Zonta Club of Mackay members Bridget Mather, Gemma Clark, Marie Cameron and Vassie Comino speak about the club's 20th anniversary.
Zonta Club of Mackay members Bridget Mather, Gemma Clark, Marie Cameron and Vassie Comino speak about the club's 20th anniversary.

Women helping out their sisters

FOUR like-minded women drink lattes and peppermint tea.

In between sips, they are chatting about how a woman in a Third World nation can be given $20, to buy a sewing machine or a cow, to be made self-sufficient.

While Vassie Comino, Bridget Mather, Gemma Clark and Marie Cameron were successful, self-sufficient women and are worlds away from a developing country - they are making a difference one tiny step at a time.

It was fitting that former US Sectary of State Madeline Albright was a topic of conversation and her quote that "there is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women".

And it is so true. As a sisterhood, we should always be trying to help a sister in need.

And these Mackay women are members of Zonta, a club that for the past 20 years has given its support to service projects and advocacy initiatives to advance the status of women and girls everywhere.

The Mackay club will celebrate 20 years of service on September 29 with an official ceremony at The Central Conservatorium of Music, along with the launch of their cookbook inspired as part of Mackay 150th celebrations.

Ms Comino recently returned from the 2012 Zonta International Convention in Torino, Italy, and said even though Zonta had been around for almost 100 years, it was still trying to achieve the same things.

"You do so much, there is still so much you have to do, that is part of the frustration that there is no real end point to what we can achieve," she said.

"With Zonta our focus is improving the status of women. In education, health, economically and legally there is still so much to be done".

Ms Comino said in the past 20 years they had supported women affected by domestic violence; women in respite; women with breast cancer through making breast cancer cushions; support for the Mackay Women's Centre and making birthing kits to women in Third World nations and established three Z clubs in high schools for young women.

"For a small club we tend to raise about $15,000 a year, we might be small but we are active," Ms Mather said.

She said women had faced many changes.

"The answer is yes and no," Ms Mather said.

"Things have changed in a lot ways.

"We have equal opportunities but women's wages are still lower - a first-year law graduate is 80% of a salary of a male graduate.

"There are lots of opportunities, I think most women coming through the education system now would say they have every opportunity in the world but there are still those differences.

"I think if you were a woman in South America or Saudi Arabia it would be very different.

"I think that is the nice thing about Zonta, it looks at not only the charitable side of the organisation, it is supporting women in their education right through to international projects and local projects."

Ms Mather said the important thing about Zonta was voicing women's issues.

"In Australia, there would be nobody here that would say we are not lucky in terms of what we have," she said.

"But in terms of the international scene, you are more likely to die from childbirth in Afghanistan then you are from entering the war. I am not sure if it is the question is if things have changed, it is what still needs to be done."

Asked what they loved about being women, Ms Mather joked "not being a man".

"Only women talk about life balance. Men when they have a baby only talk about it then and how they are going to manage it, so I think in those small things there is a long way to go," she said.

"The difference that I see between men and women generally is women have a forte for multi-tasking, where men just focus on one job," Ms Clark said.

Ms Comino said being in Zonta was a real eye-opener to local issues that are happening in Mackay.

"A lot of the time you don't realise what is happening and what other people are going through, because you have never experienced it yourself," she said.

"Domestic violence is one of the issues, you don't have any involvement ever you are oblivious to what is happening."


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