Olga Severino Martel
A lady with a vision and a mission who aims for excellence in whatever projects she gets involved in which is evident in the achievements of the various organizations that she has headed.
She is a very organized person who thrives in the midst of challenges, accepts responsibilities with total commitment and dedication and endeavors to excel at all times.
At school she was a student leader and consistent honor student. She completed her Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Theresa’s College Manila, Magna cum Laude.
Her enthusiasm is infectious and her organizational skills very much in demand. She was President of Alliance Francaise de Manille (1983-1987) and served in its Board for 10 years. In recognition of her dedication and tireless efforts in the promotion of French art, culture and language she received the prestigious award L’Ordre National du Merite from the French Government in July 1987.
Olga was President of the Friends of the Cultural Center of the Philippines
(FCCP) from 1991-1993. She was a hardworking president whose term was characterized by leadership through example.
She was President of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Philippine National Committee from 1996 -2000 and was Chairman of the Board from 2000-2004. Its primary objective was the empowerment of women. During her term the organization was able to reach women nationwide empowering them economically and training them in leadership. She was cited for her exemplary leadership and service.
Olga was president of the Zonta Club of Makati & Environs Foundation, Inc. from 2008-2010. She received several awards for her services, among which was the Outstanding Leadership Award.
At present, Olga is president of the Johann Strauss Society of the Philippines Foundation, Inc. a position she has held for the past 11 years since 2009. Under her dynamic leadership, the Society continues to pursue it objectives of promoting Austrian music and culture as well as extending financial assistance to the Cultural Center of the Philippines and other charitable organizations. In recognition of her services to the Republic of Austria she was conferred the Grand Decoration of Honor in Gold on February 19, 2013.
Olga is a Dame of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem & Dame/Pair of the Chaine des Rotisseurs Bailliage National des Philippines. She is Treasurer of the Women of Negros (for livelihood projects) and Treasurer of Sagip Foundation (for drug prevention). Olga is a Board member of the Friendship Society Philippine – Russian, member of the British Society, Asia Society, the Oriental Ceramic Society of the Philippines, Society for Cultural Enrichment, Ordre Mondial des Gourmets Degustateurs and International Wine & Food Society Manila Ladies Branch. She is also member of the Ladies Committee of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra and was Ambassador for the Philippine Cancer Society (2006-2008).
What made you decide to join ZCME?
I joined ZCME in 1991 because I believe in women working together for the empowerment of women through service and advocacy which is the primary object of ZONTA. Moreover the quality of the membership was outstanding. I knew many of the members who were exemplary, dedicated and committed having associated with them in various other service organizations. The club was also the most dynamic among the local Zonta clubs.
Mrs. Olga Martel with fellow Zontian at UN Event
What keeps you active in the organization?
Involvement in programs that I believe will help achieve the ZONTA goals of empowering women which will resonate to improving the quality of life for their families and communities. Among the projects closest to my heart are the Empowering Women Scholarship Programme (EWSP), the Psychological Center for the rehabilitation of abused children & girls at Marillac Hills, the BayaniJuan relocation center in Calauan, Laguna for displaced informal dwellers from the Estero de Paco and several others, too many to list. I am also very committed to the work of the club’s United Nations Committee which I have chaired for several years especially because of my close involvement with the United Nations programs as a former president of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Philippine National Committee.
How does Zonta make you a better individual?
Working for the causes of women brought me face to face with the harsh realities of the sufferings of women in all levels of society from extreme poverty, violence, injustice, inequality and discrimination. Having lived in a privileged environment surrounded with love and financial stability, this appalling discovery made me realize how blessed I was. As a form of prayer and thanksgiving for all the blessings the Good Lord has bestowed upon me, I made it my personal commitment to strive for the emancipation and empowerment of women the best way I could. This is my source of strength and endurance.
Which Zonta goals resonate with you the most?
- Improve the legal, political, economic, health, educational and professional status of women worldwide through service and advocacy.
- Women’s Rights are Human Rights.
- Promote Gender Equality & Eradicate Discrimination Against Women.
- Eradicate Extreme Poverty & Hunger
- NO to Violence Against Women – Unite to stop sexual exploitation and abuses against women and girls
- Reduce Child Mortality & Improve Maternal Health
- Empowerment of Women through equal Educational opportunities
What are your most significant contributions to the club?
The success of any project requires teamwork. My most significant contribution to the club is inspiring the members and rallying everyone to support our projects through leadership by example. I worked with commitment and total dedication focused on projects along the Zonta Goals and achieved success proven by the awards received by the club during my presidency
- District 17 Best Award for Services with Solutions for the Duyan Psychological Center at Marillac Hills and Best Award for Educational Opportunities for the Empowering Women Scholarship Programme
- Outstanding Award for Local Actions.
- Area 5 Overall Most Outstanding Club Award and Award for most outstanding mission-focused projects
- Angels Excellence Awards for Global Empowerment, Membership & Recruitment and Top Performance Award for 30.62% increase in Membership .
- Certificate of Appreciation for the biggest delegation at the Dis. 17 Conference in Bangkok.
- Outstanding Leadership award was given to the President for Best Mission Accomplished Projects and a Plaque of Appreciation for meritorious contribution to the realization of the Angels Biennium Goals
Through our work in advancing the status of women we hope to have opened doors of opportunities to women from all walks of life aiding them in their struggle to break the bondage of misery, poverty and discrimination.
How can you engage the next generation of Zontians to continue the momentum in the empowerment of women?
My advise to them is to be abreast of the status of women locally and worldwide. Understand the gravity of the situation and get involved in finding solutions. The current crisis does not demand heroic actions from each one but a steadfast commitment and solidarity inspired by a collective vision of hope. Let each one do her share, no matter how small, whatever the circumstance, however limited the resources or seemingly insignificant the influence. Take the small steps, the little pushes that can create a powerful momentum of change with faith, commitment, perseverance and hardwork.
But we must act now because tomorrow can be too late.
As the visionary and charismatic Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi so aptly expressed –“Be the change that you want to see in the world. The future depends on what you do today.”
What advancements do you hope to see for women in the next five decades?
Despite the many problems women are still facing today, the world is different now. Women have the freedom and competence to bring deeper meaning into their lives. Whereas the women in past only dreamt dreams, women of the present have the power to translate these dreams into reality.
Women “who hold up half the sky”, empowered and united, moving forward with courage and determination, can be the global force that can transform the world.