By Elaine Jones, Senior Associate, WISE Development.

As I walk around Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic this November in the lead up to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25th November, I am struck by a prolific poster campaign to stop violence against women.

When the United Nations General Assembly issued the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in 1993 and subsequently officially designated an International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in February 2000,  the General Assembly chose 25th November in honour of three sisters from the Dominican Republic who came to symbolise the spirit of struggle against oppression.

In 1960, on 25th November, the Mirabel sisters, Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa, were making their way home from visiting their imprisoned husbands in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.  They were all part of the 14th of June underground opposition movement during the bloody dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo who ruled over the Dominican Republic from 1930 to 1961. The sisters went under the name of “Las Mariposas”, (the butterflies), and were a thorn in Trujillo’s side, especially Minerva whom Trujillo had unsuccessfully tried to seduce.  The sisters were ambushed by five men and clubbed to death and strangled in a sugar-cane plantation and then placed back in their vehicle to make it look like an accident.

The 2018 poster campaign in Santo Domingo is therefore particularly poignant. Posters can be found in cafes, print shops, supermarkets and on toilet doors.  The messages are direct: “Celo y Obsesion No es Amor, Tumba Eso” (“Jealousy and Obsession is Not Love, Stamp it Out”);  “El Abuso No se Pone Lindo” (“Abuse Cannot be Covered Up”); “Si Forzas, Se Te Tranca La Jugada” ( “If you force it, the game is over”)  They are a stark reminder of what the Day is all about.

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