Women’s Rights in Dominican History

By Camille Garcia, 9th Grade

This March 8th as we celebrate International Women’s Day, we should remember not to just celebrate women as a whole, but rather acknowledge the fact that women had to fight a lot to gain some of the rights society grants men. 

Women were–and in some cases, still are–considered weak and inferior to men by society. Made to believe that their only purpose in life was to take care of the household and bring children into the world, many societies restricted them from being able to work or study. Over time, we have progressed to understand that women also have the right to do what they want with their lives and stand out academically and professionally. With this desire, women raised their voices to demand their rights and live equally. That is why this day is celebrated, to commemorate the arduous struggle that women had to go through in order to fully develop with the rest of society. 

This International Women’s Day, Dominican women and women throughout the world face a number of obstacles in their quest for long-term equality. As a result, it is a crucial time to reflect on the accomplishments gained, to move decisively to close gaps, and honor the love and dedication of the women who have worked and contributed significantly to the development of the country and our communities. Social standards are marked with discriminatory stereotypes about what women have and can do. 

We are already living in a relatively modern age, therefore the situation has improved a lot. Nothing compares to the situation of inequality in the years between 1920 and 1960, a time when the Mirabal sisters were brutally persecuted by dictator Rafael Trujillo. 

I would argue that although a compelling story of female rebellion and political injustice, there really is too much attention on this story when we talk about Women’s Day in the Dominican Republic. We always talk about the Mirabal sisters and the truth is that there are many other women who represent the fight against equality in the Dominican Republic. In the history of the fight against gender inequality, women have been in all kinds of occupations such as poets, activists, teachers, lawyers, and even soldiers. For example, we have Concepcion Bona. Her role in the independence war and patriotic enthusiasm led her to bestow the first national Bandera on General Matas Ramón Mella on February 27, 1844, at the Puerta de la Misericordia. 

Salomé Ureña, a poet and educator from the Dominican Republic, proposed for women’s higher education in the country. In 1881, she established the first Center for Higher Education for Dominican Women, the Dominican Republic’s first higher education institution dedicated only to women. In her honor, the country commemorates National Poetry Day on October 21st.

Juana Trinidad is a great example too. She was also known as Juana Saltitopa, a Dominican activist and soldier who fought for independence from Haiti, notably at the Battle of Santiago de los Caballeros on March 30, 1844. Due to her kind and independent nature, she was given the moniker “La Coronela”. Last but not least, we have Florinda Soriano Muoz, better known as Mamá Tingó, who was a Dominican farmer’s rights campaigner and advocate. She was slain while advocating for the rights of the Hato Viejo Campesinos in Yamasá during Joaquin Balaguer’s second administration.

These examples are proof that women can and have changed the world. Each one, guided by their passion, managed to create great change in their countries and break many stereotypes. Moreover, their sacrifices led the way for other women to fight for what they believe in. They managed to earn the respect of many Dominicans, for daring to leave the usual and what was “well respected” by society, to stick to what could actually create a change,. They sacrificed themselves in order to prepare a better country and a better environment for the generations to come. Their contributions allow us to live in a fairer, more civilized, and more equal society. Gender is just that, a gender. It does not define a person’s capacity to achieve what we want in life and change the way of thinking about society. Many of the women who lived before us had the great mentality that even if the present is a struggle, the future will be life. Because a life of slavery and social standards is not life if you cannot develop in a healthy society. 

That is why we commemorate this day, to celebrate how far we have come as a society and to remember those who died with a dream. For them, we have to continue fighting, to continue solving the problems that persist. And speaking of equality, this does not only apply only to women, as a society we all have to raise our voices when we have problems in general. However, on this specific day, we can be proud that we have improved, always remembering that women cannot continue to be an inert mass next to male social activity, because we all have the same rights.

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