Zonta International was founded ninety-six years ago on November 8, 1919, right here in Buffalo, New York, by journalist and playwright Marian de Forest.
“The founding of Zonta International occupies a unique moment in women’s history…early members were among the first generation of college-educated women, the first generation of North American women to vote, and a part of the growing, though still comparatively small, legion of women entering the workforce… (Founder) Marian de Forest conceived the idea of an organization that would bring together women in executive positions. She envisioned a strong network that would help women reach their rightful places in the professions.”*
From that day until now actions and intentions of Zonta have grown far beyond anything Ms. de Forest could have envisioned. “Zonta International advocates to promote the human rights of women at international, national and local levels. Zonta advocacy aims to influence the making and implementation of laws, as well as general attitudes and behaviors. Zonta advocacy promotes real equality, not formal equality alone. Zonta seeks to take fact-based actions, to highlight root causes of problems and to present solutions with proven results.”*
Their global goals and objectives are as follows:
•“To improve the legal, political, economic, educational, health and professional status of women at the global and local level through service and advocacy.
•To work for the advancement of understanding, goodwill and peace through a world fellowship of members.
•To promote justice and universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
•To be united internationally to foster high ethical standards, to implement service programs, and to provide mutual support and fellowship for members who serve their communities, their nations and the world.”*
My own experience with Zonta is rich and complex and can’t be described by simply quoting facts from their website. On October 14, I had the pleasure of presenting “Beyond Leaving Dorian: A Discussion on Domestic Violence” to the Niagara Falls, New York, chapter of Zonta International. The women I met were smart and strong, highly motivated and extremely impassioned about Zonta’s outreach. If you didn’t know ahead of time that Zonta has 30,000 members in 1,200 clubs in 67 countries, you’d certainly never guess it by their membership. The women I met were warm, friendly and down-to earth; not at all what you might expect from a group of women who belong to a global organization that is quite literally changing lives.
The Niagara Falls chapter supports Passage House Shelter at the Family & Children’s Services of Niagara/Passage Program-Domestic Violence Services and Carolyn’s House, a supportive program for homeless women and children operated by the YWCA of Niagara. Their Education Initiative includes providing financial awards to girls who are pursuing higher education. Regionally, they assemble birthing kits to help provide safe, clean, at-home births for women in developing countries. To date, their District has assembled and shipped over 25,000 Birthing Kits to Africa, Haiti and South America. Globally, they provide service funds that help Zonta International achieve its goals. More than eleven million US dollars have been provided to benefit two million women in thirty-seven countries. Two of the projects funded between 2012 and 2014 were The Liberian Fistula Program and Pediatric HIV Prevention and Domestic/Gender Based Violence Prevention in Rwanda.
If you were going to put together a Dream Team in the field of DV, these two women would be in your starting line-up: Karrie Gebhardt, Director of the PASSAGE Program and Sarah Obot, Community Outreach Coordinator of “Project Runway, a Drug & Alcohol -Free Pathway for Young Women” also in Niagara Falls. Heroes in my eyes; these women work in the trenches every day in an effort to change the lives of women.
I’m truly honored and humbled that Leaving Dorian was chosen by the Niagara Falls chapter to be the cornerstone of their 2015 DV Outreach Initiative.
“Zonta International has participatory status with the Council of Europe, which enables Zonta to actively contribute to its work. At the international level, Zonta supports the efforts of the United Nations and its Members States to empower women through the adoption and fulfillment of international conventions and treaties. Zonta’s international committees give recommendations to the Zonta International Board on advocacy actions.”*
Happy Birthday Zonta International! Here’s to another ninety-six years of women helping women.
For more information on a Zonta chapter near you, please visit http://www.zonta.org
* Signifies information quoted directly from from http://www.zonta.org