Greetings, Hajimemashite, Mucho gusto, Ahlan wa sahlan, Dag! My name is Liz Groothof Croddy. I have enjoyed being a member of the Pikes Peak Area Zonta Club for many, many years and have served in almost every officer position available in our local club through the years. One of my favorite memories is that of the day I got a hug from Anwar Sadat's widow, Jehan Sadat, at the Zonta International Convention in Dallas. Jehan was the keynote speaker and became an honorary Zontian on that day. Almost all of us in the Pikes Peak Area Club had read her memoirs, and I had brought the book with me to get her signature. I wanted to stand out from the others, so I shouted at her, as she came out of a cocktail party room with her two armed bodyguards, "I love you, please write your name in your book," -- in my broken Arabic! Her bodyguards looked very nervous, but she gave me a big hug and signed my book and said some very kind words to me. I have since traveled to Egypt and seen the monument her husband was dedicating on the day he was assassinated. I will always remember that special hug from a woman who has done so much to elevate the status of women in her homeland.
I teach high school students foreign languages at a national school of excellence. My specialties are currently Spanish and Japanese, but I have taught several other languages. What attracted me first to Zonta was the international connection, including Zonta's work through the United Nations, especially Unifem and Unicef. I am most proud of Zonta's work in developing countries around the world, as well as the communities we support at home.
This photograph is of me and my son. Many years ago I coined the
term "Zonto" for our supporting menfolk. My husband and my son are well
aware of and support my work through Zonta. Last year they both helped me
pack nuts for our yearly fund-raiser. I believe that we must work to
support and educate our men if we are to raise the status of our women.
I treasure the many friends and acquaintances that have come my way through Zonta. It is such a privilege to be in the company of so many good and gracious women, from many professions, many whom I would not have met through my usual career opportunities. Becoming a mom and balancing my work in Zonta has been a struggle, and I have seen several new moms leave the club because of the time management conflicts and also because they have decided to become stay-at-home moms. I have continued working as a teacher thanks to my husband, who was able to give up some worktime during the day to be there for our son; his home-based profession allowed him to do this, while other households do not have this chance. Becoming a mom so late in life (at the age of 40) has made me keenly aware of the tension that exists between the goal of Zonta to attract younger women and the realities of a mother's life. I urge our club and Zonta International to look at this issue and find ways to be able to support and retain members who are raising young children.
My parents were immigrants from Holland and I am very proud of my Dutch heritage. I have always felt I had one foot in Holland and the other in the US. Perhaps this is why I have majored in foreign languages and spent so much time living with families in other countries: I am always looking for my family. It is so difficult to change countries, to emigrate, to raise your own little family far from your own big family. In the United States we see this problem even among non-immigrants, as Americans are often separated by hundreds, even thousands of miles from their own parents and/or children. As Zontians we can and should extend our hands and hearts to other women, both those from our homeland and those who have chosen our community as their new community, as we recognize that the traditional familial support groups women have relied on have changed or disappeared.
I am so proud of Pikes Peak Zonta's work to outlaw female genital mutilation in Colorado as well as Zonta International's work in Burkina-Faso and other areas. I can claim I had a hand in it here in Colorado, as I was perhaps the first in my club to tell my club members about this issue. I see in my mind's eye the horrified faces of co-members either wishing the topic had never been brought up or that the tradition did not exist. But we persevered and we made a real change in countless women's lives. In my classroom I often teach about values and traditions that differ from ours and encourage my students to not judge other cultures by our own standards. So I often felt conflicting emotions as my club and Zonta International worked to interfere with this long-standing tradition. Although in this case I am certain that the argument against female genital mutilation is stronger than the cultural traditions that insist(ed) on it, we must always, as Zontians, pursue our goals with the deepest respect of other cultures. Perhaps what seems "wrong" to us is actually the best path for another, and we often need to find a way to support and trust women who are walking a very different path.