I raise my arms to the sky.

It is 3.30 pm. 14 of February 2013.

A little square in Usaquen, a beautiful district in Bogotá.

As I arrive there with Julia, we see a group of people. Mostly girls and women, but there are also some guys. They are sitting on the floor and listening to the boy with a guitar. Everybody is smiling. I would say peace, love and harmony. One could say ¨Oh, such a nice way of celebrating the Valentine´s Day¨.

But we gather there for a cause that stands far far away from this peaceful feeling and has nothing to do with the commercial character of the V-Day.

It is because we are a part of the One Billion Rising global initiative.

And it IS about LOVE.

Instead of spending this day the usual way (with flowers and chocolate), women and men all over the world decide to take on a global strike, they call to refuse to participate in the status quo until rape and rape culture ends. As the organizers say, it is an act of solidarity, demonstrating to women the commonality of their struggles and their power in numbers. The power of ¨NO¨ of the one billion raised voices. A global refusal to accept violence against women and girls as a given.

I can see a world where we all live

Safe and free from all oppression

No more rape or incest, or abuse

Women are not a possession

Says the song performed in all the *rising* corners of the world.

Each place and each woman has her story.

In Colombia the story is terrifying. And very often – silenced.

The sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) is one of the most alarming risks women run at all stages of forced displacement. According to the Human Rights Watch report, approximately two million internally displaced women and girls face high rates of rape and domestic violence. Daunting obstacles impede displaced victims’ access to healthcare, justice, and protection services.

This is my body, my body’s holy

No more excuses, no more abuses

We are mothers, we are teachers,

We are beautiful, beautiful creatures

As stated by Amnesty International, women and girls are the object of the generalized and systematic sexual violence in hands of all parts of the armed conflict. Although some have been attacked for reasons other than gender, but many were sexually abused just simply because they are women: to exploit them as sexual slaves, to sow terror in the communities and to facilitate the imposition of military control, to force whole families to flee from their homes and allow the appropriation of their land, and to take revenge on adversaries.

Women are also victims chosen as retaliation for their work as human rights defenders or as community and social leaders, in an attempt to silence them when they report abuse.

The latest HRW studies state:

¨The government has laws, policies, and programs to address such violence, and the particular risk to displaced women and girls. However, lack of training and poor implementation of protocols creates obstacles for women and girls seeking post-violence care. These include the failure of health facilities to properly implement relevant laws and policies—with the result that women and girls may not be adequately screened for signs of GBV, may be mistreated, may face delays in accessing essential services or be arbitrarily denied medical care altogether.

Barriers to justice for GBV victims include mistreatment by authorities, evidential challenges, and fear of retribution. Women and girl victims of this kind of violence are at times not informed about their legal rights, including where and how to access services. Perpetrators of GBV crimes are rarely brought to justice.¨

A study titled ‘First Survey on the prevalence of sexual violence against women in the context of the armed conflict’ was supported by international NGOs like OXFAM and undertaken in 2010 across 407 Colombian municipalities where conflict actors were present. On the basis of such study, between 2001 and 2009, 489,687 women stated they were victims of sexual violence. 74,698 of them held illegal armed actors (guerrillas and paramilitaries) responsible for the violence while 21,036 held members of the security forces responsible. It is complex to have a detailed idea on the size of this reality faced by women. As Congresswoman Angela Robledo stresses, official information is poor, the crime is practically invisible and the level of impunity in terms of justice investigation and sanctions is high.

The story speaks for itself. It screams to be told and repeated loudly, billion and more times, urging the Colombian authorities to take adequate actions and provide  functioning measures to prevent and address GBV. To break the chain.

I dance cause I love

Dance cause I dream

Dance cause I’ve had enough

Dance to stop the screams

Dance to break the rules

Dance to stop the pain

Dance to turn it upside down

Its time to break the chain, oh yeah

Break the Chain

Dance, rise

Kasia & Julia