Liberia + 2 more

Icelandic National Committee for UNIFEM donates US$1.4 million to UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women

The Icelandic National Committee for UNIFEM handed over US$1.4 million to Ms. Joanne Sandler, UNIFEM's Executive Director a.i., on International Women's Day, 8 March 2008, after a weeklong campaign to raise funds for the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, which is managed by UNIFEM. 'This is one of the most creative fundraising initiatives I have witnessed,' said Ms. Sandler on accepting the Icelandic donation in Reykjavik, accompanied by Olubanke King-Akerele, the Foreign Minister of Liberia.

The Icelandic contribution will enable the UN Trust Fund to fund projects to fight violence against women and children in Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan.

For an entire week, Iceland's population of 315,000 was either aware of, or involved in, the so-called 'Butterfly Week,' the Icelandic National Committee's fundraising campaign.

The most original event and possibly the most colourful was the auction of knitted breasts. The breasts were originally knitted by Icelandic handicraft women for a theatre play.

A fundraising dinner also caught the attention of the media, not least because drinks were served to guests by inexperienced waiters wearing butterfly masks, chief among whom was Mr. Björgólfur Thor Björgólfsson, Iceland's richest man, assisted by some of the countries best-known male actors. Mr. Björg=FAlfsson's wife, film producer Kristín Ólafsdóttir, is ambassador for UNIFEM in Iceland and one of the main organizers of the Butterfly Project. One of Mr. Björgólfsson's companies, Landsbanki, was a major sponsor of the campaign.

Ms. Sandler said that Iceland's Butterfly Week would be a precedent for other local committees for UNIFEM around the world. According to Ms. Sandler, the Icelandic contribution was one of the largest single contributions by a National Committee in the history of UNIFEM.

'We are at a loss for words,' said Ms. Sandler. 'The Icelandic National Committee for UNIFEM has successfully mobilized Icelanders, not only to contribute money but also to raise their awareness. Gender equality will not become a reality unless we are successful in inspiring each other to take action. The Butterfly Week has done this successfully and it is one of the most creative fundraising projects I have witnessed.'

With the UN Trust Fund having a budget of US$5.1 million in 2007, the US$1.4 million contribution is considerable. 'A small butterfly flaps its wings and sometimes changes patterns of weather in different places. We hope that we here in Iceland are creating a butterfly effect, flapping our butterfly wings here up north, to make a positive contribution in Africa,' said Steinunn Gy=F0u-og Gu=F0jónsdóttir, Executive Director of the Icelandic National Committee for UNIFEM.

In Memory of the 'Butterfly' Sisters

Why name a fundraising campaign 'Butterfly Week?' The spokeswoman for the Icelandic National Committee, Hrund Gunnsteinsdóttir, explained that by campaigning against violence against women with a fundraising project they wanted to create a 'butterfly effect.' The phrase refers to the idea that a butterfly's wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that ultimately cause a tornado to appear.

But there is also a historical reference. In 1999 the UN General Assembly designated 25 November as the annual date for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. This day also marks the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, culminating on 10 December, International Human Rights Day.

November 25 was not chosen at random: it is the anniversary of the day of the murder of three sisters in the Dominican Republic in 1960.

Patria Mercedes Mirabal, María Argentina Minerva Mirabal and Antonia María Teresa Mirabal were fervent opponents of dictator Rafael Trujillo. They formed a group of opponents to the Trujillo regime, known as the Movement of the Fourteenth of June. They were known as Las Mariposas (butterflies in Spanish), which was Minerva's codename in the resistance movement. Despite suffering incarceration and torture, the sisters continued their resistance to Trujillo.

On 25 November 1960, Trujillo ordered his men to arrest the three women when they visited their husbands in prison. They were driven into a field, beaten and strangled to death.

The deaths of the Mirabal sisters provoked general public outrage in the Dominican Republic. The murders are believed to have contributed to Trujillo's assassination six months later in 1961. A fourth sister, Dedé, survived and lives close to a museum devoted to the memory of her three sisters. Her son, Jaime David Fernández Mirabal, served as the vice-president of the Dominican Republic from 1996 to 2000. Minou Tavárez Mirabal, the eldest daughter of Minerva Mirabal, has been a Dominican congresswoman since 1998.

Source: UNRIC Magazine