One hundred years ago today, November 8, 1919, a small group of pioneering women came together in Buffalo, New York with a vision to help all women realize greater equality while using their individual and collective expertise in service to their community. Their vision became Zonta International, an organization that has grown to more than 29,000 members, working together to make gender equality a reality for women and girls worldwide. Since that time, Zonta has provided nearly $41 million to empower women and expand their access to education, health care, economic opportunities and safe living conditions, including actions to help achieve a world free of violence against women and girls, one of the most pervasive human rights violations and a global epidemic.
Violence against women and girls knows no national or cultural barriers; it takes place at home, in the workplace and in open spaces, and affects millions of women and girls in peacetime and conflict. It includes psychological, physical and sexual violence, and harmful practices such as rape, female genital cutting, human trafficking, and child marriage.
More than 650 million girls and women alive today were married as children — before they were 18 years old. An estimated 12 million girls are married in childhood each year. Child marriage violates girls’ rights to health, education and safety. And, it is not a problem that exists only beyond our borders. Child marriage is a human rights violation that includes hundreds of thousands of American girls. In fact, between 2000 and 2010, an estimated 248,000 children as young as 12 were legally married in the U.S. Almost all of them were girls married to adult men.
Child marriage prevents girls from leading healthy and productive lives and puts their safety at risk. Child brides in the U.S. are 50 percent more likely to drop out of high school, four times less likely to finish college and close to a third more likely to end up in poverty. They face a 23 percent higher risk of heart attack, cancer, diabetes and stroke than women who married between 19 and 25 do, and an increased risk of various psychiatric disorders. A global study also showed they are three times more likely to be beaten by their spouse than those who marry at 21 or older.
These global initiatives are supported by the nearly 1,200 clubs of Zonta International, who also support local and area / regional initiatives in the 63 countries around the world that they represent.
In honor of Zonta International’s 100th anniversary, the Zonta Club of Frankfort has undertaken two local projects this year:
First, they assembled 100 First Aid Kits and presented them to the Open Door Health Clinic for their clients / patients. Annually, the Clinic serves nearly 3,000 uninsured or under-insured patients, operating solely on donations. Locally, this includes donations from the United Way for Clinton County, St. Mary’s Catholic Church and St. Matthew United Methodist Church. They also receive some medications from RUAH (Rural & Urban Access to Health) through St. Vincent / Ascension Health.
Second, the Club applied on behalf of the YWCA of Greater Lafayette and its Domestic Violence Intervention and Prevention Program for a Centennial Anniversary Grant provided by the Zonta International Foundation. The Foundation designated $300,000 to be awarded to like-minded organizations serving the needs of women and girls. Of 289 applications from around the globe, the YWCA was one of 62 selected, receiving $4692 to improve their telephone and technology system. In 2018, the shelter provided over 9,000 bed nights for victims of domestic violence, including their children. In addition, staff and trained volunteers handled 5,600 crisis hotline calls.
Zonta International is a leading global organization of professionals empowering women worldwide through service and advocacy.
Zonta International envisions a world in which women’s rights are recognized as human rights and every woman is able to achieve her full potential. In such a world, women have access to all resources and are represented in decision making
positions on an equal basis with men. In such a world, no woman lives in fear of violence.
For information about Zonta International, please visit https://www.zonta.org/.