This year’s International Women’s Day celebrations mark 25 years of implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted by the United Nations at the Fourth World Conference on Women. As Zontians, we are still proud that the first one, 45 years ago, was organized by our Past International President Helvi Sipilä.
Since 1995, we have taken action in several of the 12 critical areas of concern that were defined. With violence against women being the most blatant manifestation of persisting gender inequality, we have given a special focus to this domain. The other domain is education. Both areas are interrelated with others, such as poverty, health, and economy.
We reached a milestone in 1998 with the implementation of the Zonta International Strategies to End Violence Against Women. Since then, the Zonta International Foundation has helped finance 22 international projects that targeted various forms of violence from acid burns or genital mutilation to human trafficking. Other service projects have also included informational and educational activities that prevent acts of violence. A good example is our current funding for UNICEF USA’s Let Us Learn project, which addresses prevention and responses to aggression—an important step in building awareness and overcoming harmful behavior.
Our Zonta Says NO to Violence Against Women campaign has been active for almost eight years now, and our more than 1,100 clubs take action every year to raise awareness of our cause by doing great projects in their respective parts of the world. In Zonta‘s Centennial Anniversary Biennium, we have become the first private sector donor to the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage, - and our engagement goes well beyond funding.
There is still so much to do, with 650 million girls and women alive today who have become brides before they reached the age of 18, the one in ten young women who are still unable to read and write and the many other areas of gender inequality.
But there is hope. We see progress and increased collaboration between institutions and organizations. Zonta has intensified its relations with UN agencies and other non-governmental organizations. We are very sad that we had to cancel a symposium in New York on child, early and forced marriages and unions. Scheduled for 7 March, the event would have united eminent researchers, activists and leaders from renowned organizations that work together toward a similar goal.*
For Zonta members, 8 March is not only International Women’s Day but Zonta Rose Day. Many of us take the opportunity to make donations in honor of people who have made a positive difference in our lives.
We know that joining forces brings about the successes that we desperately need. We will continue on this path.