

In April , V-Day will convene in New Orleans in a major celebration - dates and details to be announced this Fall! We will invite you and your community to speak out, commune with V-Day organizers from around the world and meet, nurture and help to rebuild the lives of the women and girls or New Orleans.

I want to say here and now that your work, your courage, your creativity and profound dedication over the last ten years has brought us here. I know together we will shift what has to be shifted in human consciousness in order to end this violence. I know collectively we will find the way.

See you on the road. See you in New Orleans.

V to the 10th!
Eve Ensler