In honor of community activists and feminists targeted and killed, like indigenous leader Juana Ramirez Santiago in Guatemala and queer black city councilmember Marielle Franco in Brazil, AF3IRM participates in 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, annually, with the heartbreaking consciousness that there are new names of women to remember, and so many more names and stories that will never be told.
As im/migrant women, as native women, as women of color, we know all too well the reality of violence. This year’s entire 16 Days has been fraught with examples. The first day was stained by US border patrol tear gassing women and children refugees at the southern border; incidentally, the same day as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women which mourns the political assassination of the Mirabal sisters under the Trujillo dictatorship but also celebrates their courage and their feminist resistance to state violence. This past week, a border patrol officer was recently indicted for the September murders of Melissa Ramirez, Claudine Ann Luera, Guiselda Alicia Hernández, and Nikki Enriquez, as well as the attempted murder of a fifth woman, in Texas. It is reported that he thought he was doing his “civic service” to kill women he suspected to be prostitutes. Amanda Dakota Webster, a native woman, was murdered in a Kentucky hotel, hundreds of miles away from her family and home in Arizona, during her stay for a contract job in construction. A court ruling found that Cyntoia Brown, a victim of child sex trafficking, must serve 51 years in prison until she will be eligible for release.
These past two weeks have been a strong reminder that not only do we remember these names and women, but that we fight against misogyny and against an increased militarized reality. We engage in the struggle for our liberation in all spaces—to exercise autonomy over our bodies; to build community; to fight harassment; to challenge institutions; and to build a different world of our radical imaginations. Across the country, AF3IRM chapters honored the women we’ve lost; amplified stories of gender-based violence, from harassment and femicide, to trafficking and political violence; and pushed for action to end the violence. Our chapters and organizing committees shared statistics, stories, and facts about violence against women on various social media chapterse, as well as participated and spoke at events. Highlights of our 16 Days activities include:
- The SF Bay Area chapter launched their “Stop! That Was Harassment” campaign, where members reclaimed the physical spaces where they were sexually harassed—at work, in coffee shops, on the train, in the parking lot—and publicly posted their own stories and how they fought back.
- The New York chapter held an annual public altar for missing, murdered, or trafficked women and girls with a focus on border violence, participated in public discussions on global rise of fascism and gender based violence, and with over 80% of trafficked victims being women and children in New York, filled coat pockets on sex trafficking statistics at department stores.
- The Los Angeles chapter led a weekend of activities around their exhibition “Que Vivan Las Mariposas: An Exhibition of Revolutionary Resistance to State Violence Against Women,” and are at the forefront of leading and gaining traction with the Survival: Not Criminals campaign, so that victims of sex trafficking do not end up in the hands of ICE or law enforcement.
- The Hawaii chapter held challenging social media conversations on political violence, debunking the myths of sex trafficking, linking the local reality of native women, militarism, and the trade in Hawaii; protested against the approval of the Thirty Meter Telescope; and engaged in a guerrilla art protest.
As the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence ends, we know our work must always go beyond them – even now we know that the Violence Against Women Act is in danger, currently set to expire on December 21st, and that Title IX faces proposed guideline changes that may silence survivors of sexual assault on college campuses. This administration is pushing for “public charge” that will negatively impact immigrant communities. There is continued pushback against victims of sexual violence, like Christine Blasey Ford, vilified as she spoke her truth while her assaulter gained a seat on the Supreme Court. Women activists are targeted around the world and even today on Human Rights Day, women must continually assert that the struggle for women’s rights is a fight for the right to live and thrive as human beings.
This work seemingly is neverending, but we in AF3IRM believe in the power of women fighting collectively for change. We belong to generations of women and histories who have contended against colonial legacies of violence, rampant misogyny, state violence, and rape culture. The difficult road to our visions of liberation may be long, but we urge all to join this lineage of resistance and revolution. There is a world free of violence against women that is within our grasp; we will get there and we will get there together.