'Zonta Says No': International NGO lights buildings orange all over Germany to raise awareness on violence against women and girls. DW got the chance to talk to Susanne von Bassewitz, President of Zonta International
Noticed any orange buildings today?
Buildings all over Germany have been lit orange today as part of a national campaign by Zonta International, marking the 2019 UN International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women. Zonta is a global organization that focuses on empowering women through service and advocacy. It is working towards a world where women's rights are recognized as human rights, where no woman lives in fear of violence, and where women have access to all resources and are equally represented in decision making positions.
We spoke to Susanne von Bassewitz, president of Zonta International on their work in the last 100 years and their next steps:
Susanne von Bassewitz: Zonta International and our Zonta members in 63 countries are focusing much of our work on a major initiative to end child marriage. We are working to ensure that girls are not forced to marry at a young age but can decide for themselves. We are also empowering Syrian refugee women in Jordan and their Jordanian peers to expand their economic opportunities and improve their lives and the lives of their families through a partnership with UN Women. In Madagascar, Zonta is providing resources to ensure that every girl can continue her education beyond primary school. We also provide educational fellowships, scholarships and awards for women and girls each year.
'Government commitment to the projects we support is critical'
How do you ensure that your collaborations have long-term results on the affected communities?
We partner with agencies such as UNICEF, UNFPA and UN Women because they have the infrastructure and resources to address large-scale issues and a proven track record of using our contributions to deliver tangible results for women and girls. Government commitment to the goals and objectives of the projects we support is also critical to the long-term success of these initiatives. And of course we require regular reporting on the use of funds, and conduct field visits to see the projects firsthand.
Zonta recently celebrated its 100-year anniversary. What has been the biggest impact of your work?
We have significantly increased our funding for projects addressing some of the most pressing issues facing women and girls. For years now, clubs worldwide use the tools we provide for our global campaign: Zonta Says No to Violence Against Women. We address all forms of violence, with the recent focus on child marriage in international meetings and events and in the 63 countries we operate in.
'There needs to be a concerted effort by media to ensure that women´s rights are seen and heard' How would you assess the role of the media as an ally in your work? What can media do better?
Media are an ally in our work. They can amplify our message and further increase awareness of the issues we are addressing locally and globally. Media management can do more, however, to increase women's voices in the media. For example, 85 percent of op-eds published in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and LA Times between 1996 and 2016 were written by men.
In 2017, 50,000 women were killed by a current or former partner or other family members. What measures do you have in place to tackle this seemingly growing trend of femicide?
The statistics around femicide are alarming. Violence against women, of any nature, is at its core about the unequal power relations between men and women. Domestic violence specifically often goes undetected because there are no outward signs of violence or abuse. In 2014, Zonta International launched 'Zonta Says NO to Violence against Women', a global campaign to raise awareness of, and increase actions to end, violence against women and girls. Through this campaign, we initiated a variety of projects to address violence against women and girls at national and local levels.
'The issue of child marriage is not only found in developing countries; it is everywhere'
In 146 countries, girls under 18 years are allowed to marry under national or customary law, with the consent of parents or other authorities. How do you approach such states where this is not just a cultural practice but law?
Advocacy is an essential part of our work to end child marriage. Our members are developing action plans to address any gaps in legislation. Where legislation does exist, they are studying loopholes or barriers to the implementation of those laws. I must stress that child marriage is not only found in developing countries; it is everywhere. In the United States, only two states have laws that prohibit child marriage. Zonta USA Caucus is working with other national, like-minded organizations to advocate for laws that prohibit any marriage under the age of 18.