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Zonta Club members gather in Nanaimo to discuss empowering women

NANAIMO - Zonta Club members from Nanaimo, Victoria and the Pacific Northwest gather in Harbour city for Governor's Seminar.
Lorraine Markin

Zonta Club members strive to improve the lives of women and girls around the world.

The international organization stands up to violence against women, advocates for the status of women, gender equality and helps provide educational opportunities through scholarships.

“We just want women to stand up and be who they are and aren’t punished for who they are, not only here in Nanaimo, but around the world,” said Marg Fraser, past president of Zonta Club of Nanaimo.

About 100 members from Zonta District 8, which encompasses Nanaimo, Victoria, Washington, Oregon and Idaho clubs, are meeting in the Harbour City for the Governor’s Seminar from Friday to Sunday (Sept. 23-25) at the Coast Bastion Inn.

The seminar is hosted by Zonta Club of Nanaimo and Victoria. The theme of the event is Give Her a Voice.

Speakers include Sheila Malcolmson, Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP; Kennedy Baker a Vancouver Island University student who will talk about her struggles with bullying and her effort to support programs to help the homeless; Cheryl Warsh, a VIU professor specializing in women’s medical, cultural and family history; Helena Marie producer of the film Crazy Love will speak about her work that deals with domestic violence and a VIU nursing student Nadifo Ali Abdi who lived in a refugee camp in Kenya will share her experiences.

Other speakers include Katherine Cleland, past chairwoman of Zonta International public relations and Celia White, who received the Zonta International Award and works to create sustainable food systems on post-secondary campuses.

“It’s amazing to hear those stories,” said Fraser.

Fraser said Baker’s story is very poignant.

“She was a high school student who had an illness and who was bullied in her school,” said Fraser. “Instead of falling victim to that she found her own voice and began to reach out to help others.”

Baker created the non-profit organization Stand when she was 17, which helps provide support to Canadians living below the poverty line.

Lorraine Markin, area director of Zonta District 8 and a member of Zonta Club of Victoria, said the seminars are important to share ideas and determine what  activities members can do to raise money to support organizations in their community or carry out advocacy work.

The seminars also help to inspire and reinvigorate members so they head back to their communities with renewed motivation, said Markin.

The Vancouver Island Zonta Clubs support a number of organizations including Haven Society, Samaritan House, the Vancouver Island Crisis Centre, Heart and Stroke Foundation of B.C. and others.

Earlier this month the City of Nanaimo declared Sept. 19-24 Zonta Club of Nanaimo Week.

Markin said one misconception about Zonta is that the club is for women only, but she said male members are welcome.

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