It was 100 years ago, on November 8, 1919, when a small group of pioneering women came together in Buffalo New York, USA, with a vision to devote time, resources and expertise to help lift up the status of women. Through service and advocacy, these women sought to create greater equality in their communities.
The noble ideals of the pioneering women professionals and business executives were the basis for the formation of Zonta International. Today, Zonta has 29,000 members in 63 countries around the globe. These members in their individual countries have worked assiduously during the last 100 years with a focused aim to make gender equality a reality for women and girls worldwide.
Last week, as the five Zonta Clubs in Ghana marked the centenary milestone under the theme, “Honouring and empowering women”, a press conference was held at the Ghana International Press Centre attended by the five Clubs in Ghana, namely, Zonta Club of Accra, Accra II, Tema, Accra Metropolitan and E-Club. The celebration was crowned with a thanksgiving service at the Legon Baptist Church.
Over the last 100 years, Zonta International has worked with diligence to address the causes and symptoms of barriers to better lives for women everywhere. With support from partner bodies within the United Nations (UN) such as UNICEF, UNFPA, UNIFEM, UNESCO and many more Agencies, Zonta has actively undertaken projects from Madagascar to Syria, Jordan, Liberia, Nepal, Niger and others, all in the interest of vulnerable women and girls.
Projects in Ghana
In Ghana, between the five Clubs and with support from some foreign missions, UNFPA and other local partners, Zonta’s contribution to the cause of women has been without borders, extending to rural communities. They have worked together and sometimes independently and through service projects and advocacy have produced and aired a documentary on national television on human trafficking, built a four-bedroom shelter for women and girls and donated mobile health clinics to disadvantaged communities.
Vivienne Idun-Ogde, Zonta Club president
Zonta has built bus shelters in various locations in the capital, donated birthing kits to some rural clinics, refurbished the female ward at the Korle-Bu Teaching hospital, equipped the Haatso maternity Health Centre, educated and trained in-school adolescents on reproductive health and personal hygiene through an Adolescent Reproductive Health and Empowerment project and distributed sanitary towels to over 100 students. It has been consistent with literacy empowerment in deprived schools by donating library books, computers and other accessories and promoting education among girls with its scholarship fund. The list of services and advocacies is endless.
Under the centennial celebration, Zonta is focusing on seeking to raise awareness of the ills of child marriage. Though taken lightly in some cultures, child marriage is considered by experts as a violation of human rights and leads to health and developmental consequences that limit the economic and individual empowerment of the girl child.
According to a facts sheet produced by Ghana’s Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, child marriage is often referred to as early or forced marriage. Since it is an abuse of the child’s right, it is punishable under the laws of the country. The global statistics released by UNICEF in 2014 indicates that each year, 15 million girls marry before age 18. A breakdown of this number reveals that each day, 41,000 girls get married and 28 every minute.
The 2014 statistics for Ghana indicates that the regions in Ghana are recording high prevalence rates of child marriage with the Northern Region recording the highest of 39.6 per cent and Greater Accra Region recording the lowest of 18.5 per cent. One out of five girls in Ghana is married before attaining age 18. This amounts to approximately 260,000 affected girls.
Researchers confirm that child marriage greatly affects the personal development of the children including schooling, increased risk of domestic violence, maternal and child health complications and economic disempowerment. That is why it is the avowed aim of Zonta to work to contribute to bring the prevalence down if not total eradication.
Zonta extends an arm of partnership to any organisation or individual willing to join hands to declare “No to violence against women and girls” and together, say a big no to child marriage. The 16 days of activism to drive home Zonta’s message starts from 25th November to December 10, 2019. Who will join the train?