‘The fight goes on.’ She advocates for women’s rights – and celebrates positive changes.

Zion Tankard, 33, is on the Women’s Commission of Durham County.
Zion Tankard, 33, is on the Women’s Commission of Durham County. Courtesy of Zion Tankard

Zion Tankard, 33, has always wanted a “seat at the table” when it comes to weighing in on the quality of life in Durham. Her involvement with the Women’s Commission of Durham County and the Partners Against Crime program is more timely now than ever. Here she talks about issues facing women and how communities can become better places.

Q: The Women’s Commission recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. What role does it play in the community?

A: It was established in 1987 to be the liaison between women in the community and the county commissioners, keeping topics relevant when it comes to affordable housing and how that affects women and children, women’s healthcare, affordable childcare, pay equity and women advancing into leadership positions.

Q: There is increased awareness lately about these issues. How does the commission fit in to the national conversation?

A: One of our most recent successes is passing CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women). It’s an initiative adopted by the United Nations in 1979. We were able to be the first county in North Carolina to pass it.

But the fight goes on. Women are still, in a lot of arenas, not being paid equally, not rising in leadership positions, in government, like they should. We have had very wonderful support in Durham for being different. We have four county commissioners of five that are women. That’s huge. Now, we’re seeing a majority of women lead in the city council. It’s exciting to see what’s going on in Durham because we don’t see that representation across our state or across our country. Durham is doing something significant and different.

Q: How did you get involved?

A: I love community dynamics, and I think for it to run strong you have to have people in the community willing to take the lead. I love being at the table, having conversations and creating discussions on how we can take care of our families and have healthy neighborhoods. I’m a mom, I’m a wife, my husband is an entrepreneur, and we are a part of our community fully.

Q: You’re also involved in Partners Against Crime in Durham. What does the group do?

A: Partners Against Crime is supported through the city and it’s a collaboration with the Durham Police Department. It’s no longer just about crime; it’s about how to have a healthy community. We have the health department come in, parks and recreation, animal control. Lots of organizations come in to talk about healthy communities.

We just recognized the Durham parks and recreation department for its initiative to have free programming for teenagers. That means when it comes to swim classes, basketball or field trips to an NFL or NBA game, Durham parks and recreation is providing these things for free. When they up their quality of things they do for our youth, it benefits all of us. It means kids are coming off the streets, getting tutors; there are computers to use.

Q: Volunteering in this capacity is nearly a full-time job, especially while raising four kids. What motivates you?

A: I’m definitely an extrovert, and all of this community stuff is life for me.

This year has been a challenge for women on several fronts. We are seeing a lot of issues come up – violence against women, sexual assault allegations. Women, no matter where you come from, are dealing with these situations, and we all have to fight it together.

I love it with a passion.

Do you want to nominate someone for Tar Heel of the Week? Email tarheel@newsobserver.com.

Zion Tankard – Tar Heel of the Week

Born: July 2, 1984

Residence: Durham

Family: Husband, Perry Tankard II; four children

Education: Liberty University

Organizations: Women’s Commission of Durham County; Partners Against Crime in Durham