VAW is not a women’s issue, it’s a human issue. While Big Alcohol wants more alcohol use, we want less (alcohol use) violence. So that all women and girls can have a happy, non-violent, sober, free and heart-driven Valentine’s Day…

Valentine’s Day is here and what I have noticed so far are all the commercials about the parties that will be held on that night in the cities across East Africa. This is a day that most girls, young women and older women love because we are all romantics.

But there has been some criticisms in the spirit of “how about showing one’s love or affection throughout the year instead on just this one day”; which is a misconception. I prefer to believe the history that Saint Valentine’s day came about because it fell during Springtime when the birds paired up and thus mimicking nature, this was a day that one could choose a mate. Therefore the gift giving, that comes with this day is a type of wooing. Chocolate, flowers to make a love interest more receptive.

Big Alcohol violating their own codes of conduct
Big Alcohol violating their own codes of conduct
The green ones: Tusker Lite Low Calories targetting women (East African Breweries, meaning Diageo)
The red ones: Redd marketing with sex (SABMiller)

However, this holiday has now been identified by the alcohol industry as a way to make more profit. There are advertisements –  as well as tweets about Valentine’s parties sponsored by the beer manufacturing industry.

Many examples of the marketing push by Big Alcohol to hijack Valentine’s Day are actually quite awful and unethical.

Linking alcohol and sex appeal for example is somehting Big Alcohol as pledged in its own codes of conduct not to do.

My question is, since when have women in East Africa started preferring alcohol to flowers and chocolate?

On the other hand, around the world #1billionrising – a worldwide rising – is taking effect! On February 14, 2013 women, girls and the men who love them are coming together to strike! Dance! Rise to stop Violence Against Women! And IOGT International and the Swedish IOGT-NTO Movement are joining in and rising up.

Together we end violence against women
Together we end violence against women

In Tanzania alone, there are 3 risings; Tuamke Dar in Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar & Kilimanjaro. In East Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda are also rising.

Thus, these East African countries will join about 120 other countries around the world in a global revolution to end violence against women. One Billion Rising calls on women and the men who love them to join together and “dance until the violence stops.” Dar es Salaam will join other Risings taking place simultaneously all around the world at Tuamke Dar.

Shop owners voluntarily promote our action on #1billionrising
Shop owners voluntarily promote our action on #1billionrising

One Billion Rising began as a call to action based on the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at 7 billion, this adds up to more than one billion women and girls.

On February 14, 2013, V-Day’s 15th anniversary, Dar es Salaam will join activists, writers, thinkers, celebrities, and women and men across the world as we express our outrage, demand change, strike, dance, and rise in defiance of the injustices women suffer, demanding an end at last to violence against women.

Together we stop excusing alcohol violence
Together we stop excusing alcohol violence

Our hope is that people will leave their work, schools, and homes to come together and dance. By doing so, they will see just how many people are affected by violence against women. While it will be grounded in this sobering reality, Tuamke Dar – and One Billion Rising as a whole – is meant to uplift, unify, and show the world that the violence must stop.

IOGT adds this dimension, that in this statistic, 70% of all violence is related to alcohol.

I invite you to join #1billionrising in your city, to stop the violence against your grandmother, mother, aunt, wife, sister or your daughter. This scourge affects all of us and only we, the human race by coming together and shouting NO! can stop it.

We don’t want this to be part of our legacy. VAW is not a women’s issue, it is a human issue. We need 100% commitment from young/old, wo/men, to #EndVAW. I wish you all a happy, non-violent, sober, #HeartDriven Valentine’s Day.

To read more about IOGT International’s work for Human Dignity, gender equality and the elimination of violence against women and girls, see our booklet Alcohol Culture in Gender Zoom and check out our #OrangeDay Campaign.