On ending violence…
CAFRA challenges women to follow Mirabal sisters

Guyana Chronicle
November 25, 2002

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COORDINATOR of Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA), Ms Nelcia Robinson has endorsed a statement by Cuban President Fidel Castro that the existing world economic order constitutes a system of plundering and exploitation like no other in history.

She said domestic violence is an effect of such exploitation. Robinson also said the subordination of women, entrenched in laws of tradition, give space for oppression and their rising has challenged, defined and exposed the different forms of violence.

In a message to mark ‘International Day to end Violence Against Women, she said: “Imagine a world where domestic violence intervention/prevention workers have become redundant because there are no victims or perpetrators of domestic violence to be counseled.

“Visualise a community where children enjoy their growth free of sexual molestation. Picture a home where the adult ages gracefully with dignity and respect. This world begins in the home, regardless of the family form, for it is within that unit that violence is a constant companion and, therefore, the place from which a violence free society will flow,” Robinson said.

She said the family is, however, negatively impacted upon by institutional violence from the level of the state.

Robinson said the heartless rape of a seven-month old baby girl, the incestuous relationship between an 11-year-old and her father and a woman's 34-month stint in prison after enduring 13 years of a living nightmare at the hands of her husband are among the horror stories told to the first Regional Tribunal on Violence Against Women in Barbados, on November 20, 1998.

In their final statement, the judges noted that “the testimonies were linked by the perpetrators' need to assert power and control, the helplessness of those abused and the violation of some basic human rights of the victims.

Robinson said those incidents of physical, sexual and emotional abuse have left deep emotional and physical scars and created the need for human services workers.

“The need to assert power and control finds its mentor in the same state of machinery systems, including religion, which feed the need for medicine and therapy.”

She pondered the private and specialised medical services available at high fees and the unnecessary operations performed on women's bodies and said that, too, is violence.

“The as yet unresolved case of Amina Lawal of Nigeria, whose child will go to an orphanage if she is killed in the name of religious purity, raises questions as to the state's sincerity in signing the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women.

“The proliferation of small arms, guns, tanks, etc in the region and their use in the drug trade is an example of the dumping of goods from foreign markets, as part of the negative impact of globalisation.

“As a result, many of our young men lose their lives and many mothers, sisters and wives mourn.

“Consider as well, the casualties of the policies of the state driven World Trade Organisation, which has caused increasing poverty for vulnerable sectors of our population.

“Many women migrate because of unemployment and face violent situations abroad while the children they leave behind are in equally violent situations,” Robinson said.

She remarked that the sad plight of the older woman is becoming commonplace, as her child or grandchild sells her furniture, or confiscates her pension to support his/her drug habit, and psychologically and physically abuses her.

“This violence in the society extends to exploitation of women by women on issues of age, race, class and ethnicity and unhealthy competition among and within some women's organisations in the name of providing specialised services to women.

“This, too, is violence,” she said, like the threats of war which are equally terrifying for women who well know that rape is a weapon of war and society holds its breath as to whether the USA and Iraq will resolve the conflict.

“Two systems are opposing each other with a consuming need to assert power and control.

“It is time for women to rise up and transform the systems. No longer can we perform rituals and hold up faces of the victims for viewing while we attempt to bind their wounds. As change agents we must challenge the systems.

“The three Mirabal sisters, Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa took that stand in the Dominican Republic. They decided to deal with the problem at its source and became martyrs on November 25, 1960, the month and date subsequently chosen, in 1981, as an international day for action to end violence against women.

“Let us who follow them unite and confront the source, the systems that violate and underdevelop us.

“We honour the memory of the Mirabal sisters and the other valiant foremothers and look forward to the celebration of a world that demonstrates friendship in the highest sense, at family, community and state level,” the message ended.

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