After a wonderful and successful trip to Hamburg, Germany to visit our host city for the 2022 Convention and meet with local Zontians, it still felt good to return home. As they say, there is no place like home. But for millions of women around the globe who are experiencing displacement, they cannot say the same. The last year has shown that with compounding factors, such as a global pandemic, government instability and climate disasters, the traditional safe-haven feeling of home for families around the globe has significantly shifted.
According to the Global Trends report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 82.4 million people were displaced in 2020, an increase of 11.2 million from the year before. Of that number, about 49% are female and 42% are children. The UNHCR also reported that just over half of that number, 48 million people, were displaced within their own countries. To put this in perspective, in India, that would be all of the people of Delhi and Mumbai; or Shanghai and Beijing in China; or all residents of the 50 most populated cities in the U.S. would be without a home.
The result of displacement goes far beyond people without permanent homes or shelter. To simply survive, families are turning to the unthinkable by allowing child marriage. Women are taking on jobs in other countries and risk being trafficked with little to no rights. Girls are not able to continue their education as they move away from school or it is too dangerous to travel.
Sadly, these issues are not going away, but neither are we. We stand together as Zontians, remaining strong for all women. We are a greater force as a collective voice. While it may feel like the situation is hopeless, we can make a difference. One example is the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan. The first step you can do to engage in a greater way is to advocate and share the joint statement we made to the UN Human Rights Council. Another step is to contact agencies within your country that have the tools ready to respond. Take a look at the immediate actions your fellow members have already taken to help Afghan and Haitian women below. Please also read our Statement on trafficking in persons: A human rights issue.
I am continually proud to serve as your president. Thank you for doing good in the world and for truly making a difference.
With warm regards,
Sharon Langenbeck, Ph.D., President
Increased risk of child marriage
Conflict, natural disasters and forced displacement are affecting millions of people around the world. These crises exacerbate inequalities, including harmful gender norms, poverty and access to education and basic services, such as sexual and reproductive healthcare. They also put girls at greater risk of child marriage.
What drives child marriage during times of crises?
- Child marriage is seen as a way out of poverty.
- Child marriage is seen as a way to protect girls from violence.
- Child marriage is used as a weapon of war.
- Child marriage increases in countries that are most vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather events.
- Child marriage is an indirect consequence of disease outbreaks like COVID-19.
Learn more about child marriage in humanitarian contexts and solutions from around the world in this brief from Girls Not Brides.
Click the button above to make a donation to our International Service Fund
to support our Ending Child Marriage program.
Serving and advocating for those displaced
Since our very first international service project in 1923, when our members took action to support 115,000 orphan children and engage in self-support opportunities for women in Turkey, Zonta has seen the impact of displacement and also how our collective work can improve the situation. Clubs and members dedicate their advocacy and service efforts on local levels to further our impact. Below are just a few examples of the amazing work of our clubs and members to help displaced people.
Zontians from Sanremo aid refugees from Afghanistan
On 23 August, Sanremo went from the City of Flowers and Song to the City of Solidarity- welcoming over 350 political refugees from Afghanistan. Most came without luggage, some came barefoot, and half were minors.
During the first week, Zonta Club of Sanremo, Italy President Cinzia Papetti and club member Lorena Grossi began an appeal to their community and the media to donate clothing, medication and other needs for the refugees, working with the Italian Red Cross. Within a few days, the Red Cross headquarters received hundreds of donations.
As the days passed, Cinzia and Lorena bonded with the female refugees and realized how quickly life flipped on them. They all had a promising future as doctors, lawyers, engineers and more. They had to abandon their dreams, livelihoods and loved ones in fear of persecution. Their only alleged crime was being an educated and strong woman.
Read more about the women the club met here.
Zonta Club of Long Island sends relief to Haiti
In August 2021, the Zonta Club of Long Island, New York made a large donation to the Daughters of Wisdom, who have missions in Haiti. This donation will help women in the area, which has been devastated by a recent earthquake and hurricane and help empower women through service and advocacy.
In our recently published statement: Trafficking in Persons: A Human Rights Issue, Zonta International calls for all appropriate measures to be taken, including legislation, to suppress all forms of trafficking in women and girls (within or across borders) and to prevent the exploitation of women and girls.
Share your story
Every club has a story to tell. Through your actions of service and advocacy, you are showing how we live our mission in our everyday lives. Share your story
"What is Zonta?"
Share your answer with us for the Elevator Speech Pitch campaign. More information can be found at Elevator Speech Pitch.
Submissions are due: 8 October.
Remarkable Women, Powerful Stories
This month, Aviaja L. Hauptmann, Ph.D., a microbiologist and public debater from Greenland, shared her powerful story. Hear from Aviaja and register for our next guest, Helen Clark.