District 8 Conference 2019 Summary

-Sandy and Laura

District 8 encompasses 1.2 million miles as it stretches from Alaska to Canada to  Washington, Oregon and across to Idaho.

The conference held in September was a mix of procedures, voting on candidates, informative talks and a Centennial Gala.

Of the 15 clubs in the district, 14 were represented and the total attendance was 127, including International Representative Sigrid Duden from Germany.
 New Officers:  Lt. Governor Maggie Calica (Anchorage AK) was voted in as Governor, while Deb Lal (South Puget Sound WA) was voted as the new Lt. Governor.   All offices begin in 2020.

Dues and Policies:
Dues to District 8 (covered in you member dues), were raised by $2 to help host conferences. It was also voted to update the grammar in our policies to be gender neutral and replace fax with email addresses. Wording on hosting District Conferences and District Governor’s Seminars was changed from “shall” to “may” to provide flexibility. The district also sent a proposal to Zonta International proposing that the Zonta International Strategies on Violence Against Women and Children (ZISVAW) name be shortened to Zonta Says No to Violence Against Women and Children. The Zonta Says No title is a more powerful stand-alone name and marketing tool to recognize Zonta’s mission.

Be Inspired, Feel Safe, Take Action
Board members and current Governor, Jeanie Martin, noted that to make Zonta successful, every member needs to be inspired and inspire others. They also need to feel safe to make mistakes, be creative and feel fulfilled during their Zonta journey. It was also noted that club leaders set expectations, BUT you can’t lead volunteers like employees. Recognize that younger generations want more hands on projects. So include actions that are more immediate. Also talk to younger members to see how to best attract other younger members. Engage more with partner groups with similar missions, and remember to ask them if they want to join Zonta. Ask your friends and acquaintances to join—they may be waiting for you to ask. Additionally, have your 30 second elevator speech ready, so when somebody asks, “what’s Zonta?” you’re prepared to answer. One response is: “Zonta is a leadership organization to honor and empower women.”

Keynote: Ending Child Marriage

The keynote speaker was Fraidy Reiss, Founder of Unchained at Last. She talked about  her experience with a forced marriage as an Orthodox Jewish girl in New York City in the late 1990s, and it still happens. Setup by a match-maker, she was forced to marry the man picked for her after 7 chaperoned dates. A few weeks later, he threatened to kill her as the abuse escalated. Although 19 years old, in her culture she had no financial rights, money, reproductive rights, and sex was required despite the abuse. She could only escape the marriage if her family would take her back—they refused. Ultimately she was declared dead by ALL members of her family as she went to college, got a divorce, gained custody of her children, and founded Unchained at Last. Forced/Child marriages are a human rights violation. In Alaska, Oregon, and Idaho 78 to 84% of the girls younger than 18 that become married, are forced to marry adult men. These girls are 50% more likely to drop out of high school, four times less likely to go to college, face a 23% higher chance of physical and mental problems, and are three times more likely to be beaten by their spouse. Since the girls are younger than 18, they have no legal ability to rent an apartment, have insurance, or file for divorce. Shelters consider them runaways, and are required to turn them in. In the US, 25 states have no minimum age for marriage and only one state (Deleware) prohibits marriage under 18 years old. Bills have been introduced in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska, to end child marriages (or increase the minimum age to 16—ID) but all were either voted down, or allowed to die.

Unicef and Zonta Partnering to End Child Marriage

Kelly Procida, of UNICEF’s Global Cause Partnerships, also talked about child marriages. Globally, one in five girls are married as children. It robs the girls of their childhood, opportunity for higher education, jobs, financial security and many become victims of domestic abuse, live in poverty, die during childbirth, and suffer physical and mental health issues. Zonta was the first private sector group to join UNICEF’s Global Program to end these marriages. The plan is to target 12 countries and focus on outcomes of education, engaging communities to support girl’s rights, reaching school with health care and protective services, and creating national laws. Although the program is new, of 1.73 million participants in community dialog, 41% now support girls having rights and 11 of the 12 countries have started developing plans to end child marriages. Six governments have funded their plan. One of the major lessons from Zonta’s Let Us Learn Madagascar program where 91% of the people live on less than $2 per day, is that the best escalator out of poverty is education for girls. Instead of casting girls into child marriages, letting girls continue their education beyond middle school results in a sense of value for the girls, reduced gender violence, reduced birth rates, reduced physical and mental health issues, and allows the girls to contribute to their families and communities economically and socially. This results in a reduction of poverty.

YWPA Scholar Aysha encourages Empathy, Effectiveness and Effervescence.

Via Skype, attendees also got to meet Aysha Emmerson from Victoria who won the club, district and international Young Women in Public Affairs award. A sophomore at Harvard, she was the first youth observer to the UN Commission on the Status of Women. She sees Zonta mission as a future that encompasses: Empathy, Effectiveness, and Effervescence. She noted while walking in another’s shoes is a worthy goal, since our backgrounds do have a bearing on how we perceive the world, we might also want to consider walking next to one another and listening.

Centennial Banquet.
The conference concluded with a gala Centennial Celebration banquet. Being unable to contain themselves, Sandy and Laura dressed up as 1919 flappers and had time! Check out the District 8 Facebook page and website for more details on the conference.