RECENTLY, I got to sit in to the Zonta Conference of District 17 Area 3 because my best friend from Grade 7, Dandy Santos Gomez was the resource speaker.
Dandy is the District Chairman for Service and Vice Chairman for Service in Zonta International. Listening to her, gave me an in depth knowledge of what Zonta is all about.
Zonta is a worldwide organization of executives in business and the professions working together to advance the status of women.
Likewise, it is an international service organization with the mission of advancing the status of women. Being international or worldwide in nature gives the members many opportunities and a broader perspective of realities that impacts on our daily lives, which realities sometimes remain unnoticed.
When you join Zonta, you become knowledgeable, conscious, aware and sympathetic to women elsewhere. In 2000, Dandy attended the Zonta International Convention in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The guest speaker was Dr. Catherine Hamlin who spoke about fistula. Hamlin recounted how one time, late in the evening, a woman came to her. She was very ill with high fever.
Dr. Hamlin asked her why it took her so long to see her. Her reply was, “she had to save for her transportation which at that time was $40.” What is obstetric fistula? It is a childbirth injury caused by prolonged labor without medical intervention.
Rape in India is a common crime against women. According to the 2013 annual report of the Crime Records Bureau, 24,923 rape cases were reported across India in 2012. Out of the total cases, 24,500 were perpetuated by relatives or neighbors; in other words, the victim knew the alleged rapist in 98 percent of the cases.
Dandy continues that the very essence of Zonta is service and advocacy. During her term as Governor, she encouraged Zontians to join in lobbying for the passage of the now Law on Violence Against Women and their Children. A gentleman approached her and asked why they were lobbying. He thought Zonta is an organization of orchid collectors.
Presidents of Area 3 who attended the conference presented in brief their local service projects.
Zonta Club of Bacolod who hosted the conference spoke of their livelihood projects for women of Barangay Banago, Bacolod City and their support to the Holy Family Home Foundation Inc. a center for sexually abused girls and young women run by Capuchin sisters.
Zonta Club of Davao 2 stated their Donation to the Catanihan Foundation Inc. for the construction of a building that serves as a venue for seminars to prevent the root causes of violence against women and girls, provides livelihood programs to augment women’s income, and for medical and dental missions.
Zonta Club of Iloilo City (Mother Club) conducted health, research and monitoring Women’s health programs in Barangay Esperanza, Tanza, Iloilo City. They also have the Zonta Women’s Health Center.
Zonta Club of Iloilo City 2 conducted a series of seminars on Causes and Prevention of Early Marriage and Teen Pregnancy in different schools. As of September, 2015, the number of student reached was 1,750.
Zonta Club of Cebu 1 in July, 2013, opened the first private hospital-based domestic violence program called Violence Against Women Crisis Intervention and Referral Center at the Gullas Memorial Hospital in Banilad, Cebu City.
Zonta Club of Cebu 2 has the Alimbukad Basa Pamilya (A Family Literacy Project) that empowers mother to take a more pro-active role in their children’s literacy. They also provide for the basic needs of young girls age 10 to 19 years old with high risk of physical and psychological harm, mostly run away from their houses and presently staying at the St. Mary Euphrasia Training Center.
Affected by the current problems caused by typhoon Yolanda, the Zonta Club of Tacloban implemented the Zonta Tacloban Livelihood Projects for Typhoon Yolanda Women Survivors where skills training and livelihood projects are conducted and they are provided with necessary kits, utensils, and materials for their livelihood.
Zonta Club Cagayan de Oro 1 focused on health initiatives providing Hepatitis B and Influenza Flu vaccines. Their project “Women in Need” solicits food, medicines and other needs for their beneficiaries, some of them are the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and the City Social Welfare and Development.
Zonta Club of Cagayan de Oro 2 supports the indigenous Tagolwanen women who weave special mats made of a certain kind of grass locally called sudsud. Weaving is done only in cold nights as it brittles and could easily break in a warm temperature. Since only very few weavers are left, Zontians encouraged the tribe to continue this traditional practice helping market the products to sustain this livelihood.
After hearing the local districts, Dandy disclosed Zonta’s International Service Projects like: the elimination of new pediatric HIV infection and prevention and response to survivors of domestic and gender based violence in Rwanda; the elimination of obstetric fistula in Liberia; gender responsive schools in Vietnam and delaying early marriage in Niger which has the highest child marriage in the world with 75 percent of girls married by age 18 and 36 percent by 15.
Lastly, the Voices Against Violence in 12 countries prevents and reduces gender discrimination and violence against women and girls through non-formal education and youth engagement and leadership. The Philippines is one of them.
Dandy ended her talk with her personal benefits as Zontian.
Zonta provides a venue where we can practice servant leadership. We learn to work with people of the same level as us, volunteers, co-equals not employees. We learn to be leaders, not bosses. We learn to work for the common good, not for personal gains.
Zontians are blessed because we are thrown to service projects. Then, there is fellowship. Dandy recounts one Christmas in Hong Kong when her brother succumbed to heart failure. It was the Zonta Clubs in Hongkong who helped her with everything including paperwork and documents.
And there is “International Understanding.” The international projects gave her a close look at similarities and differences in women’s situation globally and the motivation that even in one’s small personal capacity, something can be done about it.
Zonta allowed Dandy to know herself better. In conclusion, she said, “There is a higher purpose in life (which is service) where I, like everyone else, can make a difference and that there is no greater pleasure than making one’s contribution through service with meaning and passion!”