District 25 embraces diversity, equity and inclusion at their conference

District 25, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, held their 17th annual conference on 6-8 October to renew their firm commitment to women's empowerment and diversity, equity and inclusion, along with a pledge for gender-equal climate action. This year's theme was "Embracing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion."

The three-day conference brought together more than 150 Zontians from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. It provided a unique platform for sharing insights, experiences and innovative initiatives to foster a brighter future for women and girls. Surendra Raj Acharya, Nepal's minister for women, children and senior citizens, inaugurated the conference. Sunita Dangol, the deputy mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City, also attended the opening ceremony.

"Women's empowerment is a multifaceted challenge that requires the collective effort of government, civil society, communities and individuals," said Surendra. "It is our shared responsibility to ensure that the women of Nepal and South Asia have the opportunities, resources and support they need to thrive."

"It is high time that we raise the voice that participation of women, not just participation but meaningful participation of women, is today's need," said Sunita. "Meaningful participation in not just one sector of society but all sectors including pollical sectors. "

The keynote speaker, Bharati Silwal-Giri, a former assistant resident representative of UNDP Nepal, provided insights into the intersection of gender inequality and climate change in the inaugural session.

"Embracing diversity, equality and inclusion are the fulcrum on which the rests the foundation of gender equality," said Bharati. "It is essential to achieving the gender equal world where people from different sexes, backgrounds, capabilities, regions, ages, ethnicities, cultures, religions and sexual orientation have access to the same opportunities to advance and empower themselves."

"We are deeply honored to have hosted the conference in Nepal for the first time," said Governor Shreejana Rana. "It was an exceptional gathering of Zontians committed to empowering women and girls in our communities through innovative programs, projects, and advocacy initiatives. Our collective belief in a future where every woman can reach her full potential has been strengthened, and this conference has taken us one step closer to achieving that vision."

"More than 400 dedicated members from 15 clubs across four countries in Zonta District 25 have consistently advanced Zonta's mission. Their active global engagement, generous support for international projects and vital role in education awards programs have been instrumental in creating a brighter, more equitable world for women and girls," said Treasurer/Secretary Souella M. Cumming.

Throughout the three days, the conference consistently underscored Zonta's dedication to two critical initiatives: Zonta says NO to Violence Against Women and Zonta says NOW to gender-equal climate action. These initiatives highlighted the organization's commitment to combatting gender-based violence and addressing the disproportionate impact of climate change on women, who often face more significant recovery challenges.

The conference offered two workshops: Workshop 1 discussed diversity, equity and inclusion, and Workshop 2 offered gender-equal action on the third day. With the alarming and heartbreaking events of this year—from devastating flash floods and storms to record-breaking heatwaves— Zontians realized that they could not achieve the aims of Workshop 1 without the actions of Workshop 2. These workshops allowed the Zontians to share experiences, opinions and suggestions. There are many ways they can make a difference to make a start. For instance, during this conference, there were no plastic bottles, their newsletter was an electronic one, and there was a significant use of jute products.

The district also recognized multiple recipients for their scholarships and awards:

  • Yumna Zaheed from Sri Lanka was recognized as the district's Young Women Public Affairs Awardee.
  • The Jane M. Klausman Women in Business Scholarship was given to Swikritee Neupane from Nepal, who also shared their experience.
These scholarships recognized outstanding leadership and commitment to public service, empowering young women to pursue their dreams.

The Zonta Club Kathmandu and Zonta Club Pokhara hosted the conference.