Fletcher hosts One Billion Rising performances to end gender-based violence

The Fletcher Henry J. Leir Institute and the Fletcher Global Women group hosted a “Performances in Solidarity Against Sexual Violence” event last night in the ASEAN auditorium. The evening was held in conjunction with the annual One Billion Rising movement.

The event consisted of seven performances including an a cappella performance and spoken monologues concentrated on sexual violence and solidarity.

Kudrat Dutta Chaudhary, co-leader of Fletcher Global Women and co-host of the event, explained how the evening was meant to create a safe space to discuss these matters.

“It’s to talk about all of these issues with friends and with people who you care about. It’s to have a normal conversation about it, rather than stigmatizing it or having a whole conference over it, and this was something as natural as it gets,” Chaudhary, a first-year Master of Laws student, said.

The Ambassachords, Fletcher’s coed a cappella group, began the evening by performing “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten.

Dipali Anumol, a second-year Master of arts in Law and Diplomacy (MALD) student, then performed “Ode to the Catcaller Down the Street” by Nikita Gill. Before performing the piece, Anumol shared some of her own personal experiences dealing with catcallers. Anumol described the lack of agency women have in society when trying to discuss sexual harassment.

“We’re told not to overreact, not to be hysterical. As if having a voice is not important,” she said.

Kristen Mosher, a second-year MALD student and co-leader of The Gender Initiative and Pride at Fletcher, performed the monologue “First Kiss” by Mollie Doyle. Chaudhary introduced Mosher, saying that Mosher “hopes the piece will serve as a reminder that it is important to start discussing issues of consent with children early in their lives.”

Maria Nagel, a second-year MALD student, performed the poem “Spear” by Elizabeth Acevedo.

Chaudhary also performed. She spoke about pornography, violence and sexual stereotypes, and also as read an excerpt from her debut novel, “Laiza: Sometimes the End is Only a Beginning” (2017).

“The problem today is that we live in a society that doesn’t talk about sex,” she said, describing how porn is an “encyclopedia” for men to learn violent actions.

Juliette Devillard, a MALD second-year student, performed a piece she wrote. Her performance focused on sexual harassment around the world.

“I count myself lucky that I have not been abused,” she said.

Padmini Baruah, a first-year MALD student, performed a dialogue from “The Vagina Monologues (1996), a play by Eve Ensler with Devillard. Baruah concluded the performances by performing a solo excerpt from “The Vagina Monologues,” summoning a call to action on women’s claim to their own sexuality.

Co-leader of the Fletcher Global Women group Gauri Khanduja, a second-year MALD student, ended the evening by pointing out the abundance of women who performed, and invited and encouraged men to participate next year.

“Please take over the stage next year and make it an open dialogue,” Khanduja said.

Marina Travayiakis, associate director of the Henry J. Leir Institute, explained that One Billion Rising launched in 2012 as a call to mass action against gender-based violence. She said this is the third time that Fletcher is participating in the annual event.

She noted that for the past two years, Fletcher raised donations for the Cambridge Women’s Shelter after the One Billion Rising event. This year the group decided to do a clothing drive, Travayiakis said.

“I thought this was a really powerful event tonight and I am inspired by what the Fletcher community is able to do,” Travayiakis said. “I hope that this will continue annually, this discussion of gender-based violence coming together … and hopefully we can also address issues of gender-based violence that are sexual, physical and systemic.”