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How a Peruvian poem has become the Italian anthem denouncing violence against women

"If I don't come back tomorrow": How a Peruvian poem became the Italian anthem denouncing violence against women.
"If I don't come back tomorrow": How a Peruvian poem became the Italian anthem denouncing violence against women. Copyright AP Photo/Luca Bruno
Copyright AP Photo/Luca Bruno
By David Mouriquand
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Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women – and a Peruvian poem has become an anthem in Italy. Here’s why.

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The 25 November is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, a day to raise awareness around the world that women are subjected to rape and other forms of violence.

It also marks the start of the "16 Days of Activism”, an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs every year from 25 November to 10 December, Human Rights Day.

Marches will take place in various countries across the globe. 

And this year in Europe, Italy holds a depressing statistic.

According to data from Italy’s Interior Ministry, the country has recorded its 102th femicide since the beginning of the year.

Indeed, the brutal murder of Giulia Cecchettin, a 22-year-old engineering student from Vignonovo, a small town near Venice, has triggered a wave of indignation and sadness across Italy.

The young woman disappeared on Saturday 11 November in the company of her ex-boyfriend Filippo Turetta and was found dead in a gully in the province of Pordenone. She is believed to have been stabbed to death by Turetta, who was arrested a day later in Germany. He has been charged with murder, though investigations are still ongoing.

Confronted once again with the rising problem of gender violence, Italian lawmakers unanimously backed a raft of measures to clamp down on violence against women. The upper house Senate passed the bill proposed by the right-wing government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni by 157-to-0. It was a rare show of unity between the ruling parties and the opposition.

Italy’s Prime Minister noted that her government has increased the funds dedicated to anti-violence centres and women’s refuges across the country, and is aiming to pass new, stricter regulations against those who commit violence and abuses against women and girls.

The initiative chimes with UN Women calls for bold investments to end violence against women in light of new report showing prevention is severely underfunded. The report “ What Counts? The state of funding for the prevention of gender-based violence against women and girls ” by UN Women partners the Equality Institute and the Accelerator for GBV Prevention, working together under the Collective Commitment of the Generation Equality Action Coalition on GBV, revealed a concerning reality: gender-based violence garners only 0.2% of global aid and development funding.

This explains why this year the global theme of "16 Days of Activism”, set by the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE campaign is: “ UNITE! Invest to prevent violence against women and girls ”.

However, in Italy’s case, the aforementioned funding mentioned by Meloni is not being felt.

Antonella Veltri, the president of Italy’s most important network coordinating anti-violence centres across the country, Donne in Rete Contro la Violenza or Di.Re, told Euronews that women’s refuges have not yet seen these new, increased funds.

Verses for justice

The murder of Cecchettin has seen her sister Lena entrust her pain and anger to the verses of the Peruvian poet and activist Cristina Torres Cáceres and her poem “Si mañana me toca, quiero ser la última” (“If it's my turn tomorrow, I want to be the last”).

Written in 2011, Cristina Torre Cáceres composed her verses in homage to women and the victims of violence in Latin America. She wrote the verses after the death of Mara Castilla, who was killed by a driver, and the poem has since become a symbol of the fight against gender violence.

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Written in the first person and addressed to a mother, the poem is a harrowing and heart-wrenching depiction of femicide.

Here is the poem – translated from the original language:

If I don’t answer your calls tomorrow, mum.
If I don’t tell you I won’t be back for dinner.
If tomorrow, the taxi does not appear.

Maybe I’m wrapped in hotel sheets, on a street or in a black bag
Maybe I’m in a suitcase or lost on the beach.

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Don’t be afraid, mother, if you see that I have been stabbed.
Don’t scream when you see that they dragged me by the hair.
Dear mother, don’t cry if you find out that they impaled me.

They’ll tell you it was me, that I didn’t scream enough, that it was the way I was dressed, the alcohol in my blood.
They’ll tell you it was right, that I was alone.
That my psychopath ex had reasons, that I was unfaithful, that I was a whore.
They will tell you that I lived, mother, that I dared to fly very high in a world without air.

I swear to you, mother, I died fighting.
I swear to you, my dear mother, I screamed as loudly as I flew high.

You’ll remember me, mum, you’ll know I ruined it when you face all the women screaming my name.
Because I know, mum, you won’t stop.

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But, for goodness’ sake, don’t tie up my sister.
Don’t lock up my cousins, don’t lock up your nieces.
It’s not your fault, mum, it wasn’t even mine.
It’s them, it will always be them.

Fight for your wings, those wings that cut me off.
Fight for them, so that they can be free to fly higher than me.
Fight so they can scream louder than me.
So that they can live without fear, mother, just like I lived.

Mum, don’t cry my ashes.
If tomorrow it’s me, if I don’t come back tomorrow, mother, destroy everything.
If it’s my turn tomorrow, I want to be the last.

The poem immediately went viral on social media – specifically the last two lines, with many users are putting them as their profile photos on Instagram, TikTok and X.

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"After the femicide of the student I saw a post in which a girl asked her mum not to do anything if something happened to her," Torres-Cáceres explained. “I started thinking about my own: my mum wouldn't keep quiet, she would start to set fire to everything if something happened to me, and then I thought about what I would tell her if it were me.”

A poem as a devastating anthem.

Read it. Share it. Denounce violence against women.

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