Founded in 1919, Zonta International is a global organization of professionals empowering women worldwide through service and advocacy. Zonta has more than 29,000 members in 62 countries working together to improve the lives of women and girls.
Zonta International and UNICEF USA have been in close partnership since 1972, helping UNICEF advance the status of women and children globally through education, health and protection services.
Empowering girls on climate change
In 2022, Zonta began supporting Engaging Girls on Climate Change in Madagascar. The program aims to enable children, particularly girls, to learn in a safe and inclusive environment, and to empower them to take action in buildingd climate-resilient communities.
Zonta’s support will help ensure girls and a generation of children and adolescents receive environmental education in Madagascar through child-friendly schools. While contributing to improving the quality of children’s education, especially girls', through environmental conservation and education initiatives, the partnership project also aims to help Madagascar meet sustainable development goals in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).
Program targets for 2022-2024 include training at least 1,000 students (including about 540 girls) and 1,500 teachers in water conservation, environmental education and menstrual health and hygiene (MHH). At least 750 teachers at 700 primary schools will receive training on climate and environment, sanitation and hygiene practices (including MHH), clean school environment (including tree and flower planting), pre-positioning supplies, and the development of disaster risk plans to enable learning to continue during natural disasters.
Ending child marriage and protecting futures
Some 650 million women who are alive today were married before their 18th birthday, and an estimated 280 million more girls are at risk of becoming brides. If current trends continue, the number of girls and women married as children will reach nearly 1 billion by 2030.
The COVID-19 pandemic is fueling increased risk for child marriages by: interrupting education; creating food and economic insecurity; disrupting programs and services; increasing adolescent pregnancy; and causing deaths of parents and caregivers. Effective programming measures could reduce the additional number of child brides by half, bringing the total impact of COVID-19 down to 5 million additional child brides
Zonta is committed to supporting the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Program to End Child Marriage in 12 countries: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Yemen and Zambia.
Through the initiative, Zonta and UNICEF are working to ensure:
- enhanced knowledge, skills, and attitudes among marginalized adolescent girls on matters such as their rights, relationships, sexual and reproductive health, and financial literacy, including in humanitarian contexts
- adolescent boys, families, traditional and religious leaders, community groups, and other influencers demonstrate more gender-equitable attitudes and support for girls’ rights
- increased capacity of education, health, child protection, and gender-based violence (GBV) systems to deliver coordinated, quality programs and services that meet the needs of adolescent girls and their families, including in humanitarian contexts
- increased capacity of national and sub-national social protection, poverty reduction, and economic empowerment programs and services to respond to the needs of the poorest adolescent girls and their families, including in humanitarian contexts
- enhanced capacity of governments to coordinate and implement national and sub-national action plans and systems to end child marriage
- increased capacity of governments and non-government organizations to generate, disseminate, and use quality and timely evidence to inform policy and program design, track progress, and document lessons
Supporting adolescent girls' health and protection
Zonta also supports adolescent girls' health and protection programs in Peru to uphold the rights of indigenous and rural adolescents. Project efforts are being scaled to support to rural and indigenous adolescents, especially girls, in four key regions in Peru. This program aims to strengthen health systems, with an emphasis on boosting health care workers’ ability to provide much needed mental health care to adolescents.
The program will also pilot efforts to equip adolescents, especially girls, with important sexual and reproductive health information, and young parents will be counseled on how to avoid a second pregnancy at a young age. The UNICEF team is also collaborating with community institutions, including schools, to prevent violence against young people.
From 2022-2024, with Zonta's continued support, UNICEF Peru is focused on two primary goals:
- increasing capacities within the health sector to provide quality and comprehensive adolescent care with an emphasis on mental health and violence prevention; this includes developing a pilot program to support adolescent parents and prevent a second pregnancy
- improving abilities within Peru's protection and education sectors to promote health and prevent violence in schools
Together, Zonta International and UNICEF USA are positively impacting tens of thousands of women and girls, building brighter, safer and healthier futures.
Top photo: Giridih district has one of the highest rates of child marriage in India where 6 out of 10 girls are married before age 18. In Madanpur Jamua block of Giridih, adoloscent girls attend karate classes as part of a UNICEF-supported empowerment and protection program to make villages in the district ‘child marriage free’. ©UNICEF/UN061999/Prashanth Vishwanathan