The Importance of November 25th-International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the beginning of the 16 days of Activism against Gender Based Violence
By: Irene Sanchez
The Southwest Political Report
November 25, 1960
This was the day the Mirabal sisters-Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa-were brutally murdered in the Dominican Republic after they fought against the dictator-U.S. installed and supported dictator-Rafael Trujillo. The Mirabal sisters, also known as “Las Mariposas”, story was depicted in the book, In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez (1994) which was also the basis of a later movie (2001).
The Mirabal sisters were from a wealthier family and had all went to school, married, and became political activists after they were targeted by the Trujillo dictatorship. One sister, Minerva had become a target of Trujillo. She went to law school at a time women were not allowed, but upon graduation was denied by the government to practice law. The family lost a lot of money and many members including the sisters husbands would go to prison, as the sisters were involved in attempts to oust Trujillo. The three of them helped to form a resistance group called The Fourteenth of June. When an attempt to assassinate Trujillo was exposed and more international pressure came down on his dictatorship, Trujillo ordered the sisters killed. Although they died, the murder of the sisters became the spark to overthrow Trujillo six months later.
Their youngest sister Dede, although never involved with the movement like her sisters, continued to care for their children and ensure that the sisters were remembered for their legacy until her death in 2014.
In 1981 activists named November 25th as a day to raise awareness of violence against women but it wasn’t until December 17, 1999, that the day, November 25th was designated by the United Nations as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in their honor.
I first learned of the day in my early years in community college when I was about 20 years old. As a young M.E.Chista, I reserved the small boardroom at my community college to show screenings of the film and raise awareness. I then became a certified sexual assault crisis counselor a year later. I look back on these times and how I have survived violence since then and how so many of us have survived and continue to survive and the various challenges women face in their homes, facing domestic violence, to the streets being targets of this violent misogynistic and patriarchal society. I remember a man once told me he was afraid for me when I was going through a domestic violence situation a few years ago and that I had a target on my back, I responded, “I am a woman. I was born with a target on my back”. There are many who give hope and in various ways are active in different communities to end violence and in these times it is important perhaps more than ever, that this work continues.
Today, November 25th, 2016 marks the beginning of these days were these issues come to light on an international level for only 16 days a year, but in order to tackle these issues head on, we need to do this work 365 days a year.
There are many challenges and battles ahead of us and currently and that we will face as a war continues to be waged against Native people as the fight to protect water-a fight that is largely being led by Native women is being intensified in Standing Rock, North Dakota. In addition the Peace and Dignity Journey that focused on prayers for water just ended its continental run starting in Alaska and the tip of South America ending in Panama recently. In the U.S. this month with the election of a white nationalist misogynistic president who is calling for violence and removal of anyone who isn’t white will mean that the attack on poor, immigrants, and people of color and women of color will intensify more than it already has.
It is hard in these times not to feel hopeless or to feel defeated, but then I remember what is at stake? I look at my son and think what will these battles mean for future generations? What will these battles mean for our earth?
I am thankful today for those who came before and struggled. I honor them and want to say they did not give their lives in vain. I conclude with these words of the Mirabal sisters-whose words continue to be applicable to today’s times like the 1950s, like 1960, like 1981, like the early 2000s, like 2016…the struggle for a more just world continues…
Que vivan las mariposas!
Water is life. No DAPL.
“We cannot allow our children to grow up in this corrupt and tyrannical regime, we have to fight against it, and I am willing to give up everything, including my life if necessary”.-Patria Mirabal
“….it is a source of happiness to do whatever can be done for our country that suffers so many anguishes, it is sad to stay with one’s arms crossed…”-Minerva Mirabal
“…..perhaps what we have most near is death, but that idea does not frighten me, we shall continue to fight for that which is just..”-Maria Teresa Mirabal
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Photo: The Mirabal Sisters