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Making a difference in women's lives |

Lifestyle Business

Making a difference in women's lives

- Joy Angelica Subido, Joy Angelica Subido, Karla Alindahao -

MANILA, Philippines - It is not just a social club for accomplished women. Rather, it is a global organization of women executives and professionals working together in service, education and advocacy programs. Their ultimate goal is to improve the lives of other women worldwide.

“Women can be the best agents to create positive change,” says Georgitta “Beng” Puyat, District 17 governor of Zonta International. “Zonta is one of the first service organizations to understand that women have a unique role in shaping lives. In our pursuit of the advancement of the status of women, we aim to enlighten our charge, the women of the world, with the knowledge and the skills they need to further themselves in life.” She continues, “(We work towards) giving the hope of a better tomorrow without fearing discrimination, abuse, ignorance and poverty.”

In the Philippines, the first Zonta club was founded in 1952 by some of the country’s most distinguished women leaders. Among these were Supreme Court Justice Cecilia Muñoz Palma, Senator Geronima Pecson, Josefa Jara Martinez, Ambassador Trinidad Legarda, Victoria Lopez Araneta, Senator Pacita Madrigal-Warns and Senator Helena Benitez.

As when it started, the club’s roster of active members today includes the names of the country’s most successful women. Currently, Zonta Philippines has four areas and 29 clubs “promoting justice and universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedom, especially for the lives of millions of Filipino women and their children.”

“At Zonta, we want the motivated, determined and forward-thinking women who are able to successfully manage their schedules so that they still have adequate time to help others,” says Erlinda E. Panlilio, chairman for public relations and communications, Zonta International District 17. She explains that the primary reason for the club’s “membership by invitation” policy is to ensure professional diversity within the organization.

While local club projects run the gamut of medical missions, health awareness and feeding programs to environmental projects, livelihood training and scholarships, each club also contributes to fund Zonta International’s programs. Zonta International supports programs such asPrevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV and Gender-Based Violence in Rwanda”; the “Safe Cities for Women Project” in Guatemala City, Guatemala and San Salvador, El Salvador; and “Towards Elimination of Obstetric Fistula and the Reduction of Maternal and Newborn Mortality and Morbidity in Liberia.”

Fellowship awards from the organization include the Amelia Earhart Fellowship Program, which provides financial assistance to women pursuing graduate degrees in aerospace-related sciences and engineering; and the Jane M Klausman Women in Business Scholarship Program to help women pursuing undergraduate and master’s degrees in business management overcome gender barriers.

Arizza Ann Sahi Nocum, 17, won Zonta’s Young Women in Public Affairs Award for her work as administrator of the A-Book-Saya Group (ABSG) and Christian-Muslim Peace Library in Zamboanga City.

Zonta also grants awards to help women leaders increase the reach of their projects. This year a 17-year-old Filipina won Zonta’s Young Women in Public Affairs Award (YWPA). The YWPA recognizes young women 16 to 19 who demonstrate a commitment to leadership in public policy, government and volunteer organizations.

Arizza Ann Sahi Nocum won the award for her work as administrator of the A-Book-Saya Group (ABSG) put up by her Christian father and Muslim mother in 2007. ABSG is engaged in promoting education though books and educational materials from sponsors, and sends these to affected areas in Mindanao. In addition, Arizza is administrator of the Christian-Muslim Peace Library in Zamboanga City, established in 2008, which provides free computer and library services, tutorials, and enrollment subsidies to children from surrounding public schools.

For her work as an active student volunteer, advocate and leader, the University of the Philippines Industrial Engineering student won over 30 nominees from the district. A check for US$3,000 was handed to Arizza Ann during the second business session of the Zonta International District 17 Conference held at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza recently.

“We are sometimes asked, ‘Why do you do this? How much do you get paid?’” Dianne Curtis, Zonta International president shares at the Manila district conference. “We are volunteers but it means a lot to us to advance the status of women around the world. When we empower women we achieve the double dividend of improving the lives of their families and children.”

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