President’s Message

President message 2017-SHS

In the four years she was held captive and forced to work as a prostitute, Karla Jacinto estimates she was raped more than 43,000 times. She said it would begin at 10 a.m. and lasted until midnight.

“I had to close my eyes so that that I wouldn’t see what they were doing to me, so that I wouldn’t feel anything,” Jacinto told CNN.

Unfortunately, her story is not uncommon. Of the 20 – 30 million slaves in the world today, 79 percent of them are victims of sexual exploitation. A report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says these victims are predominantly women and girls.

At least one out of every three women worldwide has experienced a form of violence during her lifetime. We in Zonta International do not accept this, and are working to eradicate violence against women locally and internationally through service and advocacy.

Each year during the 16 Days of Activism, 25 November – 10 December, all Zonta clubs and districts are encouraged to take part in the Zonta Says NO to Violence Against Women campaign.

For the 2017 campaign, we are giving clubs the options to combat violence against women and domestic violence with the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention (Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence) as the centerpiece or to  focus specifically on human trafficking, a grave national and transnational human right’s violation, with the CoE Anti-Trafficking Convention (Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings) as the centerpiece.

Violence against women is not just a women’s issue. It is a worldwide pandemic that crosses every social and economic class, every religion, race and ethnicity.

Internationally, we partner and support service projects with UNFPA to end early marriages in Niger and with UN Women to stop trafficking and unsafe migration of women and girls in Nepal.

We do it also through our advocacy by utilizing our consultative and participatory status at the United Nations and Council of Europe and through the many advocacy initiatives at the club level, emphasizing the need to ratify CEDAW and the Istanbul Convention. Many steps have been taken and many successes achieved, but there is still much to do.

In 2002, the Zonta International Convention adopted a Resolution on Trafficking to support the ratification of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.  To learn more, click here to read our Position Paper on Trafficking in Persons.

Focusing on Sustainable Development Goal No. 5, “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls,” which includes ending violence against women and girls, continues to be a priority this biennium. Let us keep working toward the achievement of this goal; together we can make a difference!

Sonja Hönig Schough
Zonta International President