Zonta International brings a global community of professional women to the fight to end child marriage

20 November 2018
The UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage provides services and support for adolescent girls and also engages communities to change social norms that perpetuate the practice, including through girls’ clubs that member Merhawit Mezgebe says are helping to stamp out child marriage in her district in Ethiopia. © UNFPA Ethiopia/Abraham Gelaw

Continuing its long-term partnership with UNFPA to advance the rights of women and girls, Zonta International has become the first private sector donor to the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage.

Zonta’s $2 million commitment, including $800,000 to UNFPA, will expand the programme’s reach and help accelerate its impact. Since 2016, the programme has been working in 12 countries with high rates of child marriage, across three regions, to deliver health, education, protection and support services for adolescent girls who are at risk of child marriage or already married. The programme puts a great emphasis on engaging communities to change social norms that perpetuate the practice, while ensuring that systems, laws and policies protect and promote girls’ rights.

Zonta International is a global organization of professionals working to advance women’s rights through service and advocacy in 63 countries and territories. Its nearly 30,000 members volunteer their time and talents to support advocacy campaigns, scholarships, youth engagement and other projects.

Zonta has worked with UNFPA on child marriage since 2014, with a collaboration in Niger that worked to improve the health of adolescent girls, protect them from violence, and ensure that they can access education and female mentors. Zonta supported UNFPA’s advocacy to raise the country’s legal age of marriage to 18, and its efforts to reach girls at risk in the most remote communities. 

The partnership with UNFPA dates back even earlier. In 2008, Zonta began to support the Campaign to End Obstetric Fistula in Liberia – committing over $3.5 million since then to efforts to improve maternal health in the country. In 2016, Zonta joined UNFPA’s Safe Birth, Even Here partnership, which works to end preventable maternal deaths in countries affected by humanitarian crises and fragile situations.

Zonta’s strong national presence in many UNFPA programme countries and the two partners’ complementary missions present many opportunities to work together to build support to advance the rights of women and girls. A recent meeting between Susanne von Bassewitz, president of Zonta International and the Zonta International Foundation, and UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem highlighted some of these.

Key opportunities include extending Zonta’s support for the Campaign to End Fistula in Liberia, and rallying around next year’s 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), as part of a movement of strategic partners to promote the ICPD+25 agenda.