Zonta & the United Nations

UN flag in possession of the Zonta Club of Geneva, NY
The cover of a 1995 issue of The Zontian Magazine showing Zonta President, Chief Folake Solanke, with UN Secretary General, Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

According to Zonta’s 80thAnniversary Book… Zontian delegates, Elizabeth Gist Dozier (PIP 1950-52) and Georgia Boucher attended the inauguration of the United Nations in San Francisco, CA in 1945. The next year, Zonta observers were established in New York and Geneva for all UN sessions.   (Paris, France and Vienna, Austria would eventually be added as Zonta locations.) In 1948 a Universal Declaration of Human Rights is adopted by the UN General Assembly in Paris, France.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) girls training center in Ramallah, Jordan which opened its doors on October 24, 1962 was Zonta’s first partnership with a United Nations agency. The UN built the center and paid staff salaries. Zonta paid each girl’s tuition of $500. The $500 covered the school, books, room and board, equipment and even a little spending money. The school consisted of a two year course study in teacher training, dress making, nursing, institutional management, and secretarial training. The application process for Ramallah consisted of an entrance exam, school grades and a personal interview.  At the conclusion of the program in 1974 over 570 scholarships had been donated by Zonta members around the world and Zonta members had contributed $327,000.
For the 1972-74 Biennium focus for Zontians and the UN was to establish mobile medical units to serve the health needs of children and mothers in remote areas of Ghana, West Africa.  Most people are familiar with UNICEF – the United Nations Children’s Fund.  Some school students still raise money for this fund on Halloween.

In 1986 Zonta International became the first and largest NGO contributor to the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).

For the 1998-2000 Biennium, the Prevention of Female Genital Circumcision (FGC) in cooperation with the UN was adopted.

Projects with the UN continue – The approved International Service and ZISVAW projects for 2016-2018 were:   Towards Elimination of Obstetric Fistula and the Reduction of Maternal and Newborn Mortality and Morbidity in Liberia, in partnership with UNFPA   Let Us Learn Madagascar: An Integrated Program for Adolescent Girls, in partnership with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF   The Future We Want: Creating sustainable foundations for addressing human trafficking and unsafe migration of women and girls in Nepal, in partnership with UN Women Initiative for Adolescent Girls in Niger: Knowledge for Dignity, in partnership with UNFPA.

Needless to say, Zonta Districts and local clubs needed to have a Committee Chair to relay information about the many projects taking place – in the early years it may have been called the International Relations Committee, but now one of the Standing Committees is the United Nations Committee.

Zontians are also encouraged to take advantage of a tour of the United Nations organized by the League of Women Voters of New York State each fall.  Our District has often been a co-sponsor of the event, with a speaker/topic on women’s issues (great publicity for Zonta on the program/registration and discount rate for Zontians).  Several members from our district have participated in the event.

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) first met at Lake Success, New York, in February 1947, soon after the founding of the United Nations.

All 15 government representatives were women. From its inception, the Commission was supported by a unit of the United Nations that later became the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) in the UN Secretariat. The CSW developed a relationship with several NGOs.  Those with consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)were  invited to participate as observers.

Many Zontians travelled to NYC and took advantage of the offers to participate in annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) events.

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

Zonta International also asks Zontians to learn about CEDAW which dates back to Dec. 18, 1979 when the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. It entered into force as an international treaty Sept. 3, 1981 after the twentieth country had ratified it. Over 100 countries have signed the treaty, including Canada, but the US has not yet done so.  Two other countries who have not signed the treaty are Iran and the Sudan.

CEDAW is often a topic during District Workshops and Conferences – during the 2011 District Conference held in Buffalo a mini-workshop was presented to attendees. The purpose of these sessions is to share the facts behind CEDAW and to detail the myths as to what it means for the women in America.  Sample letters to be sent to government officials encouraging the ratification of CEDAW have been distributed during the events.

Cities for CEDAW is a campaign to protect the rights of women and girls by passing ordinances establishing the principles of CEDAW in cities and towns across the United States (begun in 2013).  Past District 4 Governor, Lee Fogarty, of the Zonta club of Pittsburgh was one of the presenters at the Cities for CEDAW-Buffalo event in July 2016.

District 4 even had participants/speakers at the UN events – In October 2015 District 4 Governor, Joanne Raymond, spoke on ending Violence Against Women and Girls to an international group of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGS).