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The 25th of November marked 40 years of women observing the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women. People all around the world came together in solidarity to commemorate this day that began in 1981, after the killing of the Mirabal sisters in the Dominican Republic.

Marking four decades of this international day, it seems only just to revisit the history behind the monumental movement. The Mirabal sisters died on the 25th of November in 1960 and are often seen as a symbol of courage. They grew up in the reign of Rafael Trujillo, who was a dictator in the Dominican Republic and often his period in power is seen as one of the bloodiest eras in the history of the Americas.

Minerva, the second youngest, caught the attention of Trujillo at a party and that is when the troubles began. After being asked by Trujillo to dance and stay with him, Minerva stood up against him and did not allow his movement towards her to continue. Predictably, this hit on his ego causing his lust to turn into hatred towards her and her family. Her family courageously decided to leave the party immediately, which was seen as disrespectful as it was known that no one was supposed to leave before Trujillo.

The sisters’ courage was proven to be greater than can be imagined when they formed a group whose main focus was to eradicate Trujillo. The movement, which is also called The Movement of the Fourteenth of June, was filled with spirited devotees, however, as much effort as they put in, Trujillo’s cunningness and power became evident when people from the movement were being arrested due to a traitor that was reporting back to Trujillo.

The sisters were known as Las Mariposas (The Butterflies) and their husbands were also incarcerated. Feeling like he had had enough, Trujillo organised the sisters to be killed on one of their visits to the prison. This was the 25th of November 1960 and the year after, 1961, was the start of the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Dede Mirabal was the fourth and only survivor from the Mirabal sisters who lived till 2014 and carried the legacy of her sisters. After the murder of her sisters, she took on the responsibility to look after all of their children and therefore ended up being the mother of 9 children. Despite this, she continued to be a political activist and famously said ‘If they kill me, I shall reach my arms out of the grave and I shall be stronger.’ The courage shown by Dede, regardless of the numerous times she had been let down by society, will forever be admired by women across the world. Tackling life through dictatorship and within an extremely sexist society prove her admirable traits alongside her caring personality.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women stands to be a day still absolutely necessary for women around the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown an increase in domestic violence showing that this issue should continue to be addressed. The fight continues to be hard and often looks unachievable however, it is a fight that must be fought.

Saniya Patel

UC London '24

I am a student at UCL studying Politics, Sociology and Eastern European Studies. I grew up in Malawi, which is where home is for me. When I was 13 I came to the UK for boarding school in Kent and now I am in London for University. I am really interested in politics and particularly international relations. Having grown up in Malawi and schooled in the UK, accompanied with my Indian heritage, I love learning new perspectives and unique opinions.
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