Bondi View

Peace Ride from Bondi to Beirut

Australian women will join hundreds of female cyclists in a peace ride from Beirut to the West Bank this October.

Team captain Virginia Mesiti from Bondi says the Follow the Women ride aims to inspire and empower women to take an active role in the peace process.

“The ride is not what people would imagine,” says Mesiti.

“When I first found out about Follow the Women I thought the participants would be cycling across the desert in black hijab. Once in Beirut this vision was very quickly replaced by colourful lycra.

“I guess that’s what happens when women come together from all around the world to ride bicycles – it’s a very colourful event.”

Follow the Women began in 2003 with only 30 participants. It is now an international organisation of more than 400 women from 30 countries.

The ride was created by Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and 2004 European Woman of the year, Detta Regan.

By promoting bicycles as vehicles of peace and freedom, Regan aims to raise awareness of how violence in the Middle East affects women and children.

“Women do not traditionally cycle in the Middle East so the sight of a large female- only group attracts huge interest. I am thrilled that we are getting women from so many different countries to join us,” she says.

“It’s sad that we have not managed to get a team of Israeli women to join the bike ride. But we hope that this will happen in the future.

“Dialogue is very important. Women are the relatives of men that engage in conflict, and women love to talk. If we can all ride together and begin to create a dialogue for peace then that is a place to start.”

The riders range in age from 16 to 60. They come from the Middle East and Europe but there are also teams from the United States, Canada, South Africa, Japan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and now Australia.

This year’s ride will start in Beirut on October 9. The teams will cycle over 13 days through Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and the West Bank.

Country teams are restricted to 20 members only. If you are interested in joining the Australian team or would like more information about Follow the Women please contact Virginia Mesiti on virginiamesiti@gmail.com

– BY EMMA HELLOWELL

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