Bloggers Unite is an initiative designed to harness the power of the blogosphere by challenging bloggers to blog about a particular social cause on a single day, in this case the cause is Human Rights. Today, my single voice will be joined with thousands of others in an effort to make a real positive difference in our world. I want to positively impact our world by shedding some light on the need to support and defend women human rights activists. These courageous and deeply dedicated women fight for basic economic and social rights and in many cases they have been assaulted, harassed, threatened, imprisoned, and tortured for it.
My interest in women human rights activism was sparked after reading “In the Time of the Butterflies” by Dominican-American author Julia Álvarez a year or two ago. I became obsessed with The Mirabal sisters, three of four Dominican sisters who were assassinated by the dictator, Rafael Leónidas Trujillo in 1960. Throughout my education I was a great lover of world history, but I am ashamed to admit that I had little knowledge of the political history of the Dominican Republic (or most other Caribbean countries for that matter). I know it is easier said than done, but one way in which I would like to see our world change is to see American students educated about history other than our own. In many cases, I realize students also lack knowledge about the United States and our own current events, but in order for our society to maintain influence and the ability to change the world around us for the better, I believe we need to KNOW that world. That means better understanding other countries ad their culture. Just like my interest was sparked through a fictional account of a true story, I pledge to nurture sparks that I see in the young people around me.
As part of the Movement of the Fourteenth of June, The Mirabal Sisters (also known as “Las Mariposas”) and others fought valiantly to end Trujillo’s dictatorship. After the sisters’ numerous imprisonments and torture, Trujillo sent men to intercept the three women after they had visited their husbands in prison. The unarmed sisters were led into a sugarcane field, then beaten and strangled to death. Their car was later thrown off of a mountain. Besides being wives, daughters and sisters, these women were also mothers. Thankfully, Trujillo’s plan to eliminate the sisters backfired somewhat. Their deaths caused public outrage in the country and raised support and awareness for their cause. Trujillo was assassinated six months later in 1961.
On December 17, 1999, the United Nations General Assembly designated November 25 (the anniversary of the day of the murder of the Mirabal sisters) as the annual date for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in commemoration of the sisters. This day also marks the beginning of the 16 days of Activism against Gender Violence. The end of the 16 Days is December 10, International Human Rights Day. The Human Rights of women are perhaps more endangered now than they were during the time of “Las Mariposas.” If you do nothing else, then please make yourself aware of the violence perpetrated daily against women around the globe and in our own country. Colombia and Darfur may seem far away, but unfortunately violence cuts across boundaries of country, economy, and culture.
You may not feel like an activist yourself, but I guarantee you will be inspired by the stories of today’s Human Right’s activists from around the globe. I was particularly affected by Mao Hengfeng’s story. A mother of twins, she was dismissed from her job in 1988 because she became pregnant with her third child, in violation of China’s family planning regulations. According to Amnesty International, Mao Hengfeng is reportedly detained at Yangpu District Branch Police Station in Shanghai, where she is kept in solitary confinement. Lastly, I urge to to seek ways that you can support and defend these brave women and the many nameless victims of violence around the world. Whether it is through signing petitions, educating yourself, involving yourself in aid or relief organizations, or just simple prayer, I believe we women can make a difference in the world, in the lives of our global sisters, and within ourselves.