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Zonta Club of Nanaimo celebrating three decades of empowering women

Global organization’s Nanaimo club chartered in September 1993
Zonta Club of Nanaimo members including past-president Andrea Paris, left, charter members Patti Morris and Del McBurney, Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog, Zonta charter president Corinne Stewart, club member Sirin Youessian and charter member Shawn Kilner acknowledge a proclamation of the club’s 30th anniversary. (Submitted photo)

The local chapter of a global organization is celebrating 30 years of fighting for women’s rights.

Zonta International, which has a goal of empowering women worldwide, saw its Nanaimo club established on Sept. 20, 1993, and the chapter has experienced numerous highlights over the past three decades.

“Zonta International envisions a world in which women’s rights are recognized as human rights and every woman is able to achieve her full potential,” noted a city proclamation. “In such a world, women have access to all resources and are represented in decision-making positions on an equal basis with men. In such a world, no woman lives in fear of violence.”

In 1994, the club offered a home for a teenage girl from Serbia who was fleeing a war and was “lost in war issues,” noted the club history. She was with the club for a year and was able to bring her mother and sister to Canada. Subsequently, she attended post-secondary in Nanaimo and has gone on to open two businesses.

Education is part of the club’s mandate and to that end, it donated money and resources to Georgia Avenue Elementary School for breakfast for students in 1994. A teacher joined the ranks of the club that year and helped spearhead support for a school in Mangalore, India. Girls at the school received financial support for 10 years, noted the history.

In 1995, the club teamed with the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society for a race relations award for schools and in 1996 was recognized by the Government of Canada for hosting citizenship court receptions at Nanaimo City Hall for Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

The club was also involved in commemorating Emily (Emma) Stark, the first African-Canadian teacher in Nanaimo, with a plaque on Wesley Street, where Stark had resided.

In conjunction with Vancouver Island University, fourth-year criminology students may complete a practicum with the Zonta Club that involves studying human trafficking, the club said.

As a global organization, Zonta Club of Nanaimo has welcomed members from foreign countries over the years, including members who have gone on to swear the oath of Canadian citizenship. Over the past 30 years, members originating from Afghanistan, China, England, the U.S., Germany, Hungary, India, Iran, Netherlands, Poland, Scotland and Ukraine have joined the club’s ranks.

Based in Nanaimo, the club has supported organizations in the area including Nanaimo Community Hospice, Nanaimo Foodshare Society, Nanaimo 7-10 Club, Haven Society, Nanaimo Ladysmith Schools Foundation, Island Crisis Care Society, VIU and the Nanaimo Clippers.

The word ‘Zonta’ stems from a Sioux word, which translates to honest and trustworthy, according to the club.

Zonta Club of Nanaimo held a celebration for members on Tuesday, Sept. 19.

RELATED: Zonta Club members discuss empowering women

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Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

After interning at Vancouver Metro free daily newspaper, I joined Black Press in 2010.
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