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Zonta’s Golden Launch

The launch of Zonta Club of Makati and Environs’ Golden celebration was a well-planned Zoom program of speeches, and videos with music and dance.

Hosts Maritoni Rufino Tordesillas and Joanne Zapanta Andrada took the Zontians on a nostalgic trip to the beginning.

The initial supplementary feeding program for a barrio grew into a program for malnourished children — the nationwide HNH or Health, Nutrition, and Hygiene.

The first project was a drug rehabilitation center that evolved into the Zonta Makati Community Center with programs — medical, dental, livelihood, skills training, and a preschool.

The path to advance the status of women became a road to activism and an answer to the global call to end violence against women.

A part of the global organization Zonta International, “The club seeks to uplift the lives of women by promoting and working for the advancement of their legal, political, economic, health and professional status through service and advocacy.”

“ZCME (Zonta Club of Makati and Environs) envisions a world where women’s rights can flourish, where resources and power are shared in ways that will enable present and future generations to thrive and realize their full potential with dignity. We aim for a global society where women are represented in decision-making positions on an equal basis with men. ZCME envisions a world where no woman and child lives in fear of violence.”

Vivian Uy, president of the ZCME Foundation, Inc. remarked, “When I was elected in early 2020, I had many plans for my term. Strengthening and motivating the members. Recruiting new members. Continue sustainable projects. Start new projects aligning with International and District advocacies.

“Last June we had lockdown/quarantine and all sorts of restrictions due to COVID. We learned to meet and work through Zoom. We managed to have regular monthly board meetings and the general membership meeting (GMM).

“The pandemic made it easier to be in contact with the members.

“Our Zontians — energetic goal-oriented women — had time to devote to our sustainable projects and were even able to start new COVID-related projects.”

Olivia A. Ferry, the 48th Zonta International President, the first and only Asian to serve that position, said, “Fifty years is a milestone. An occasion that gives us the opportunity to look back at our achievements and the attainment of goals. The Zonta Club of Makati and Environs worked closely on the ground with our communities and collaborated with like-minded individuals and organizations… We brought the issue of gender equality on tables of governments and intergovernmental agencies, guided by our fundamental aspiration of women empowerment and the elimination of all forms of violence against women.

“We have redoubled our efforts, renewed and rejuvenated ourselves to bring enormous transformations to communities of women throughout our 50 years of existence. A clear signal that the next 50 years will be as dynamic as the last 50, if not more.”

Olga Severino Martel, an original Zonta charter member and a former president, said, “We, the empowered women, are the real strength behind the struggle for change. We are fortunate that the world is different now. Women have the freedom and competence to bring deeper meaning into their lives. We have the power to translate dreams into reality.

“Indeed, women hold the key for change in their hands as it is said, ‘Women hold up Half the Sky.’”

Former ZCME president Maritess M. Pineda, said, “ZCME is close to my heart since the beneficiaries are women like us. I like the community pantry. We have responded to the different needs of different communities to alleviate their hunger. Due to poverty and hunger, children have become victims of violence and trafficking. We collaborate with other organizations that can help the minors who cannot protect themselves.

“We have programs that will heal them, with psychologists, activities like physical exercise, art classes and counseling. We prepare them to be self-sufficient.”

Charter member and former president Erlinda Panlilio, whose family owned the popular Sulo restaurant, which was the meeting place of Zonta in the 1970s, wrote a 15-stanza poem. Here’s a quote “…Proudly we hail our club that’s sure to last, Because its beacon and guide is its outstanding past!”

Armita B. Rufino, past Area 5 Director, won the prestigious Outstanding Diamond Award. A two-term president and the current chair of the Nominating committee, she shared her thoughts on the Club.

“We empower marginalized women by giving them livelihood training to augment their family income to avoid being dependent on their husbands.

“For the District, I initiated the passage of two bills — ‘Anti-trafficking of Women and Girls’ and ‘Violence against Women and Girls.’

“Zonta gave me this opportunity to be able to engage in helping women through advocacy and service. And promoting women’s right is human rights.”

1) The Psychological Center for sexually abused children (launched in 1997). This center has provided emotional and mental intervention to more than 10,000 survivors of rape, girls who are sexually abused and trafficked.

2) For Education, ZCME has the Empowering Women Scholarship Program (EWSP). Since 2009, 186 qualified girls from marginalized families have received scholarships for college and have been able to seek gainful employment.

3) For Nutrition and Community building, ZCME has the Food Share project (2020), which handles food insecurity with the distribution of food and care packages to targeted families. It funds the Urban Gardening program that teaches mothers of indigent families to grow their own vegetables.

4) The BRAVO empowered Women Awards (2015), done in partnership with Security Bank, is a bi-annual award that celebrates Filipino women who have excelled in their professional lives, and as leaders and role models in their own communities. It is distinct because it recognizes women who have not yet been awarded nationally or internationally. The Bravo award focuses on the important role of women in promoting diversity, rendering service, and demonstrating leadership for nation building.

5) For Livelihood, there is the ZCME’s Kababaihan project (2003), a holistic program that aims to improve the economic status of the marginalized by providing them with business skills and education. There are 60 Kababaihans.

This golden year (April 2021-22) will be full of meaningful activities. Best wishes to the dynamic Zonta Club of Makati and Environs!


Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.

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