BY JULIA WADE
A band of inspirational local women were part of a global celebration recently, joining agents of an international organisation committed to improving and empowering the lives of women around the world in celebrating a significant birthday milestone.
Women’s advocacy organization, Zonta International, whose past members include American aviator Amelia Earhart, has turned 100, and members of Mangawhai Zonta gathered at the local golf club on November 7 for a pre-centennial celebration.
Zonta Mangawhai president, Helen White, welcomed both former and current members, their partners and supporters as well as past award recipients for Yellow Rose, Second Chance and Spirit of Adventure scholarships, before giving a brief description of the formative years of the organisation.
“November 8 is a significant milestone marking 100 years of an organisation that has continued to evolve,” she says. “We strive to remain relevant, to continue to advocate for and empower women and girls, and to promote a world where violence towards females is not ok.”
In January 1915 five women in Buffalo, New York, conceived the idea of a new organisation which would include female business and professional leaders with a primary focus to provide a cooperative service to humanity. Over several months five clubs were formed and on November 8 the confederation of ‘Zonta’, a Sioux Indian word meaning honest and trustworthy, was founded.
Beginning with a specific aim of advocating for education and constructive work for girls and young women in 1920, today 30,000 Zonta members in over 1200 clubs worldwide provide over US$5 million every year to international projects and programmes focused on health, equality and human rights, economic empowerment, and gender-based violence, child marriage and human trafficking. Zontian’s also hold annual campaigns including ‘Zonta says NO to violence against women’ symbolised by the colour orange, and last year adopted an initiative to end child marriage as their signature project.
The Yellow Rose award on March 8, International Women’s Day, was adopted in 1999 and recognises women who have significantly contributed to their relative communities.
“One hundred years on Zonta encompasses 68 countries and continues to advocate for women’s human rights and gender equality,” White says. “We partner with UN agencies to financially support projects to empower women and girls to understand their rights and realise their full potential.”
First established in New Zealand in 1965, Zonta NZ now has 28 clubs reaching from Northland to Otago supporting projects such as the Sophie Elliott Foundation ‘Loves me Loves me not’ school programme, Gynaecological Cancer Foundation and currently ‘PADA’, perinatal anxiety and depression awareness.
Along with their international benevolent work, local Zontian’s support the ‘HIPPY’ programme which provides baby checks for new mothers in need, offer ‘Spirit of Adventure’ scholarships to older girls and Second Chance awards for women pursuing an NZQA qualification after raising a family. The group also offers financial assistance to girls and young women who are disadvantaged.
“Our own Mangawhai Zonta Club was chartered almost ten years ago with Liz Holsted as the first president and a band of merry women as the driving force. I acknowledge the presence tonight of many of the past presidents… I’m trying to fill those big shoes you’ve all worn!” she says. “Thank you for your ongoing support and generosity of spirit… It is a privilege to be a Zontian and I am proud to be current leader of our local group.”
The first Mangawhai Zonta president, Liz Holsted (left) and current president Helen White cut the cake to celebrate 100 years of Zonta with local members and family.