The 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were decades of fear and civil unrest in the Dominican Republic. Rafael Trujillo, the unelected military strongman and President of the nation, orchestrated a reign of terror through a government sponsored genocide, and suppression of civil liberties. Many political dissidents kept quiet for fear of incarceration, torture, or death, but four powerful, and brave sisters, undeterred by the harsh restrictions on political demonstrations, fought on against the ruthless dictator. Through their courageous action, the Mirabal Sisters won the support of their nation’s people and began a social and political movement to collectively dismantle the regime’s power. Recognizing the threat the sisters posed to his authority, Trujillo had them assassinated on 25 November 1960 but rather than eliminating the sisters’ influence, he unknowingly made them heroes and martyrs of the people. In honor of the Mirabal Sisters, the general population began demonstrating in larger numbers and more often, which quickened the end to the bloodiest period in the Dominican Republic’s history.
Thirty-nine years after the assassination of the Mirabal Sisters the United Nations General Assembly voted to designate 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in the sisters’ honor. The day marks the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism, a period of awareness raising campaigns about the negative impact of violence against women and children, and the need for greater support for survivors of abuse. During the 16 Days individuals are encouraged to show their support for the movement by wearing a white ribbon, a symbol of peace, volunteering for or donating to NGOs that offer support for survivors of abuse, and speaking out against gender and age-based violence. The 16 Days of Activism concludes on 10 December, International Human Rights Day, which celebrates the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
In 2013 the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust will be commemorating the 16 Days of Activism with our Stop the Bus Campaign. A crew of nine, which includes one counsellor, three community educators, one research fieldworker, one Rape Crisis staff member, two interns from York University in the United Kingdon and a driver, will set off from the Rape Crisis office in Athlone on 24 November and return on 2 December 2013. This year the Stop the Bus crew will stop in Bredasdorp, home of the late Anene Booysen, Swellendam and Barrydale. They will meet with community members, rape survivors and community leaders to discuss the gaps within the Criminal Justice System, the rights survivors have within the Criminal Justice System and the resources and services available to rape survivors in the area. The crew will also assess police, health, and court facilities along the route for their compliance with sexual offences legislation and ability to effectively deliver services to rape survivors.
To follow the Stop the Bus Campaign’s progress, please check the Rape Crisis Blog for daily updates from the Bus bloggers.
Organisations and community members that wish to participate can contact the Stop the Bus coordinator Barbara Williams (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.