Ganohkwasra held their long anticipated One Billion Rising event last Friday to help raise awareness about violence against women worldwide. The statistics are shocking: according to the One Billion Rising website, there are 7 billion people on this planet. Half are women. One third of these women will be raped or beaten in their lifetime. For Indigenous women in Canada, the statistics are even more startling. According to Statistics Canada, Indigenous women in Canada are 5-7 times more likely than any other race in Canada to become a victim of sexual violence. And according to Amnesty International, Indigenous women are 3 times more likely to die as a result of this violence.
To coincide with International Women’s Day on Saturday, Ganohkwasra held their event on Friday. Sandy Montour, the Director at Ganohkwasra, told those gathered that, “We have amazing women in this community. Let’s celebrate their voices because these are strong women who taught our men to be wonderful, kind men.” Acknowledging all the women who currently live in abusive relationships, Montour said, “We celebrate and honour all women, even those who are in violent homes.”
“The future is our young girls,” stated Montour. “We need to learn and be the best that we can be and that is all we can do.”
Before Ehsganye was performed, Montour affirmed that everyone was there to ‘celebrate all Haudenosaunee women across Turtle Island.’ She also acknowledged the over 800 missing and murdered Indigenous women across Canada and declared, “Canada is failing our women. Abuse is not acceptable in our community or anywhere across Turtle Island.”
A short video was played called One Billion Rising for Justice; it featured a compilation of women dancing all over the world in support of ending violence against women. Montour stated, “We’re dancing as an expression of how women are sacred. Women are beautiful. We stand in solidarity with other communities. Today we honour our women by dancing in our own way.” Montour was referring to the Haudenosaunee Women’s Shuffle Dance, better known as Ehsganye.
The One Billion Rising for Justice video was followed by another short video called One Billion Rising Man Prayer, which showed different men across the world, speaking in their own languages to support ending violence against women. Montour stressed that “Men play an important role as well.”
As Cleve General and Cam Hill prepared to sing, Montour told the women, “Dance for the women in your family, dance for those who have gone before us and dance for those yet to come.”