Dear Ms. Langenbeck,
Dear Ms. Martens-Hunfeld,
Dear Ms. Scholz,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to Hamburg City Hall.
This is the first time the Zonta International Convention is taking place in our city, and we are glad about it. Not least because this is a very special conference: Zonta turned one hundred years old at the end of 2019. But due to the pandemic, you could not meet in Chicago – our sister city – to celebrate this important anniversary together and in person. Now it is Hamburg’s turn, and we are proud to host the first real convention in Zonta’s second century.
When Zonta was founded in Buffalo, New York, in 1919, women were disadvantaged in all areas of life and society: legally, politically, economically. In the United States, one of the oldest modern democracies in the world, and also in most other countries, women did not even have the right to vote.
The founders of Zonta were successful professional women who were not satisfied with the situation. They wanted to improve the position of women in society and joined forces to do so.
Their mission of “Advancing the Status of Women through Service and Advocacy” spread around the world. Today, Zonta International is present in more than 60 countries.
Zonta came to Germany between the two World Wars.
After the First World War, there was great devastation in much of Europe. And there was also a growing demand for democracy, for access to education, for political and social participation.
One of the strongest movements of this revolutionary time was the women’s movement. From the 19th century on, women had been fighting for equal rights and a self-determined life – and for the right to vote and to run for political office.
In 1918, the Constitution of the newly founded Weimar Republic finally extended the vote to all citizens.
When the first German National Assembly was elected in early 1919, over 90 percent of all women in Hamburg turned out to vote. Today, we would be overjoyed to have such numbers in democratic elections. Later that year, Hamburg held its first state elections where men and women went to the polls.
It was the teacher and lifelong feminist Helene Lange who gave the opening speech in the “Hamburger Bürgerschaft”, our city and state parliament, right here in this building. She was the first woman to open a session of parliament in all of Germany.
As you can see, this is a historic place in terms of women’s rights and political participation in Germany – which is another good reason why Hamburg is a great city for a Zonta International Convention.
In 1930, Zonta member Elisabeth Scott visited Hamburg and met Magdalena Schoch, Harriet Wegener, and Frieda Radel, who went on to found the first German Zonta Club less than a year later.
The concept of an international service club fell onto fertile ground in our cosmopolitan city. Hamburg has a long history of international trade and a centuries-old tradition of civic engagement that now also includes five Zonta clubs.
The Hamburg Senate enjoys good cooperation with our local clubs and with Zonta International. We appreciate all that Zonta is doing to empower women and girls in every area of life and work.
As part of the 27th District, we are also very aware of Zonta’s efforts to support those affected by the war in Ukraine. Russia’s attack on our Ukrainian neighbors has shaken the foundations of the European peace and security order. In a situation like this, it is good to know that women and children, many of whom have fled from their homes, have a strong ally in Zonta International.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Women’s rights are human rights, and by supporting women and girls worldwide, Zonta International is making an important contribution to a better future for all of us.
After the international Lions and Rotary Club Conventions in 2013 and 2019, the Zonta International Convention is the third major service club meeting in our city within one decade.
During the coming days, the Zonta presidency will be handed over to Ute Scholz, who will only be the second German to lead your organization.
I wish you, Ms. Scholz, a successful term in office, I wish all participants of the Zonta International Convention an inspiring conference with many new contacts and good conversations, and please enjoy your stay in Hamburg.
Thank you very much.