Remembering Mountain Women – Danielle Butler

We are deeply saddened to report the loss of Danielle Butler who passed away on March 7, 2019 one day before the International Women’s Day. She was the last among those great cohort of Mountain Women who started to host the international Women of the Mountains conferences (WOMCs) at Utah Valley University in Utah in 2007. This was a remarkable group: The Honorary Chairperson Elena Bonner, a prominent human-rights activist and a widow of the Andrey Sakharov, Nobel laureate; Dr. Jane Pratt, executive director of the Mountain Institute, Washington, D.C.; the Honorable Judy Martz, governor of the State of Montana (2001-2005); the Honorable Olene Walker, governor of the State of Utah (2003-2005) and Dr. Danielle Butler. They pioneered the idea to host the Women of the Mountains conferences (WOMCs) in the State of Utah to advocate for the mountain communities, families, women and girls, who are very often forgotten and marginalized both at the national and international levels. It was also their effort to sustain the tradition, established by the Celebrating the Mountain Women conference 2002 in Thimphu, Bhutan under the umbrella of the United Nations International Year of Mountains. The first two WOMCs in 2007 and 2011 took place in March to commemorate also the International Women’s Days and it became a tradition for organizers then to present red roses to all women and girls in the audience.

(L to R) Governor of the State of Utah Olene Walker (2003-2005), Governor of the State of Montana Judi Martz (2001-2005) and Dr. Danielle Butler, Honorary Consul of the Kyrgyz Republic to the State of Utah during the First International Conference Women of the Mountains at Utah Valley University on March 8, 2007.

I remember Dr. Danielle Butler from the last WOMC conference in October 2015, when she spoke before the participants. Knowing her husband, Dr. Rusty Butler, Associate VP for International Affairs and Diplomacy at UVU (1992-2016) and being inspired by his professionalism and learning from him a lot how to work effectively with diplomats and UN officials, I always was interested to know who his wife was. I was able to get to know her a little bit then. Dr. Danielle Butler was very fragile from the cancer but still strong and determined to contribute to the activities of the conference. She reminded me about her great ancestors, majority of whom were women who came more than a century and a half ago to the mountainous Great Basin area. Despite of harsh climate, lack of water and mountain terrain, they were able to transform it in one of the most prosperous states in the United States. As I understood, the main reason why UVU decided in 2007 to focus on gender issues from the entire SMD agenda and to host WOMCs, was the effort to demonstrate the role of communities, family values and women in sustainable development in Utah and among other mountain communities globally. And Dr. Danielle Butler was one of the examples of the Mountain Women, as a mother of seven children and more than forty grandchildren and very eager contributor to many activities locally and elsewhere including the WOMCs. She was recognized for her contribution to the advocacy of the mountain women and building close ties with the mountain communities in other parts of the world by the Honorary Degree from the International University of Kyrgyzstan.

During the 2015 conference, both Dr. Danielle Butler and her husband were happy to see how we, students, were able to be the hosts of the conference, and for the first time to do that on our own through the student engaged learning, when students learn new skills as a group through hands-on activities and faculty serve them as a mentor.

Dr. Danielle Butler left a great and visible legacy: UVU students now go regularly to the United Nations to advocate for the mountain women during the sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women. 11 students will speak on March 19, 2019 at the Church Center of the United Nations how they empower mountain women and girls through student engaged learning. And they will dedicate their presentations to the memory of Dr. Danielle Butler.

It became a tradition now at the Utah Valley University every March 8th to celebrate the International Women’s Day. This year there were two major events at UVU: a panel “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change,”  hosted by the UVU office of Global Engagement and the Conference Women of Mormondom,  hosted by the UVU Center for the Study of Ethics

Yanko Dzhukev, UIMF Liaison at MP and FAO-UN,  

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Mountain Partnership about Danielle Butler

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