Origins of The International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women

On one fateful night three sisters and their driver were stopped along a road. They were separated, strangled and clubbed to death. Their dead bodies were then placed back in their car and ran off a cliff to make it look like an accident. This was on the 25th of November in 1960. The significance of this day is that years later it was announced that the 25th of November would universally be celebrated as the ‘International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women’.

The sisters in question are the Mirabal sisters (Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa). These were no ordinary women; these warriors were women who were involved in clandestine protests and resistance against the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo of their country, the Dominican Republic. These warrior women in the course of their lives faced torture, harassment, imprisonment and ultimately murder for their fight. As Patria stated, “We cannot allows 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, even my life if necessary” (the words of a person with true courage.)

I am always shocked when women say that they are only rising and find their voice in recent times but history shows that women they have always been in positions of great influence; think of the all-female army from Benin in the 1800s, think of Queen Nyamazana Dlamini who toppled the last Rozvi ruler and even Pharaoh Hatshepsut (take some time to read about these phenomenal women from the continent who’s blood runs through our veins!) Like any other hero they inspire us to live a bigger life and practise the virtue of courage even if it means you are going to sacrifice your comfort. If you want something to be great, it will for sure cost you something. The 25th of November also marks the launch of the sixteen days of activism against gender based violence. What I love about this wording ‘gender based violence’ is that it factors in the whole population. Nobody is immune to gender based violence and it should be our mission to fight it wherever it manifests.

Like any other great life the sister had a building named after them in New York City, the home the sisters lived in 1960 is now a museum in their honour, a movie featuring the beautiful Salma Hayek was produced in the year 2001 and many other mediums which have allowed the story of the sisters to remain in our collective memory. This article is also my own small effort to make sure that these women’s story is never forgotten. That we practise courage like them, that we learn from our history to become our better selves and to take deeper look into gender based violence in this season we have walked into.

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