One hundred years ago, a small group of women came together in Buffalo, New York, with a vision to help all women realize greater equality, while using their individual and collective expertise in service to their community.

Their vision became Zonta International, an organization that has grown to more than 29,000 members in 63 countries, working together to make gender equality a reality for women and girls worldwide. The Zonta Club of Cheyenne has been part of this important mission since 1956.

While the world has changed dramatically, the work of Zonta continues in our local communities and worldwide. Zontians everywhere work tirelessly to promote gender equality and to help women and girls reach their full potential.

They can also be proud of the hard work that has raised the more than $40 million donated to the Zonta International Foundation to fund global projects that expand women’s and girls’ access to education, health care, economic opportunities and safe living conditions. These projects are often done in partnership with like-minded organizations, including UNICEF.

Recognizing that there are still barriers to overcome to achieve gender equality, especially in the areas of science and technology, scholarships and fellowships for women studying in the field of aerospace have been provided to more than 1,100 women in more than 70 countries. Additional scholarships and cash awards – at the international and local levels – have been provided to women studying business or computer technology, or to those who have actively participated in public service in their schools and communities.

For the past several decades, Zontians around the world have focused on a campaign to End Violence Against Women. During this period, the Zonta Club of Cheyenne has focused on raising awareness, eliminating the root causes, engaging men and boys in the fight to change societal behaviors, and helping victims with hope bags.

Soon, we hope to undertake a study on resources in Laramie County that exist and those that are missing for victims and perpetrators alike, to further address widespread gender-based violence. Meanwhile, we will continue our awareness campaigns with our silent witness march Nov. 25 and the display of victims of violence at the Laramie County Library.

Zonta Club of Cheyenne was one of the early entities to begin a local awareness campaign about human trafficking in Laramie County. Zonta continues to educate the community on this matter, through its activities in conjunction with Cheyenne Frontier Days and as part of its Human Trafficking Art Contest. We are proud that so many youth are now participants in our art contest, providing a unique perspective of the issue that impacts their peer group more than any other.

Most recently, Zontians have taken up the issue of eliminating child marriage. Many believe that child marriage is a problem only in faraway lands, while they fail to see the problem in their own backyard. Wyoming has no minimum age for marriage, and recent statistics show that children as young as age 14 have married in Wyoming. Until the Legislature puts an end to this evil practice, we will continue to educate those who will listen about the long-term negative effects of allowing children to marry.

One hundred years of service and advocacy, yet there is work still to be done. Zonta remains committed to the professionalism, fellowship and service that led Zonta’s visionary founders to come together.

We continue to envision a world where no woman lives in fear of violence and every women has the opportunity to reach her full potential. But, first, let’s take a moment to celebrate Zonta’s 100 years of successes and achievements.

Denise Parrish is vice president of the Zonta Club of Cheyenne and the Advocacy Chair for Zonta Clubs in Colorado, Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming. She lives in Cheyenne, and is dedicated to legal equality for men and women everywhere.

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