Young Women in Public Affairs Award

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.


Though about 40% of the world’s workforce is women, according to data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union, only 25.7% of all national parliamentarians were female as of 1 September 2021. 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 1,054 awards, US$1,303,750, to 882 young women from 60 countries. The program goal is to encourage more young women to participate in public affairs by recognizing the candidate’s commitment to the volunteer sector, evidence of volunteer leadership achievements and a dedication to empowering women worldwide through service and advocacy.

The program operates at the Zonta club, district/region and international levels. Zonta International offers 37 international awards of US$5,000. Each district/region may submit one applicant for consideration for an international scholarship. The five largest districts may submit a second applicant for a total of two applicants.


Women, aged 16-19 on April 1 each year, studying at a secondary school, college or university in a Zonta district/region, or who are studying elsewhere but are citizens 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 may apply via a Zonta e-club or directly to the district to be eligible for the district/region and international awards. Z and Golden Z club members are also eligible to apply. Classified members (club members and individuals with direct membership with Zonta International) and employees of Zonta International and Zonta Foundation for Women, and their family members (ancestors, descendants, adoptees, siblings, nieces or cousins, and those of their spouse or co-habiting partner), are not eligible to apply for the Awards. Previous International Young Women in Public Affairs Award recipients are not eligible to apply.


The application process must start with a Zonta club. All application materials must be received by the Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley by the deadline printed on the application.

Zonta clubs select one application to send to the Zonta governor/region representative. A district/region evaluation committee selects one applicant per district/region to submit to Zonta International Headquarters. The five largest Zonta districts in terms of membership numbers may submit two applications to Zonta International. The Zonta International Headquarters team confirms the eligibility of the applicants put forth by the district/region and submits a recommendation to the Zonta International Board for final approval.


Applications must be completed and returned to the Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley by February 24, 2023. After the club recipient is selected, the application is presented to the governor/regional representative. Then the district/region recipient is selected, and the application is presented to Zonta International Headquarters by May 2023. Club recipients will be announced May 2023.  The Zonta International 2023 recipients will be announced by July 2023.


YWPA district/region and international Awards are made possible by generous contributions to the Zonta International Foundation Young Women in Public Affairs Award Fund.  Our local YWPA awards are made possible by generous contributions to the Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley Foundation.  You can make a difference in the lives of young women by donating today!

2023 Young Women in Public Affairs Award Recipients

YWPA Award winners - Gloria Mercado-Fortine, Co-chair YWPA committee; Ashmita Goel; Sana Meher; Shefali Breitbach, MaryAnn Dortch, Co-chair YWPA Committee

Our Young Women in Public Affairs Award recognizes young women ages 16-19 for their commitment to volunteerism, volunteer leadership achievements and dedication to empowering women worldwide. This year, three outstanding young women received this award. When you read about these women, I am sure you will be amazed at what they have accomplished.

Ashmita Goel is a recent graduate from West Ranch High School. Her long term goal is to be a lawyer to eventually serve our country by being a part of the government, so that she can make great changes that help people. At West Ranch High School, Ashmita’s leadership includes being a Mock Trial Prosecution/Defense Pretrial Attorney and competing in the Los Angeles County Mock Trial Competition.

Ashmita currently serves on the Los Angeles County Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council, where she advises Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools.

Some of Ashmita’s other accomplishments include

Zonta Z Club Social Media Manager
Society of Women Engineers Co-President
3 time Varsity All-Foothill League First Team in Golf
Civil Disobedience/Philosophy Club (Treasurer)
UNICEF (Treasurer)
West Ranch Scholarship Opportunities (Secretary)
Heal the Bay volunteer
Provision Project Leader
Science Olympiad Meeting Manager
Valencia Library Teen Advisory Board
Mentor at Rancho Pico with Global Youth Mission Club
Volunteer for Newhall Community Center & Food Pantry
Social Media Manager for SimplySkilled Fellowship

Sana Meher recently graduated from West Ranch High School. Her future plans are to major in a combination of neuroscience, biomedical engineering, and public health. Her long-term goal is to become a surgeon and to get involved in public health in hopes of becoming a surgeon general one day.

Sana plans to travel abroad to conduct research into a medical disease in a rural part of the world. She has participated in Key Club, National Honors Society (NHS), Model United Nations (MUN) and Speech. Sana  volunteers for the Valencia Library Teen Advisory Board and Olive View-UCLA Medical Center and tutors at Global Guru and at Schoolhouse World, she teaches coding.

We believe she will be an amazing doctor and help so many people in her career!

Shefali Breitbach recently graduated from West Ranch High School. Shefali is interested in social entrepreneurship. Her vision is having her own non-profit that helps dismantle inequities in women’s educational rights.

At school, Shefali served as ASB Executive Board Treasurer; captain of the Cross Country and Track Team for the last two years; founder of the DECA club which fosters interest in business and entrepreneurship. She is the founder of the Tomorrow’s Entrepreneur Competition, which is now implemented in all Newhall Elementary Schools.

“College Unfiltered” co-chair; Ambassador for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in Santa Clarita, specifically, Goal 8 which is economic growth. Shefali became the youngest intern at Santa Clarita Economic Development Corporation. Her focus there is to promote fair work and economic growth in the city of Santa Clarita.
We see big things in Shefali’s future!


Congratulations to all.  Zonta is proud of you!

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