February 26th, 2013

S.H.OUT Flash Mob – A Roaring Success!

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By Sahar Pirzada and Asiyah Arif

 One Billion Rising is a global strike – encouraging men and women around the world to take to the streets on V-day, singing, dancing, lighting a candle, to demand an end to violence against women. We wanted to stand up and be counted too.

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At 1:00pm on Valentine’s Day, 70 people walked through Raffles Place, with big bunches of black balloons looming over them. On cue, they all froze in place, their hands dramatically covering their mouths to represent the silence of victims of workplace sexual harassment. A minute later, they shouted “SHOUT sexual harassment out!” in synchrony, released their balloons into the stormy sky, and melted back into the crowds.

The flash mob, staged in conjunction with the global One Billion Rising movement this V-Day, aimed to raise awareness about sexual harassment in workplaces in Singapore as part of the S.H.OUT! campaign. The campaign, launched by AWARE on 25th November, the International Day to End Violence Against Women, last year, aims to increase public awareness about the invisible problem and lobby for greater legal protection for victims.flash mob 7

The idea of staging a flash mob was tabled in December 2012, but it was only when the organising team received an email about the One Billion Rising event in late January that we decided to align our efforts with a worldwide cause. One Billion Rising is a global strike – encouraging men and women around the world to take to the streets on V-day, singing, dancing, lighting a candle, to demand an end to violence against women. We wanted to stand up and be counted too.

What followed were two weeks of endless emails to organisations, volunteers, printers and designers, and more than a few panic attacks. We had to get 50 volunteers out, in the middle of a work day, to take a stand in public against a taboo issue. It didn’t seem like we could pull it off.

flash mob 10On 14 February, we were extremely moved to see so many people turned up, 60 volunteers in all, many of whom had taken the time to come down to Raffles Place during their lunch hour, and some from their offices at the farthest corners of the island.

One volunteer, who had rushed down from her workplace in Jurong, said that it was the knowledge that she was making a difference that compelled her to come. She was delighted to meet other like minded people at the event, and felt that although “the fight is not over…the feeling of not fighting alone does help to continue.”

Even the pouring rain on Valentine’s Day couldn’t dampen our spirits as we came together. “I thought the rehearsals were great and despite the rain, everyone was in good spirits.  Good seeing everyone join in!” said Melissa, one of the volunteers.

flash mob 4Jane shared, “I would have participated in the OBR (One Billion Rising) movement wherever I was, but that I happened to be home for a week and that I could lend my voice to our local movement was personally very gratifying. Most of all, though, I was in awe of the mob’s organizers and all the volunteers who had taken time from their busy lives to contribute to a cause we all stand firm in. The rain didn’t drown our voices out! Not even the tiniest bit!”

Were we stressed out at moments? Sure. But we enjoyed every minute of it. Every minute spent bringing the flash mob to life was a minute spent fighting violence against women and a minute spent towards increasing protection for victims workplace sexual harassment. That was a powerful motivation and we are so thankful to have been given the opportunity to work on such an important campaign.

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 The next lap for us is to persuade companies and grassroots organizations to come on board to support S.H.OUT! and take our message to their management and employees. We’re on the lookout for more exciting opportunities to spread awareness about sexual harassment and change the status quo, so keep your eyes peeled. Maybe you’ll see a black balloon flying past your window soon… ;)

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