On November 25, 1960, three of the Mirabal sisters – Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa – were murdered. The sisters were political activists and held up as symbols of popular and feminist resistance to Rafael Trujillo’s brutal dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. When the bodies of the sisters were found at the bottom of a precipice, a shocked and outraged nation rose up against Trujillo’s rule and quickly toppled his repressive regime.
To honour of the Mirabal sisters, November 25 was named the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women by a feminist conference in 1981. This day was officially recognized by the United Nations in 1999.
It is fitting then that this day begins the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, an annual campaign allows individuals and groups around the world to symbolically link violence against women and human rights, to denounce violence, and to work toward a more peaceful world.
The 16 Days includes other important dates, including International Women Human Rights Defenders Day (November 29), World AIDS Day (December 1), International Day of Persons with Disabilities (December 3) and the Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre (December 6), before ending on Human Rights Day (December 10).
It also has an annual theme to focus attention and activities. This year, the theme is “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women” and the priorities are: 1) Violence Perpetrated by State Actors, 2) Proliferation of Small Arms in Cases of Intimate Partner Violence, and 3) Sexual Violence During and After Conflict.
Throughout this year’s 16 Days, the WPSN-C will publish a series of blog posts on these topics, and co-host two related events in Ottawa.
On November 28, the network will co-host a film screening of The Invisible War with the School of International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa. Directed by award-winning film-maker Kirby Dick, the film examines the high level of sexual assault within the US military and follows several survivors as they seek justice and healing. A panel discussion and Q&A exploring sexual violence within Canada’s military and communities will follow, featuring Noémi Mercier (Maclean’s), Julie S. Lalonde (Hollaback! / Draw the Line) and Joan McKenna (Ottawa Police).
On December 2nd,the network will also support an event with Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, Oxfam Canada and Match International on the topic of “Is This Canada’s Watershed Moment on Violence Against Women?” The event will be held on Parliament Hill and feature a discussion on this question with Members of Parliament and civil society. See the 16 Days calendar for further details and registration information.
Our members are also hosting events and campaigns throughout the 16 Days. On November 26, the Institute for International Women’s Rights-Manitoba will hold a panel discussion titled “From Peace in the World to Peace in the Home” at the University of Winnipeg, while Nobel Women’s Initiative will profile women’s rights activists from around the world in a series of blogs.