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Break the silence and unite against violence toward women

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, an annual awareness date designated by the UN in 1999 in honor of the Mirabel sisters, now largely known as “the Mariposas.” Patria, Minerva, Maria Teresa and Dede were four brave sisters who opposed the Dominican Republic’s notorious former dictator, Raphael Trujillo.
The Mirabel sisters were part of the leadership of the revolution against him, but in November 1960, three of them were raped and killed by Dominican troops. Only Dede survived. The killings turned the Mirabel sisters into symbols of women’s resistance and social justice, and marked the beginning of the end of Trujillo’s regime. He was killed six months later.
Today, the Mirabel sisters are considered national martyrs in the Dominican Republic, with their faces on the country’s stamps. More importantly, their legacy extends beyond the Dominican Republic and Latin America.
But 57 years on, more than one in three women still suffer sexual, physical or psychological violence. In order to raise awareness and mobilize people worldwide against this, the UN launched the “Orange the World” initiative, inviting people to wear orange for 16 days, from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10, which is Human Rights Day. The theme this year is “Leave no one behind: End violence against women and girls.”

Raising the issue only via social media, though a significant platform, is not enough. We need real advocates on the ground rather than ‘keyboard heroes.’ It is time for empathy and action.

Sinem Cengiz

Orange represents a brighter future without violence toward women, and the UN is encouraging the use of the color everywhere, from streets, shops and schools to social media, with the hashtag #orangetheworld.
Violence against women is among the most widespread and devastating human rights violations in the world. Reportedly, 35 percent of women worldwide suffer physical or sexual violence. In many conflicts around the world, sexual violence against women is often used as a weapon of war. I believe this is the most dangerous form of violence, which could lead to larger conflicts and the emergence of serious problems.
With the eruption of the Arab Spring, in which women played a prominent role, many were hopeful for women’s status in the post-revolutionary era. But seven years on, amid increasing instability, those hopes have been dashed. Violence against women has increased dramatically in war-torn countries such as Syria and Iraq, as well as in other countries in the region.
Education should play a vital role in challenging this problem, and changing mindsets and stereotypes. Raising the issue only via social media, though a significant platform, is not enough. We need real advocates on the ground rather than “keyboard heroes.” It is time for empathy and action.

• Sinem Cengiz is a Turkish political analyst who specializes in Turkey’s relations with the Middle East.
Twitter: @SinemCngz