Zonta International president's address on International Women's Day 2021 
by Zonta International President Sharon Langenbeck

Each year on International Women’s Day, we celebrate progress toward gender equality and acts of bravery and determination by women around the world who have made extraordinary contributions to their communities.

Zonta International has worked toward gender equality and eliminating violence against women for more than a century. In the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on existing issues and the disproportionate effect on women and girls:

  • Women and girls have increasingly been subjected to violence by an intimate partner as security, health and money concerns intensify and tensions are amplified by cramped and confined living conditions.
  • Girls in emergencies are disadvantaged at all stages of education; UNICEF estimates that by 2030, one in five girls in crisis-affected countries will be unable to read a simple sentence.
  • The global economy is experiencing its worst downturn since the Great Depression and has led to more job losses among women than men.

However, the attention on these issues has brought much-needed awareness to the challenges facing women and girls and will hopefully reinvigorate the fight for gender equity.

The pandemic has also highlighted the many women who stand on the front lines as health care workers, teachers, caregivers, innovators and more. Women and girls around the world have made immense efforts to secure an equal future and recovery from COVID-19, and their contributions do not go unnoticed.

Though it has been a difficult year, today is a time to celebrate our accomplishments. Since June 2020, Zontians and supporters have contributed more than US$1.2 million to the Zonta Foundation for Women to support our current programs – what an amazing outpouring of support and generosity! Thank you!

Together, we are making a difference for women and girls. Through our education programs, we are supporting women and girls pursuing education and careers in traditionally male-dominated fields. Our Amelia Earhart Fellowship assists women studying aerospace engineering and space sciences, enabling them to conduct groundbreaking research. Our recipients of the Jane M. Klausman Women in Business Scholarships, Women in Technology Scholarships and Young Women in Public Affairs Awards are the next generation of leaders in the private and public sectors.

Through our international service projects, we are responding to the health needs of adolescent girls and preventing violence in schools in Peru, ensuring that all women and girls in Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste live life free from violence, creating opportunities for vulnerable and excluded children in Madagascar to receive education, and protecting the rights of millions of vulnerable girls and preventing child marriage in 12 countries in Africa and Asia.

In conjunction with International Women’s Day, Zonta International and its members celebrate Rose Day, a special day when Zontians are encouraged to recognize those individuals in their lives who have encouraged them or are exemplary leaders in gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. If you have the means, I encourage you to celebrate Rose Day with a tribute gift for someone special in your life.

I am encouraged by all we have achieved, even during a global crisis. Thank you for your partnership and dedication. Together, we will continue to fight for women and girls so that they may live a life free from violence and receive an equal education and equal opportunities in all facets of life.

8 MARCH 2021