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THE STORY OF BUTTERFLIES: Why violence against women must end

Dear Readers,

November 25 is recognized worldwide as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women, which honors the Mirabal sisters and the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence that runs till December 10th International Human Rights.

The Three Mirabal Sisters

It all started with Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa Mirabal, three Dominican sisters.

They were political activists in the Dominican Republic who went by the underground code name Les Mariposas (The Butterflies). On that day, 25 November 1960, several secret police officers stopped the car in which the Mirabal sisters were.

The sisters and the driver were brutally beaten to death, and the car was thrown into the ravine to simulate an accident. Patria was 36 years old, Minerva was 34 years old and Maria Teresa was 25 years old.

They were active opponents of the brutal Dominican director Rafael Trujillo who ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930 until his assassination in 1961. He was characterized by heavy repression of labor and student movements, as well as leftists, feminists and anyone who was considered his opponent or dissident.

With the idea of defending democracy and freedom, the sisters along with their husbands formed an opposition group against the Trujillo regime called the Movement of Fourteenth of June in honor of the dissidents who were tortured and killed on June 14, 1954.

In 1960, they bore the brunt of political repression. They were imprisoned and tortured on several occasions and sexually assaulted by Trujillo’s soldiers. Their husbands were also frequently incarcerated.

After the Organization of American States sent observers to the Dominican Republic, the sisters were freed but their husbands remained imprisoned.

On the return trip from one of their prison visits, they were killed.

The Mirabal sisters were real women, imperfect like humans, with all their fears, insecurities, and other human flaws who stood up against oppression.

(Julia Alvarez novel “In the Time of the Butterflies”)

17 December 1999, the United Nations General Assembly designated 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to raise public awareness of the problem.

The awareness continues with 16 Days of activism

Activists launched the campaign in 1991 at the opening of the Women’s Global Leadership Institute. Every year the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership coordinates this activism. It is used as an organizing strategy by individuals and organizations around the world to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.

In support of this civil society initiative, the United Nations Secretary-General launched in 2008 the campaign UNiTE by 2030.

This year the theme focus is “UniTE! to end violence against women and girls.

  • More than 1 in 3 women experience gender-based violence during their lifetime
  • In 2021, nearly 1 in 5 women aged 20-24 were married before turning 18
  • Less than 40 percent of women who experience violence seek help of any sort
Words I would like to share with you

We need to raise awareness and help women who struggle with basic rights. According to Nawal El Saadaw, we have to liberate women economically, socially, psychologically, physically, and religiously.

Not every woman is educated about her rights and not every woman has the access to support services. If we want to fight discrimination and injustice against women, we must start at home. If a woman cannot be safe in her own house, then she cannot feel safe anywhere else.

Have empathy and take care of each other,