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Spreading the V Word

Originally published in:
The Friday Times, Pakistan

Performances of the V-Monologues raise awareness about women's rights. Amra Ahmed attends V-Day in the capital The V-Day performance (produced by AMAL) in Islamabad to mark the international violence against women campaign 2003, AMAL, an NGO working on gender rights, reproductive heath, HIV/AIDS, and human development, produced the play V-Monologues in Islamabad. The Vagina Monologues was first performed by the author Eve Ensler in New York over 6 years ago and has since been staged by as diverse a cast as Oscar award winning actors, students on college campuses and grassroots organisations throughout the world.

V-Day as the event was called, is part of V-World - a global movement which aims to stop violence against women and girls. In 1997 Eve Ensler met with a group of women activists and formed the idea of holding V-Days. Performances of the V-Monologues raise money and consciousness for local women's groups that are working to end all forms of violence towards women. Over these past 5 years, Ensler has contributed a sum in excess of $14 million towards women's organisations. This year alone there have been 1,052 V-Day performances worldwide.

Pakistan is a country that badly needed a V-Day to raise awareness about violence against women. Only last week, national papers reported horrific stories of the gang rape of a 50 year old woman, sanctioned by a jirga; the rape of a 12 year old girl and the brutal disfiguring of a female Union Council Member.

V-Day is a fierce catalyst aiming to break taboos and shake societal inertia in the fight to stop worldwide violence against women, including rape, battery, incest and genital mutilation. Shocking, provocative, raw and disconcerting in turn, these true stories were read out by 8 dynamic and courageous women in the capital. Sameeta Ahmed, an artist and teacher, also had her work hanging as a backdrop to the stage. Ayeshah Alam, actor, producer, director is well known for serious tele films - she has in the past dealt with the topic of rape and societal stigmatisation of minorities. Nadia Fragiacomo,an Italian development consultant gave a sensitive and heart rending performance. Samina Pirzada seemed to be truly moved during her performance - never one to shy away from provocative topics, her past films have touched on subjects such as marital rape. Bilquis Tahira, a writer of short stories, was inspired to participate in the event in order to expose the issue of violence against women. Nadia Jamil was the star of the show, the youngest, and the most natural on stage. She was uninhibited with the material, evoking tears and laughter from the audience. Nighat Rizvi,the producer of the show and co founder of AMAL, is a gender trainer and activist and has worked on television and on stage. She was the moving spirit behind the V-Day production. Eve Ensler, the author of these remarkable writings, started this incredible movement rising above her own personal experiences with violence. Ensler read the end passage about birth, drawing a stunning conclusion about womanhood and the essence of life and motherhood.

V-Day events have been named as amongst the 100 best charities in the world, raising over $7 million in 2002 alone. V-Day events have been hosted in such far flung places as the National Theatre in Guatemala, the Royal Albert Hall in London, the Folies Bergeres in Paris, the Appolo Theatre in Harlem and at the Help Institute in Selangor Malaysia. Eve Ensler says "V-World is a state of mind. It is a place you could never touch in me no matter how many times you banged my head or whipped my legs. V-World is the garden where the missing girls appear, their mothers and fathers waiting for them. V-World is the centre of us. It is the longing and it is remembering. V-World is what it smells like when they let you go, when you are not waiting to be hit, when you perspire from the sun instead of from worry."

V-Day is about telling stories about real women from all over the world. It's about us, it's about me, and maybe, it's about you.

- The Friday Times