Monthly Archives: December 2011

Gender Parity

In light of the fact that we are in the midst of 16 Days of Activism much discussion is  evolving around women’s participation in the very systems that formerly perpetuated gender based violence and/or discrimination.

The issue of women’s participation in the political system is recently bearing much attention in the international sphere.  It is being viewed as something not only important but essential to the positive progression of the state.  It is valued within the Millennium Development Goals as a indicator of the success of Goal3 “Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women”.

No country has yet achieved full gender parity in their national parliament.  In the 1990s there was a significant decline in women’s participation at the federal level; also in the 1990s, the world witnessed some of the worst human atrocities executed by national governments or in light of the over-throw of national governments.  The DRC, Kosovo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, and Sri Lanka records some of the greatest non-combatant casualties since the Second World War.  Following the subsequent end, ceasefires, and suspensions of these armed conflicts women gradually rose to take the reigns of the nations’ governance to rehabilitate their respective countries to a state of non-conflict and growth.

In a notable example, Liberia which was under the brutal reign of Charles Taylor between 1997-2003, was liberated by an organised and peaceful movement led by women.  Today Liberia boasts a strong female leadership with strengthened opportunities for women.

Women’s movement transforms post-war Liberia

Now with the world’s attention turned to the Arab Spring.  Tunisia has taken measures to see gender parity in its Constituent Assembly, but Egypt has seemingly taken a step back.

In this insightful article by Nadya Khalife we see hesitation by Egyptian women to play an active role in the governance of their newly liberated state.

Liberian and Rwandan examples show that women in politics is incremental to positive and progressive change in post-revolution and post-armed conflict.  India and the Philippines are examples to show that women in political power make significant contribution to the furtherance of women’s rights through the legislative process.  Though none of these countries have reached full gender parity at the national level as of yet, women’s participation in the political system has proved to be necessary to the rebuilding and viable protection of women’s rights.


16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence came out of the Global Campaign for Women’s Human Rights. The campaign would highlight the connections between women, violence, and human rights from 25 November to 10 December 1991. The time period encompassed four significant dates: 25 November, the International Day Against Violence Against Women; 1 December, World AIDS Day; 6 December, the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, when 14 women engineering students were gunned down for being feminists; and 10 December, Human Rights Day.



1 December: World AIDS Day

Declared by the World Health Organisation, and affirmed by the UN General Assembly, 1 December has been observed as World Aids Day since 1988.

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a retrovirus that infects cells of the immune system, destroying or impairing their function. As the infection progresses, the immune system becomes weaker, and the person becomes more susceptible to infections. The most advanced stage of HIV infection is acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). It can take 10-15 years for an HIV-infected person to develop AIDS; antiretroviral drugs can slow down the process even further.

HIV is transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse (anal or vaginal), transfusion of contaminated blood, sharing of contaminated needles, and between a mother and her infant during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.

  • HIV is one of the world’s leading infectious killers, claiming more than 25 million lives over the past three decades.
  • There were approximately 34 million people living with HIV in 2010.
  • HIV infection can be diagnosed through blood tests detecting presence or absence of antibodies and antigens.
  • A cure for HIV infection has not been found but with effective treatment with antiretroviral drugs, patients can control the virus and enjoy healthy and productive lives.
  • In 2010, around 6.6 million people living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy in low- and middle-income countries, but over 7 million others are waiting for access to treatment.

(World Health Organisation)

On 17 December 1999, the General Assembly at its 83rd plenary meeting of the fifty-fourth session, on the basis of the Report of the Third Committee , adopted Resolution 54/134 on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

25 November: International Day to End Violence Against Women

The Mirabal Sisters

The three sisters, Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa were born to Enrique Mirabal and Maria Mercedes Reyes (Chea) in 1924, 1927 and 1935 respectively in the Cibas region of the Dominican Republic. All three were educated in the Dominican Republic, Minerva and Maria Teresa going on to achieve university degrees.

All three sisters and their husbands became involved in activities against the Trujillo regime. The Mirabal sisters were political activists and highly visible symbols of resistance to Trujillo’s dictatorship. As a result, the sisters and their families were constantly persecuted for their outspoken as well as clandestine activities against the State. Over the course of their political activity, the women and their husbands were repeatedly imprisoned at different stages. Minerva herself was imprisoned on four occasions. Despite Trujillo’s persecution, the sisters still continued to actively participate in political activities against the leadership. In January 1960, Patria took charge of a meeting that eventually established the Clandestine Movement of 14 June 1960 of which all the sisters participated. When this plot against the tyranny failed, the sisters and their comrades in the Clandestine Resistance Movement were persecuted throughout the country.

In early November 1960, Trujillo declared that his two problems were the Church and the Mirabal sisters. On 25 November 1960, the sisters were assassinated in an “accident” as they were being driven to visit their husbands who were in prison. The accident caused much public outcry, and shocked and enraged the nation. The brutal assassination of the Mirabal sisters was one of the events that helped propel the anti-Trujillo movement, and within a year, the Trujillo dictatorship came to an end.

The sisters, referred to as the “Inolvidables Mariposas”, the “Unforgettable Butterflies” have become a symbol against victimization of women. They have become the symbol of both popular and feminist resistance. They have been commemorated in poems, songs and books. Their execution inspired a fictional account “In the Time of the Butterflies” on the young lives of the sisters written by Julia Alvarez. It describes their suffering and martyrdom in the last days of the Trujillo dictatorship. The memory of the Mirabal sisters and their struggle for freedom and respect for human rights for all has transformed them into symbols of dignity and inspiration. They are symbols against prejudice and stereotypes, and 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.