These Awards recognize pre-university and pre-college women students committed to leadership in public policy, government and volunteer organizations. See the Awards Application for further information regarding eligibility, application requirements, contact information, and application process.

YWPA Award

Though about 40 percent of the world’s workforce is women, according to data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union, only 22.7 percent of all national parliamentarians were female as of 1 June 2016. Because Zonta International believes that young women are the key to women’s advancement in the field of public service, it offers the Young Women in Public Affairs (YWPA) Award, which recognizes young women, ages 16-19, for demonstrating leadership skills and commitment to public service and civic causes, and encourages them to continue their participation in public and political life.

Established in 1990 by Past International President Leneen Forde, Zonta has given 804 awards (includes international awards), totaling US$764,750, to 692 young women representing 54 countries.

The program operates at the Zonta club, district/region and international levels. Zonta clubs provide awards for club recipients, and district/region and international awards are funded by the Zonta International Foundation. District recipients receive US$1,000, and 10 international recipients are selected from the district/region recipients to receive awards of US$4,000 each.

YWPA Eligibility

Women, ages 16-19 on 1 April each year, living in a Zonta district/region, or a citizen of a Zonta country, who demonstrate evidence of the following, are eligible to apply.

Active commitment to volunteerism.
Experience in local government, student government, or workplace leadership (paid or unpaid).
Volunteer leadership achievements.
Knowledge of Zonta International and its programs.
Support in Zonta International's mission of empowering women worldwide through service and advocacy.
Applicants from geographic areas within a Zonta district/region where no clubs are located will be considered and eligible to apply for the district/region Award. Z and Golden Z club members are also eligible to apply. Classified members and employees of Zonta International and Zonta International Foundation, and their family members, are not eligible to apply for the Awards.

YWPA Application process

The application must start with a Zonta club. All application materials must be received at a Zonta club by the printed deadline. Zonta clubs select one application to send to the district governor/region representative. A district/region evaluating committee reviews the applications and selects one applicant per district/region to submit to Zonta International Headquarters.

The Zonta International YWPA Award Committee recommends 10 international recipients from the district/region applications to the Zonta International Board. After approval by the Zonta International Board, the Zonta International Foundation provides awards and certificates to the district/region, and international recipients.


Applications for the 2018 Young Women in Public Affairs Award will be available on this website and the deadline will be announced then.

2017 YWPA Winners


Three young women,  Mary Gooneratne, Joyce Kim, and Sabrina Pin were honored by Zonta Club of the Santa Clarita Valley at its recent annual awards evening. The top Young Women in Public Affairs winner received a $1,000 local prize, and her application has been forwarded to District 9, where she will be eligible for another $1,000 and possible advancement to Zonta International competition.

Mary Gooneratne receives top award

The top Young Women in Public Affairs award was granted to Mary Gooneratne, a senior at Hart High School. She expressed a desire to work in government and hopes to use a college education to pursue a cybersecurity-oriented career with the National Security Agency. Her dream is eventually to enroll in law school and then direct her cybersecurity career toward foreign intelligence and policy.

Ranking at the top of her class academically, Mary served as president of her high school speech and debate team for two years and as vice president of the Key Club. She was an active volunteer in the last presidential election campaign and personally helped raise thousands of dollars for her candidate. She is concerned about issues that impact women such as equal pay, forced marriages, female genital mutilation and female literacy around the world.

Runner-up Joyce Kim is a senior at Golden Valley High School, where she is studying international relations and political science. She aspires to become a diplomat or ambassador. As yearbook editor in chief, she instituted a cultural spread, interviewing students from different countries and highlighting their cultures and traditions. She worked on a City Council election campaign and was happy to see a woman running for higher office.

Also a runner-up is Sabrina Pin, also a Hart High School senior. She is interested in pursuing a career in public service or politics, and hopes to obtain a law degree. She intends to study public policy with a minor in computer science at Duke University. Throughout her high school years, she has been involved in Associated Student Body, California Girls State, swim, and the speech and debate team. She also was involved with the California YMCA Youth and Government, a model legislature and court program. In her junior year, she interned for the State Assemblyman, listening and responding to constituent concerns.