Campaign Against Gender-Based Violence


The Sixteen Days Campaign Against Gender-Based Sexual Violence began on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Nov. 25, and will end on International Human Rights Day, Dec. 10. Each day that passes between November 25 and December 10 represents the movement towards the understanding that perpetrating any form of violence against women is, at its core, an issue of human rights.

In honor of this campaign, the Chellis House held an event Tuesday Nov. 28 at which students, staff, and faculty read and discussed passages from Juana Gamero de Coca’s monograph “Sexualidad, Violencia y Cultura” and from Julia Alvarez’s novel “In The Time of the Butterflies.”

In the reading of de Coca’s monograph, audience members were moved by the eloquence and power of her writing, which explored a wide array of topics, including the societal limits of democracy human notions of romantic love. The United Nations declared a Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in honor of Minou, Patria, and Maria Teresa Mirabel, whose activism to bring down Rafael Trujillo’s dictatorship were the subject of Alvarez’s book. The discussions that followed readings from both of these works gave listeners the opportunity to process and explore their reactions to the texts as well as engage with the readers themselves.

In reading English translations of passages audience members felt compelled to discuss the role of translation in reading a text. This discussion of the literary works themselves reflected the elevated importance of the topics covered, the notion that sharing these stories and growing the audience is in itself a profoundly important form of activism. In gathering to listen to “Sexualidad, Violencia y Cultura” and “In The Time of the Butterflies”, attendees are were of the indisputable need to expose the reality and voice truth.

“It’s very important to name things by name to give the message that this is happening,” said Marissel Hernández-Romero, a professor of Spanish and Portuguese.

After reading the epilogue from “Sexualidad, Violencia y Cultura,” the room sat in silence for a few seconds. One woman was crying. The weight of the text was definitely felt throughout the room.

“That’s Juana’s passion…and I love that,” said Gloria Gonzalez Zenteno, a professor of Spanish.  “I just found that so eloquent…because I don’t know what genre to call a book like this because it’s like a book of essays…but it’s so personal and so burning with passion…and I just found it so effective.”

The United Nations has made it their mission to both demonstrate the gravity of addressing gender violence on its own as well as linking it with the human rights movement. Here at Middlebury, the 16 days of activism to end gender violence is manifesting itself through meaningful, heartfelt and powerful conversation and spreading awareness through sharing the voices of others, taking time to reflect and call upon our peers to gather and participate.

There are several upcoming events to look out for in the remaining days of this campaign. On Friday Dec. 8, the Chellis House will take a stroll through the trails around campus for those seeking a breath of fresh air and the chance to participate in what they call “Walking Through Resistance”. The group will leave from Chellis House at 12 p.m., though in case of rain, snow or weather below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, they will meet at the indoor track.