Walking for peace

It was all peace signs and smiling faces as participants of the UNIFEM Australia Spring Walk headed out into the national park on Sunday to mark the International Day for Peace.

About 25 people, including Sunshine Coast Regional Council councillors Vivien Griffin and Debbie Blumel, took part in the 40-minute walk from Emu Mountain Estate.

UNIFEM was created by a UN General Assembly resolution in 1976 and provides financial and technical assistance to foster women’s empowerment and gender equality. (UNIFEM Australia’s inaugural meeting was held in Brisbane in 1989.)

Led by UNIFEM Australia board member and Coolum local Diane Goodwillie, the Emu Mountain peace walk aimed to act in solidarity with the majority of women around the world who walk 5km or more each day to collect water and firewood for their families.

Ms Goodwillie said the $350 raised from the spring walk would go towards Peace Scholarships for women students from Afghanistan, Timor Leste and the Pacific Islands.

These allow selected students, who show potential to contribute to peace building and greater intercultural understanding, to study at participating Australian universities.

Ms Goodwillie said the walk was also important to highlight the fact that women are greatly affected by their country’s peace and security. “Women are the powerhouses of developing countries: they produce 60% of all food, run 70% of small-scale businesses and make up a third of the official labour force, in addition to caring for families and homes,” she said.

Bureau of Statistics figures indicate Australia is not immune to the problem of violence against women:

In any year, nearly half a million Australian women experience physical or sexual assault by a current or former partner.

One in three Australian women have experienced physical violence.

One in five Australian women have experienced sexual violence.

Less than one third of all physical and sexual violence is reported to police.

Approximately 90% of women who experience sexual assault do not access crisis support, legal help or other support services such as telephone helplines.

Last week, the Rudd government said it would provide $2 million to commission a national survey of community attitudes relating to violence against women.

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