By Maria Jose Landeira Oestergaard, 2014-2016 Zonta International President
Since 1919, Zonta International has worked worldwide to achieve gender equity and to improve women’s lives. And education has been a focus since the adoption of the Vocational Education for Girls Project, Zonta's first US service program, in 1928.
Throughout our history, we Zontians have empowered women and helped them to become self-sufficient. The driving force is our vision of a world in which women's rights are recognized as human rights and every woman is able to achieve her full potential, where women have access to all resources and are represented in decision-making positions on an equal basis with men, where no woman lives in fear of violence.
This vision can only be achieved by our continuous advocacy and service efforts, focusing with conviction,commitment and courage on the prevention of root causes of inequality and violence against women through education.
Year 2015 has been one of the most important years for gender equality and women’s empowerment. It marked the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the 15th anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security, and the adoption of the ambitious “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), .
Zonta’s primary focus is Goal No. 5 “Achieving Gender Equality and empowering all women and girls”, a goal that includes the eradication of violence against women and girls. The challenges to achieve this goal are still enormous. Despite much progress and the Universal Declaration of Human rights from 1948, there are many countries in the world in which women’s rights are not yet recognized as human rights, where violence against women is an inherent part of women’s lives. Gender equality remains unfortunately as one of the greatest challenges of our times.
As a leading global organization of 30,000 professionals in 67 countries, we Zontians play a major role in bringing about sustainable change. Our mission, empowering women worldwide through service and advocacy, together with our long-standing relationship with the United Nations, our General Consultative Status with ECOSOC since 1969 and participatory status at the Council of Europe since 1983, places Zonta in a unique position to secure equality and a life free of violence for all women in the world.
In 2016, our voice will continue being sharp and clear in all discussions about deeply rooted cultural norms and structures that hinder women’s equal rights or prolong violence against women. We will continue moving our priorities forward through our activities in the UN and the Council of Europe and through our work with national governments and local authorities. We will lead by example and will model the kind of equality we want to achieve for all women. Today, we take one more step toward a better tomorrow for women worldwide!