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Fresno State students march through campus as part of the global One Billion Rising movement that advocates for ending violence against women.

Students march to highlight violence against women

About two dozen female students marched through campus last week as part of the global One Billion Rising movement, which aims to bring awareness to violence against women.

“Violence against women is something that is at the core of what feminists are concerned about and are reacting to,” said Larissa Mercado-Lopez, a professor in the women’s studies department. “We wanted to be part of a global event that would break the silence around violence and that would get students more engaged in those conversations.”

The “one billion” in One Billion Rising is rooted in the statistic stating that one in three women will experience violence, equating to approximately one billion women worldwide.

Mercado-Lopez’s feminist activism class organized the event. In the class, students majoring in women’s studies identify social problems and devise methods to help solve them.

Charissa Esparza, a student in Mercado-Lopez’s class, said people might not realize violence against women is an issue throughout the world, including within the U.S.

“In the U.S., it’s an epidemic,” Esparza said. “We think because we’re such an advanced country that we don’t have that problem.”

Elizabeth Chavez, also in the class, said sometimes people are not familiar with the different types of abuse a woman can face, including emotional abuse.

The events featured Centro La Familia Advocacy Services, an organization that provides educational and other social services to individuals throughout Fresno County. Martin Rodriguez, from Centro La Familia, said the center aids women who have faced domestic violence.

With signs in hand, the marchers walked from the Joyal Administration Building to the speaker’s platform in the Free Speech Area. Along the way, the group of female students chanted, “The way I dress does not mean yes,” and “My body, my choice. Her body, her choice.”

Once at the speaker’s platform, Ashley Juskalian, president of the Fresno State Women’s Alliance, read “My Short Skirt” by Eve Ensler. The reading focuses on the concept that one’s clothing does not determine consent. Ensler is a feminist playwright and activist as well as the founder of One Billion Rising.

Students from Mercado-Lopez’s class also read “They Beat the Girl Out of My Boy, or So They Tried,” another piece by Ensler that details the experiences a transgender woman faced growing up.

“We thought that it would be inclusive,” said Elizabeth Meza-Castillo, one of the students who read the piece. “It’s open to interpretation from trans communities and boys and girls and non binary and gender fluidity.”

A beauty pageant was also acted out at the speaker’s platform. There, statistics on violence against women were shared. Mercado-Lopez said that activity was inspired by a nonconventional act in a 2017 Peru beauty pageant where contestants shared statistics on violence against women to the audience.

The Raging Grannies of Fresno, an international organization comprised of activists in favor of social equity and peace, performed “We’re Rising Up,” where it is stated, “We own our bodies. We’ll protect the rights for which we fought, the right to step out unafraid, the freedom to abort.”

“One billion rising is a way to use mass communication and media to raise awareness of issues that are a concern to women,” said Nancy Hatcher, a member of the Raging Grannies of Fresno. “Particularly issues of abuse, domestic violence and the rights of women to protect their bodies.”