Zonta Club of Makati and Environs

SPOTLIGHT

Olivia Ferry

Featured Zontian

Get to know the female trooper who has been championing the full potential of women and girls and their contribution for a better world.

Olivia Ferry has always been a trailblazer when it comes to women empowerment. She has always shown leadership skills even as a young girl when she attended high school at the Assumption Convent Manila. “We did a lot of charity work in depressed and disadvantaged communities. It was my first exposure to volunteer work and I remember feeling a sense of purpose to be able to help improve the lives of the destitute and the needy,” recalls Olivia. Best known for her oratorical skills in college where she took up a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce major in Management at the University of Santo Tomas, she was a very active and inspiring student leader to scholastic clubs and organizations she belonged to like the Commerce Student Council, Tau Kappa Gamma Sigma Sorority, English Club, the Commerce Journal, and many others. She took further studies years later and graduated with a Master’s Degree in Business Administration major in Marketing from the University of California in Los Angeles.

But she garnered the full spotlight when she became the first and up to now the only Asian president of Zonta International in 2006. She served in the Zonta International Board for six years and its Foundation Board for four years. She was also District 17 Governor from 1994 to 1996. She became president of the Zonta Club of Makati and was chairman of several international and district committees, including chairman of both the International Nominating Committee and International Membership Committee. She currently serves as a member of the International Endowment Committee. She was the over-all chairman of Zonta’s 16th District 17 Conference which was held in Manila in 2011, over-all chairman of the First Asian Inter-district Meeting in 2016, and chairman of the Business Programs Committee of the 19th District Conference in 2017. She currently holds several key positions in D17 including Parliamentarian and Adviser of the District 17 Board of Directors. Her unique blend of years of experience, diverse knowledge, excellent communication skills brought strength to the Zonta organization.

For over X NUMBER of decades, Olivia has worked tirelessly in various fields and institutions like Associated Broadcasting Network, Ace Compton Advertising (now Saatchi & Saatchi), and Adidas to name a few. She was also CEO and country manager of IMS Health Inc. Because of her dedication to the community and her profession, she is held in high regard and has received numerous awards and recognition for her work on both local and national level like Presidential Medal of Merit from former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and the Ten Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service award for Business by TOWNS Foundation Inc. of which she is now the president. Olivia is now retired professionally but continues to serve as vice president and treasurer for their family corporation.

What made you decide to join ZCME?

There was a phase in my life when my passion and idealism were overtaken by the need to address personal, family and professional development. So for many years my time was spent taking care of a growing family and building my career. In the late 1970s, five years into my work as country manager for IMS Health, Bubbles Villafuerte, with whom I worked with me at my previous employment at Channel 5, invited me to join the Zonta Club of Makati. I guess it took that one invitation to reignite my zeal for volunteer work to help the community. With no intention of holding a leadership office, I joined the Zonta Club of Makati but I was elected treasurer in the biennium following my entry into Zonta and then served as president the following term.

What makes you proud to be a Zontian?

Zonta International’s primary focus areas are the improvement of women’s health, education and economic independence; the strengthening of women’s legal rights, and the prevention of violence against women and girls. True to its mission, Zonta serves as a credible catalyst in the global women’s movement to ensure that women’s issues are put on the table of governments and discussed at inter-governmental conferences. We are forerunners in the quest to accelerate implementation of strategic objectives and action on critical areas of concern for women. Zonta is instrumental in helping change attitudes and in invoking the rights of women by working independently and in partnership with like-minded organizations through our service projects and advocacy efforts. Being an international organization, with consultative status with the United Nations, we have  representatives in New York, Geneva, Paris, Vienna and Bangkok and  hence we can articulate our position on the world stage. As an active participant in CSW which is held in New York in March of each year, we are respected and sought after for our viewpoints, insights, assessments and solutions. Wouldn’t you be proud?

What keeps you active in the organization?

The women of Zonta. There are two types of women in Zonta. The women beneficiaries of our service and advocacy efforts whose lives we have profoundly touched through our work and the women volunteers without whose commitment, dedication and contributions to the achievement of our mission, we will not be here.

Our projects are effectively aligned to our mission and we are doing a lot of developmental work of raising awareness to women’s causes and issues, changing attitudes and dealing with prevention of violations of the rights of women, helping make sure that women are in decision-making positions on an equal basis with men.

Today we are touching more lives across geographies because Zontians are looking to help women beyond their borders. This keeps us active in the organization, knowing that when we help women we help not just herself but also her family and her community. By helping women, we achieve the double dividend of helping an entire community.

The women of Zonta. There are two types of women in Zonta. The women beneficiaries of our service and advocacy efforts whose lives we have profoundly touched through our work and the women volunteers without whose commitment, dedication and contributions to the achievement of our mission, we will not be here.

Our projects are effectively aligned to our mission and we are doing a lot of developmental work of raising awareness to women’s causes and issues, changing attitudes and dealing with prevention of violations of the rights of women, helping make sure that women are in decision-making positions on an equal basis with men.

Today we are touching more lives across geographies because Zontians are looking to help women beyond their borders. This keeps us active in the organization, knowing that when we help women we help not just herself but also her family and her community. By helping women, we achieve the double dividend of helping an entire community.

How does Zonta make you a better individual?

By giving me the opportunity to make a profound difference in the lives of the two types of women in Zonta, and consequently in the lives of the greater community. The benefits that membership in Zonta has bestowed on me are enriching and exceptionally rewarding. It has made me more others-centered, made me more inclusive and taught me a great deal, not just about leadership and board dynamics but more specially about why volunteerism for social progress and the improvement of marginalized, unserved and underserved communities are so important to a world grappling with issues caused by economic disparity and gender inequality.

How do the Zontian initiatives and advocacies impact your life and the lives of those around you?

It has broadened my perspective and understanding of community, which to me now refers to a circle of people much larger than family and friends. It has opened my eyes to the needs of women around the world, particularly of marginalized women in developing countries and countries in transition, so that their problems can be given greater visibility and more lasting solutions. As past international president and senior Zontian, I have tremendous opportunities to influence the future direction of the organization, to offer solutions to problems within our service and advocacy areas and to guide the current leadership in formulating policy, in establishing strategy, developing systems and processes, and in identifying and developing future leaders of the organization. I have developed friendships with women from many parts of the world, worked with them in Boards and Committees which has also helped me  develop a better understanding of the diversity of cultures and peoples. I hope I have, in turn enriched their lives and the future of the organization with my insights and perspectives, my long Zonta experience, gratuitous advise and unstinting dedication and support.

Which of the Zontian principles resonate with you the most?

To be in all things fair and square which is the principle behind gender equality. In other words to achieve gender equality, we must practice the principles of fairness and parity between the sexes. The principle of shared power and responsibility should be established between women and men at home, in the workplace and in the wider national and international communities, equality between women and men being a matter of human right and a condition for social justice. Achieving gender equality must clearly be seen as a societal responsibility that concerns and  engages not only women but men as agents of change.

What do you think is your most significant contribution to the club?

I was President of the Zonta Club of Makati in 1982-1984. It gave me my first taste of helping the local community of women and their families in the areas of health, education, income generation and legal rights by conducting projects and adopting programs that improved the everyday lives of women in Barrios Pitogo and Pinagkaisahan. But I feel that my most significant contribution to the Club as well as to other clubs in District 17, is helping develop future leaders and helping strengthen the clubs through mentoring, coaching, guiding, teaching, communicating, cooperating and ensuring that programs and actions taken by the club/s are aligned to the goals and strategic approaches established by Zonta International—the work that I have been doing since I became District 17 Governor in the mid 1990s and then, of course, as I served as Zonta International president and now, as PIP.

What do you envision next for Zonta?

Zontians will continue to fight for gender equality and to create an unprecedented momentum for change in the realm of women’s rights and women’s empowerment in many countries of the world. For as long as our vision has not become a reality, Zonta aims to be there. However, Zonta has to transform as the world is transforming. For one, we need to work harder in recruiting members of the younger generation. The average age of Zonta members is probably in the early 60s and while we look to our senior Zontians to serve as pillars of the organization, the need for a younger demographic to step in as members and leaders is necessary to sustain our programs and projects in the midst of an evolving climate and shifting paradigms. To achieve this we have to change the way we are doing things, we need to review our strategies, examine our policies, processes and traditions in order to inspire and engage younger members to step up to the plate and take on leadership roles. More and more it has become necessary to develop cross-generational programs  that would appeal to different generations of Zontians as a way to ensure a long, lasting and synergistic future for the organization. Needless to say, as we develop our leaders and strengthen our Clubs, we must also strongly support the growth of a Fund that will support the future work of Zonta. I have a strong faith in what the Endowment Fund can do by way of generating the resources we need in times of uncertainty, or when the call for new funds is in jeopardy. The twin resources, a growing membership and a robust Endowment Fund will shape the future of Zonta.

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