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Women walk from Parliament to Civic Square for peace

Mar 13th, 2013 | By | Category: Diversity, Front Page Layout, Latest News

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INTERNATIONAL Women’s Day saw around 150 women marching through central Wellington to build awareness of violence against women.

Natalie Gousmett, Manager of Wellington Rape Crisis, says she can understand the importance of raising awareness of high rates of offending toward women in New Zealand.

“Around 14 women a year are killed by a member of their family and, one in four women and one in eight men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime in New Zealand, so that’s very high,” She says.

“There’s a huge impact on the people experiencing that violence so there’s a real need for us to work very hard on preventing that violence and also supporting people who have experienced that.”

 Belinda Bonzon-Liu (Right) who helped organise the peace walk says the cycle of violence is hard to escape from.

“You keep going back and it’s frustrating, so there has to be something done,” she says.

She says the policy changes need to happen in conjunction with a change in mentality.

“The women in violent situations, they’re being isolated. So they don’t have that hope and we have to keep putting in that hope for them. It’s like a net, you have to catch them.”

Women’s refuge say women are most in danger of violence when they are thinking about or preparing to leave a relationship and when her partner realises she is not coming back.

Women’s Refuge statistics show that one in three women experience psychological or physical abuse from their partners in their lifetime and on average 230 women and children stay at a refuge safe house every night in New Zealand.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says the council are trying to address violence against women directly and indirectly and this includes addressing housing issues.

The council is working with many organisations, including women’s organisations to end homelessness by 2020 through the Te Mahana strategy.

“It’s not just homelessness as in sleeping in central park on a piece of cardboard, it’s a homelessness where you’re overcrowded in flats, where people are couch surfing, where young women feel that they have to be compliant otherwise they won’t have anywhere to stay,” says Ms Wade-Brown.

She says Wellington’s emergency housing for women is insufficient.

The council is also working on an alcohol strategy to help make Wellington a safe and enjoyable city for women.

She says alcohol is paving the way for domestic violence against women, and while she says the council will not enforce a 24 hour ban in every home they are trying to combat the problem.

The latest initiative in the stay safe in the city campaign to help keep young women safe is the new app for smartphones called the Wolf Pack, Ms Wade-Brown says.

“It’s a rather funky little app, and I suggest that if you’re young and funky and if you go out in a group that you use it.

The Wolf Pack app, designed for iPhone and Android by Wellington web development firm Rabid Tech, lets users keep in contact with each other easily and send out an alarm if users find themselves in a dangerous situation.

This year Shakti (ethnic women’s refuge), the Women’s Refuge, Rape crisis and education NGO the Daya Trust were a few of the groups that participated in the Peace Walk.

Walk organiser Belinda Bonzon-Liu says there are lots of women already doing good work in Wellington, but they need to work together.

“Those many strengths of women- you can’t break them,” she says.

One of the aims of the annual peace walk is to encourage people to involve themselves in improving conditions of women and supporting those that do, Ms Bonzon-Liu says.

This was the second year of the peace walk in Wellington.

Ms Bonzon-Liu and Syerina Syahrin decided to organise the walk after what they describe

They wanted to challenge women to make the world more peaceful and to empower women in their critical role in nurturing, creating and maintaining a peaceful environment.

The walk takes place on International Women’s day, which has a UN chosen theme.

Last year’s theme was empowering rural women and ending poverty and hunger.

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark now works for the UN and on the Wellington Peace Walk’s website she is quoted saying she is delighted to see an initiative in Wellington.

“New Zealand has a proud history of producing outstanding women who have stood up for social justice, peace and the advancement of women in every field. Today is the day to recognise their outstanding achievements and contributions,” says Helen Clark.

The peace walk this year also honoured important Wellington women Kate Sheppard and Sonja Davies.

Kate Sheppard is New Zealand’s most well-known suffragette, and the walk started in the Parliament garden dedicated to her.

The walk took a detour past the Sonja Davies memorial. Sonja Davies was the first female executive of the Labour party as well as being a peace campaigner.

The march also has historical links to the Peaceful historical village Parihak in Taranaki.

Maata Wharehoka travelled down from Taranaki to be involved in the March, and to support Ms Benzon-Liu.

She lives in Parihaka, which has a strong history of pacifism. It was the centre of a non-violent resistance to European occupation of confiscated land in Taranaki.

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