What do butterflies, Javed Mohammed, and the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winners have in common? The answer: Purpose! The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women has been observed on November 25th since 1960 (although officially designated as such by the United Nations in 1989), its roots deeply seated in the brutal death by beating of the Dominican Mirabal sisters.
The sisters, Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa Mirabal, better known as “Butterflies”, or Mariposas, fearlessly opposed the ruthless regime of then Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo, and endured several incarcerations and unrelenting persecution in search of peace and justice, which eventually caused their cruel demise.
Fast-forward 51 years, and on December 11, 2011, three women united in a sisterhood of transcendental proportions were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The women, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia’s Women for Peace Executive Director Leymah Gbowee, and Yemeni journalist Tawakkol Karman, like the “Butterflies”, stood for justice against dictators Charles Taylor, of Liberia, and Ali Abdullah Saleh, of Yemen, forging a less violent existence for women in their respective countries and globally.
Gbowee mobilized and united women in Liberia for peace across ethnic and religious dividing lines, leading them from taking a stand against rape as a crime of war to active political participation during presidential elections. Her Women for Peace movement played an instrumental role in ending Liberia’s Second Civil War, successfully culminating in the election of Liberia’s first female head of state and one of her co-recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, President Ellen J. Sirleaf.
Karman, the third co-recipient, is the first Arab woman and second Muslim woman to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and the youngest laureate yet. Her activism and courage in standing for freedom of expression and press have already earned her jail time but brought about a wave of support in leading a non-violent revolution for democracy and human rights. She is also been named # 1 in 2011 Foreign Policy’s 100 Global Thinkers.
In celebration of these immeasurable contributions and blazing a trail of its own, well-known Muslim author and filmmaker Javed Mohammed has published the “Top ten books and films to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women”. The list, featured in Muslims’ Combating Human Trafficking, an organization Mohammed co-founded, is aimed at raising awareness on the skyrocketing statistics and widespread nature of human trafficking. According to the United Nations, 500,000 to 2 million humans, approximately 80% of which are women and girls, are trafficked each year into situations of sexual slavery and forced servitude.
Indeed, Javed’s own work “From Bosnia with Love”, is a testament to his commitment to raise awareness on the violence women experience globally. Recounting the terrible events of the Bosnian war, a passage reads:
“I saw women and men judges and officials call us one by one, each by her name. They would ask us questions, and then verbally abuse us; they’d sometimes torture us too. They would order the women to strip naked and lie down. The men would then indulge themselves, one by one, while the others watched. They’re worse than animals. Even animals have dignity. If any woman resisted, she’d get beaten until she lost consciousness. This happened every night for hours. It was an unspoken rule, our women didn’t talk about what happened and others didn’t ask.”
Although neither the Dominican Mirabal sisters nor Javed Mohammed were awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, their efforts, dedication, and life rend tribute to the struggles fought by winners Sirleaf, Gbowee, and Karman. It is a purposeful, humanity making battle that Muslims and non-Muslims share and must continue to bring to the forefront. Yet most importantly, men and women must fight the battle side by side.
Books and films to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
Top 10 books
10 The Slave Next Door by Kevin Bales and Ron Soodalter
9 Prostitution and Sex Trafficking (Opposing Viewpoints) by Louise Gerdes
8 S.: A Novel about the Balkans by Slavenka Drakulic
7 Behind the Veil of Vice by John R. Bradley
6 Somebody’s daughter by Julian Sher
5 Slavery Today by Kevin Bales and Rebecca Cornell
4 The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam and Ruth Marshall
3 Not for Sale by David Batstone
2 The Natashas by Victor Malarek
1 Half the Sky by by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Top 10 Films
(Photo Credit: Leif Riksheim, Aktiv I Oslo.no – www.aktivioslo.no)
Enith Morillo is a scientist by profession and a writer by passion. Her writing is featured in “Many Poetic Voices, One Faith” and “Many Voices, One Faith II: Islamic Fiction Stories.” She is also the media liaison for the grass-root movement Healthy Families Initiative, a program dealing with domestic abuse in the Rhode Island Muslim community. You can contact her via email at enithcm [at] gmail.com.