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16 Days of Activism

November 25th, is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the first day of the 16 Days of Global Activism Against Gender Violence. 16 Days of Activism is a period of global campaigning during which thousands of people and organisations all over the world take a stand against gender-based violence.

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence originated from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991. As one strategy to build awareness about gender-based violence and facilitate networking among women leaders working in this area, the WGLI participants established the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign, choosing to symbolically link November 25th (International Day Against Violence Against Women) and December 10th (International Human Rights Day). Fiji’s very own Shamima Ali was part of this historical foundation.

This 16-day period also highlights other significant dates, including December 1, World AIDS Day, and December 6, which marks the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre. Other key dates fall within the 16 Days, including International Women Human Rights Defenders Day (29 November), World Aids Day (1 December), International Day of People with Disability (3 December), and Anti-Corruption Day (9 December).

On 25 November we remember the three Mirabel sisters, political activists from the Dominican Republic who were assassinated on that day in 1960. The sisters – Patria Mercedes (36), Minerva Argentina (34) and Antonia Maria Teresa (25) – were killed on the orders of their country’s ruler, Rafael Trujillo, because of their opposition to his dictatorship. The women, who had been jailed and persecuted, became known as the “Unforgettable Butterflies”, and their bravery and compassion has made them national and international heroines.

The state violence perpetuated on the Mirabel sisters quickly became symbols of resistance, dignity and inspiration for eliminating violence against women at home and in society. Their lives raised the spirits of all those they encountered and later, after their death, not only those in the Dominican Republic but others around the world.

On July 1981, women from across Latin America came together in Columbia. Appalled by the extent and diversity of violence against women, they agreed to hold an annual day of protest, and they decided to adopt 25 November as the date for this International Day Against Violence Against Women in memory of the Mirabel sisters.

At the 54th General Assembly session of UN (1999), a resolution adopted and UN officially recognised 25 November as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Today we remember the Mirabel sisters and pay tribute to them and countless others working to make the world a safer, secure and more equitable place for women.

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