The Zonta Club: Trailblazers in Advocacy


Throughout history, women have faced systemic barriers and oppression; however, Zonta Clubs seek to change this and empower women through advocacy, fundraising, and change. What does "Zonta" mean? According to the Zonta International website, Zonta is "Lakhota (Teton Dakota), a language of the Native-American Sioux peoples, word meaning honest and trustworthy." Zonta International is an organization with the purpose of advancing women’s status globally. Started in 1919, the first Zonta Club was run by businesswomen in Buffalo, New York. As of 2020, Zonta International has "more than 30,000 members across 64 countries and geographic areas." Among Zonta's most famous members is the American pilot, Amelia Earheart.  


Zonta Club of Guelph celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2019. Started in 1979, the branch focuses on the empowerment of local women; however, it also fundraises for women outside of Guelph and beyond Canada's borders. Part of Zonta's vision is "to improve the legal, political, economic, educational, health and professional status of women at the global and local level through service and advocacy." Zonta also tries to "work for the advancement of understanding, goodwill and peace."


Zonta Guelph advocates for women in community and provides financial services for women in need. According to the Guelph/Wellington’s Zonta Club’s website, they have partnered with “Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis, Guelph General Hospital Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Unit, and Guelph-Wellington Victim Services Human Trafficking Division.” Internationally, the club has successfully donated approximately 6,000 birthing kits. "The original kits cost $5 each and consist of a sheet of plastic, gauze, string, a blade, soap and gloves." The purpose of these kits is to reduce mortality rates during birth by making the process safer. These have been distributed to Haiti and throughout Central America. 


One of the organization’s most notable members is Guelph’s own Barbara Fera. As a Charter Member, Fera plays a significant role in the planning of club's events. She notes that Zonta’s largest event is arguably its International Women’s Day and Women’s Week. During this time, an annual breakfast is held, with a keynote speaker. The most recent speaker was Samatha Brennan, Dean of the College of Arts, University of Guelph, who spoke about the importance of fitness for middle-aged women. Such events are funded by the Zonta International Foundation. Other events hosted by Zonta include International Day of the Girl, the Guelph Gold Tournament, Amelia Earheart Day, and the Bridge Event. While COVID-19 has drastically changed the way Zonta hosts its events, the club is still up and running, and continues their advocacy.  


Overall, Zonta plays a large role in changing the lives of Guelph-Wellington women. To empower women, they must be provided with opportunities to succeed. Zonta changes women's lives and inspires future generation of women.  

Zonta club logo with red text that says "Zonta International Empowering Women through Service & Advocacy"

The International Zonta Club Logo 

Black and white photo of Zonta Club Guelph executive members Joan Smith, Mary Skerritt and Elizabeth Honneger, at general club meeting. Taken on May 22, 1984. Joan Smith is wearing a polka dotted shirt, Mary Skerritt in the middle is wearing a pant suit and Elizabeth Honneger is wearing a pantsuit with glasses.

Zonta Club Guelph executive members Joan Smith, Mary Skerritt and Elizabeth Honneger, at general club meeting. Taken on May 22, 1984. F45-0-10-0-0-1272, Zonta Executive, 1984.