Welsh Women’s Aid Communications and Events Officer, Rose Baxter-Jones, writes on the history of The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and its continued importance in 2021.
The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is dedicated to remembering those who have lost their lives to male violence. It’s an opportunity to raise awareness of the human rights and support available to those who are affected by domestic abuse, sexual violence and all forms of violence against women. This day kicks off the associated 16 Days of Activism and has been marked annually on an international basis since 1999 – but the history behind it pre-dates this.
The day revolves around the history of the Mirabel sisters – Patria, Minerva and Maria – who lived in the Dominican Republic whilst the country was under the brutal dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. Trujillo would often employ people to find young girls for him to exploit and in the late 1930s, and also ordered a racially motivated mass murder of thousands of Haitians who were living in the Dominican Republic. The three Mirabal Sisters actively opposed the cruel and systematic violence of Rafael Trujillo’s reign and led an underground movement to challenge his regime. They had a fourth sister, Dede, who did not join them in their activism. The Mirabal Sisters all experienced threats from Rafael Trujillo, who would often order people to arrest and harass them.
In their campaigning to bring awareness to Trujillo’s actions, the Mirabal sisters produced and distributed leaflets, which named the individuals that he had killed, keeping victims in public conscience and memory. On 25th of November 1960, Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa were violently murdered by individuals sent by Rafael Trujillo. Their bodies were put into the jeep belonging to the sisters, which was run off the road with the intention of making their deaths look like an accident.
Although November 25th marks events that happened over 60 years ago, the Mirabel Sisters’ opposition, activism and campaigning is still relevant today as women and girls around the world continue to be oppressed, abused and the victims of violence, at epidemic rates. This past year we have been made aware of several UK cases of violence against women and girls that have resulted in tragic loss of life, including Wenjing Lin, Sabina Nessa and Sarah Everard. While these are among the most extreme cases of violence, the problem is systemic and wide reaching, with as many as 1 in 3 women experiencing some form of violence and abuse in their lifetime.
In Wales, contact with the Welsh Government funded Live Fear Free Helpline continues to increase – particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic where contact increased in length and complexity. This is the why the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and the subsequent 16 Days of Activism, are relevant and important today. This is a vital time to highlight the amazing work of organisations, individuals and communities, in Wales and beyond, who are working to create a world where violence against women and girls is eliminated for good.
Welsh Women’s Aid are the leading national charity in Wales, tackling violence against women from many different angles, such as campaigning for policy change that will provide funding and support for all survivors, training for employers to be educated and supportive, assisting specialist services throughout the country, awareness-raising and community activism.
Welsh Women’s Aid was founded as a grass-roots organisation and the 2021 16 Days campaign activities will be focusing on community activism. This will include an Empowerment event designed and led by survivors, an Introduction to Activism workshop, an exploration of activism and allyship, and much more.
If you are concerned about yourself or someone you know, please contact the Live Fear Free Helpline, who are available 24/7.
Call: 0808 80 10 800
Text: 07860 077333