Page 4431 - Week 14 - Tuesday, 22 November 2005

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Mirabal sisters should be commemorated as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

In 1991, the first white ribbon campaign was launched by a group of men in Canada after the brutal mass shooting of 14 female students at the University of Montreal. Since then, many other countries have launched their own white ribbon campaigns and have adopted the white ribbon as a symbol of support for the elimination of violence against women.

The ACT government has addressed issues of violence and community safety for women by developing the framework entitled “Justice, options and prevention—working to make the lives of ACT women safe”. The framework identified three major outcome areas: a justice system that provides protection, support and advocacy for women; assistance for women that is appropriate, accessible and responsive; and community understanding and acceptance of the right of all women to live their lives free of violence. It requires government agencies to develop action plans each year that identify tangible ways in which they will implement the goals of the framework.

The ACT women’s 2005-06 action plan and the action plan addressing violence and safety issues for women in the ACT further highlight the government’s commitment to ending gender-based violence in the ACT. The action plan links with the Canberra plan’s strategic theme of investing in people. It places emphasis on further reviewing legislation and legal processes for women experiencing violence, strengthening services and programs that support women and children experiencing violence, and continuing to work with the community to prevent violence against women. Advancing the status of women and girls in the ACT is a government priority, and these plans provide a framework that supports government agencies to better meet the needs of all women and girls.

As previously stated, putting an end to gender-based violence requires the dedication of all members of the local, national and international community. Locally and nationally, groups and organisations such as the Women’s Information and Referral Centre, the Domestic Violence Support Group, Men’s Link, Women’s Action Alliance, Lifeline Canberra, the National Foundation for Australian Women, Women’s Emergency Services Network and the National Women’s Justice Coalition help provide support and counselling to men and women affected by violence. These are just a few of the many groups that provide invaluable assistance to men and women in the ACT and across Australia.

The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, WILPF for short, also aims to empower women to work towards peace and justice. The Australian branch of WILPF celebrated its 90th anniversary with a week-long festival of peace and I was fortunate enough to officially open this festival in the Assembly reception room this October.

At an international level, no organisation has worked as hard to improve women’s safety as UNIFEM. Created in 1976, UNIFEM works in over 100 countries and provides financial and technical assistance to innovative programs and strategies that promote women’s human rights, political participation and economic security. The establishment in 1997 of the trust fund in support of actions to eliminate violence against women has furthered UNIFEM’s work on gender-based violence.

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