Throughout 2019 Rotary clubs around the world are celebrating the 30th anniversary of opening membership to women and in February Rotary Matamata went all out with a specially themed ‘pink’ evening to mark the occasion. Prior to 1989, the worldwide service organisation had been a male bastion but for more than two decades prior to the initial introduction of female members, numerous clubs on different continents had petitioned to open the membership criteria to all regardless of gender. In 1991, Gaye Belton became the first female member of the Matamata Rotary and today her daughter Jane is one of our 11 female members. Two female Matamata Rotarians talk here about the organisation they belong to and what being a Rotarian has meant to them.
Past District Governor Leonie Tisch
Leonie is the only member of Rotary Matamata to have held the position of District Governor (from July 2017 to June 2018). She is also the first female President of the Rotary Matamata, a role she held in 2010-11. “Ironically it was a huge international disaster that first got me involved with Rotary,” Leonie says. “Following the 9/11 disaster, Matamata club held the Big Apple Pie fundraising dinner and I was approached by Rotarian Lachie Duncan about joining the organisation.
“A month prior I had been elected onto the Waikato District Health Board and was cautious about the time commitment. However, I have always loved helping others and this community. I was made to feel very welcome at Rotary meetings and I just knew Rotary was right for me,” Leonie says. She was also one of only two Matamata Rotarians to have had the honour of leading a Group Study Exchange team of young people overseas, taking five young professionals to the United States and Canada in 2013. “That along with my year as District Governor were definite highlights of my own Rotary journey,” she says.
“Rotary’s motto is ‘Service Above Self’ and the organisation encourages members to help others both in their own local communities and worldwide as well as encouraging the personal development of members. Matamata Rotarians are a fun group of people, ranging in age, gender, beliefs and abilities that come together to do good in the world and to make a difference. What a great thing to be a part of – I am incredibly proud to be a Rotarian.”
Past President Michelle Tanner
“I was  asked to speak to Rotarians about influenza vaccine and invited back by Kevin Sing. I came along with my husband and we both became members,” Michelle says of her introduction to Rotary.
With her nursing background, Michelle has been a passionate advocate of Rotary International’s End Polio Now campaign. She has travelled to Pakistan to lecture on the subject and also to administer polio vaccines to hundreds of children during her trips. “A big highlight has been working and fundraising, with clubs from the United States, India and Pakistan to rebuild classrooms at a school in rural Pakistan that caters for the poorest of children,” Michelle says.
Michelle’s individual efforts were recognised last year when she received Rotary International’s Regional Service Above Self award for polio eradication. “Rotary can take you to places, and provide opportunities, you never expected. While the core of Rotary is to give to communities, any Rotarian will tell you they get far more from Rotary than they ever give.It’s great for professional mentorship, leadership and project management experiences but most importantly you get to meet amazing people. Rotary Matamata becomes your second ‘family’! We have a great bunch of women in Rotary but I would love to see more female members.”
Rotary Matamata is always happy to welcome new members, male or female (!) and anyone interested is encouraged to come along to a few meetings to see what it’s all about and if it is right for you. Just email or ring us! or 0277225599