By Maria Jose Landeira Oestergaard, 2014-2016 Zonta International President
Women worldwide have been celebrating International Women’s Day on 8 March since 1975, to reflect on progress made to achieve gender equality, to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities and to call for sustainable change.
The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the Sustainable Development Goals, has made 2015 without a doubt one of the most important years for gender equality and will transform our world by 2030. At this moment, 90 world leaders have already made concrete commitments and firm pledges to overcome gender equality gaps.
The 2030 Agenda, especially Sustainable Development Goal No. 5 “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”, mark the new starting point for all of us who envision a world of equality, free of violence for all women and girls.
Since our foundation in 1919, Zonta has worked tirelessly locally and internationally to serve our communities, advocated for women’s rights to be recognized and respected as human rights, and contributed to sustainable change and to a life with dignity and free of violence for all women and girls.
Through our General Consultative Status at ECOSOC, our Participatory status at the Council of Europe, and via partnerships with UN agencies, we have continued improving the health and socio-economic status of women and girls, eliminating harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and early marriage, creating safe cities and school environments free from gender-based violence, training women to help prevent gender-based violence and developing youth through our educational programs and Z and Golden Z clubs.
Equal rights and a life free of violence is NOT a women’s issue; it is a societal issue that has to be solved by women and men together. This 8th of March 2016, Zonta International envisions equality more than ever and calls upon governments, non-governmental organizations and the private sector to take actions focusing on sustainable development and to commit adequate resources to ensure that Goal 5 and gender equality targets in the other 16 goals are implemented, monitored and ultimately realized by 2030.
Because through advocacy we CAN and WILL make lasting change, we Zontians worldwide join efforts with Conviction, Commitment and Courage, to achieve a world where women’s rights are recognized and respected as human rights, where women have access to all resources and are represented in decision making positions on equal basis with men, where no woman lives in fear of violence.