On Tuesday, Sophia Strother spoke to a crowd of people at the Capitol about how she overcame domestic violence and sex trafficking as part of a global movement to end violence against women.
“I made it,” Strother said. “And so to everyone out here, you came, you made it. We count, we matter.”
Around noon, about 50 people gathered to stand up to gender-based violence as part of the One Billion Rising campaign.
The movement was launched on Valentine’s Day in 2012 and was named accordingly because one out of three women, more than one billion individuals, are physically or sexually abused, according to the World Health Organization. Organizer Lisa Pous said she wants victims to feel emboldened and proud of themselves.
“It’s like a reclamation from trafficking and domestic violence and sexual assault,” Pous said. “I’m like, ‘Ah, I’m whole and complete, I can put all my pieces back together and I like them.’”
In Austin, the Capitol’s foreground became a stage for the event’s participants to dance to pop music and exude happiness despite oppression of women.
“You may be feeling that allowing yourself to feel the joy right now is a betrayal of the horrors going on in the world,” organizer Maisha Barrett said. “But our capacity to feel joy is going to be the thing that is going to sustain us.”
Attendees braved the cold for the event, which promotes solidarity through dance and personal triumphs. Strother said she overcame domestic violence and sex trafficking.
“It’s hard to tell someone to love yourself when everything you associate with love is hurtful,” Strother said. “One of the things that I had to learn was how could I tangibly learn to love myself.”
Purple and pink-dyed hair blew in the wind, and some sported “pussyhats,” hot pink knitted hats with ears that were made for last month’s Women’s March. Susan Scott, 49, wore a pussyhat and was halfway through knitting another one.
“I saw in the March on Washington so many (hats) in the crowd,” Scott said. “It’s been a good symbol of solidarity that there were so many of them. Violence against women is such a problem all over the world.”
Thousands of women danced in a One Billion Rising event in the Philippines, and organizers coordinate events in places around the world such as Somalia, the U.K., Central and South America.
Around 1 p.m., the crowd dwindled down to about 30 people and the sound for the microphone cut out, but the organizers shouted over the wind saying they would not stop spreading their message.
Kawika Preslar, who is 34 and a student at Houston College, held a large black sign that read “Girls just wanna have fundamental rights.” Preslar said violence against women should be talked about more, especially among men.
“I love to see all the men out here right now supporting women,” Preslar said. “I think it’s a conversation that everybody should have.”
Geneva Pous said she is proud of her mother, Lisa Pous, for organizing such an event and hopes to give other women the same hope.
“I’m really proud of my mother,” Geneva said. “And I hope to one day be able to do what she does, go up and speak and help empower other women.”