The District 17 story began almost 60 years ago. It was then part of Region 1. In 1979, during the Regional Conference in Korea, District 17 was born and was comprised of Bangladesh, India, Japan, Korea, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, the Philippines, HongKong, Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand. It was further split in 1989 into Districts 17, 25, and 31 following the Zonta International Convention in Washington DC. It is now composed of the Philippines, HongKong, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia.

First District Governor

The first elected governor of District 17 was Supreme Court Justice Cecilia Munoz Palma who was an Area Director in 1978-1980. She initiated service projects targeting the poor agri-based sector in Southeast Asia. As a result of the concerted efforts of the clubs in District 17, adequate water supply, training seminars in agriculture technology and farmers' cooperatives in key places were realized. The yoke of burden resting heavily on the shoulders of the marginalized farmers was lifted with better income and return. The district theme which bannered "Zonta for Rural Population Development in Asia", resonated with Zonta International's biennial theme of, "Share with Others and Serve with Love". ZI President Shirley Schneider embodied service and Love when she rallied the Zontians to rise to the challenge during the district conference in Bangkok.

The Decade of the 80's

Taiwan occupied the seat of the governorship in 1982-1984 with the election of Nancy Hwang. "Action for Service. Friendship for Peace" was the call to action throughout District 17. Governor Dolly Ng from Hong Kong built her program goals around the theme: "Growth and Progress Through Personal Involvement", in 1984-1986. Towards the end of the biennium, Japan hosted the conference. Kiyo Akiyama was the district governor serving in 1986-1988 when she presided in the conference held in Manila. Area directors and district committee chairmen gave their respective reports on service projects, membership training and the increase on the number of members and clubs supporting Zonta goals. The theme of the biennium was "Building Peace through Serving and Sharing".

In Madras, India, on December 1989, the District was held in the true spirit of service and camaraderie. Delegates from the Philippines were unable to attend led by Lt. Governor Carmen Enverga-Santos due to the coup d'etat taking place in the country. Despite her absence, she was elected and succeeded Governor Joanne Lee from Korea whose mantra was: "Peace through Giving and Sharing", for District 17.

The initiative to redistrict occurred about this time. The split caused some acrimony. India objected to the manner in which the countries with more dynamic economy were grouped together. Singapore chose not to join District 25 as she declared Singapore is Asian and must join District 17. At the end, true to the Zonta spirit, everything was settled and ironed out. The redistricting took place with the agreement of all member countries.

Fostering Optimism in the 90's

At the helm of the District 17, Carmen Enverga-Santos banged the gavel opening the Bangkok Conference in November 1991. A growth of 50% among the Area 1 clubs situated in the Philippines was reported. While in Area 2 comprised by Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, two more clubs were chartered. Together for a Better Tomorrow", was a biennial mission accomplished and a theme projecting a rosy vision of a more dynamic District 17 in the years to come.

The district leadership under Carlyle Tsui (1992-1994) carried out action plans to set up vital linkages with Zonta members countries and their respective governments. The different clubs shared in service through donation of equipment to hospitals (Hong Kong), scholarship grants (Singapore and Thailand), housing projects for the marginalized communities, lying-in clinics, day care centers (Philippines), Zonta Village establishment of a dairy farm outside Bangkok, that raises cows which produce milk and other byproducts to sell in the city. "Women in the Changing World", marked an active and productive biennium. Club increase was 15% in Area 1 and 21% in Area 2.

The Split

Change is a torturous journey with rubbles, stone and craggy rocks. Anyone who passes through it sheds a little of herself, surrenders grudgingly a space in her comfort zone and reckoning, finally submits to a new direction. Change in the structure of Area 1 was the tempest in the teapot during the 11th biennial Area Meeting in Manila. The decision to split was submitted to the clubs which were divided between the pros and the cons. The stark reality was that Area 1 had clubs more than one area director can handle.

Finally the split took place when more clubs accepted the structure of having Areas 1 and 5 in Manila, Area 3 in the Visaya and the Northern provinces falling under Area 4. Governor Olivia Ferry rose to the podium in the Singapore Conference for the 1994-1996 bienniums. Tacked in her portfolio of completed tasks were: The organization of four new Areas in District 17, waste management system training, medical missions, livelihood and skills training, women's legal rights seminars, human rights campaign and care and medical attention to the elderly and disabled. Indeed, "Triple H for Women's Health, Human Rights and World Harmony", which was propounded eloquently and effectively by keynote speaker ZI President Folake San in the Singapore Conference, propelled the Zontians to reach greater heights in service.

1996-1998 saw Anna Kwong form Zonta Club of Kowloon as the governor of District 17. From the moment she took the reins of leadership, she strengthened the Zonta structure by visiting each member country and attended all the Area Training Meetings. It resulted in the effiecient flow of the action program she instituted foremost of which was the empowerment of women along the vision of ZI President Josephine Cooke: "Implement the Vision: Equality for all Women!" The district posted two new clubs in Thailand, and the chartering of ZC of Kuantan by ZC of Singapore. Area 1 and Area 5 added new Zonta club each. Her own vision and ideals in place, Anna Kwong enkindled the fires of Unity and Harmony for a Dynamic Zonta among the district membership. Nowhere was it stronger than in the Cebu Conference which ZI President Josephine Cooke attended. It was the second time that a ZI President lent her personal support in the implementation of a successful and procedural District 17 Conference.

Sharing the Best of Ourselves

A new decade beckoned when Brenda L. Tanjutco was elected the 1998-2000 District Governor in the 9th District Conference in Cebu. "Sharing the best of Ourselves in the Service of Zonta", was her biennial theme. She challenged each Zontian to share her executive talent, skills and time in service following the Zonta International program goals. This resulted in the launching of a one stop, multi-agency crisis response centre known as SAGIP. It is a partnership between the city government of Muntinlupa and the Zonta Club of Muntinlupa and follows the imperatives of the Zonta International Strategies on Violence Against Women and Children launched in the ZI Convention in Detroit in 1994. Hong Kong clubs lent their combined efforts in assisting the new government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR). The unique training seminar PIDOS, for departing overseas worker conducted by the Zonta Club of Quezon City fulfills an urgent need in this sector while Thailand Zonta Clubs banded together to form the AIDS SUPPORT service project. NUTRIBIDA, a nutrition training program for children and mothers was launched as a supplemental service project in the district. Recognizing their talents and competence, the Zonta Clubs in Thailand were authorized by the district board to organize as Area 6. Truly, a new Zonta in the 3rd Millennium has emerged, empowered by new discoveries and invigorated by the words of ZI President Val Sarah: The New Millennium: Sharing, Listening and Learning!

Zonta in the New Millenium

In August 2002, Kathleen Yip Ho installed four new clubs: ZC of Bangkok 7, ZC of Chiengrai, ZC of Mandaluyong-San Juan II and ZC of Antipolo. Later in her term as 2000-2002 District 17 Governor, ZC of Hongkong II was chartered. It was true to her platform for action to stimulate interest in Zonta among the younger generation of professionals "Sharing and Serving in Harmony" drew inter-clubs and intra-club activities geared to fellowship and full participation in Zonta. ZI biennial theme of "Building 21st Century, Inspired by the Challenge of Change" as enunciated by Pres. Mary Magee was pursued.

"Together, Let's Make Waves!"

The election of Ma. Imelda "Dandy" Gomez as District Governor for the biennium 2002-2004 brought with her the theme, "Together Let's Make Waves!". With her energy and leadership, Gov. Gomez set out to start the initial ripples of her plan. She connected with each club in each of the five countries of the district and created currents in every club that soon swelled into a deluge of action.

These tidal waves helped unify the district, as barriers were washed away to leave behind a stronger bond between al clubs. The surge in awareness of the services and programs helped get all Zontians more involved in the flood of support that brought about the delivery of services to most people.

Gov. Gomez embarked on her mission to create a more responsive district. Having visited practically 90% of the clubs in District 17, her visibility inspired the members to be more involved and appreciate Zonta as civic club. One of the cornerstones of her administration was the signing of the Anti-Trafficking Bill into law by Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The passage was catalyzed by the consistent lobbying of the Zontians led by Governor herself and the Zonta Club of Makati.

Realizing the true meaning of service, the membership grew astoundingly. There were two Zonta clubs chartered in the first half of the biennium; The Zonta Club of Phitsanulok in Area 6 and the Zonta Club of Baliuag in Area 1. This totals to 66 clubs in the District. A remarkable growth in the Z and Golden Z Clubs was registered. Such growth was unprecedented in recent history of District 17. Two Zonta clubs received the ZISVAW grants; ZC of Davao 1 in Area 3 and ZC of Muntinlupa Foundation in Area 5.

Another astonishing feat is that in less than a month, so many members gave their donations for the Zointa International Foundation surpassing the target amount the governor had set for the entire biennium. Indeed, service and fellowship crest higher as indicated by the waves generated by the governance of District 17.

"Sharing our Time, Our Talent for a Better World"

In 2004, Subhaporn Peters, a Zontian for over 35 years and Charter member of the Zonta Club of Bangkok I, took over the helm of the district as the first governor from Thailand. Her biennial theme, "Sharing our Time, our Talent for a Better World" echoes her mission to utilized resources and talents to help the poor and less fortunate, to encourage harmony and fellowship among different areas and member countries, and to ensure a dynamic growth for the coming biennium of the district by increasing membership and clubs.

After the tsunami disaster struck the region, Gov. Peters' mission to help the less fortunate was fully implemented when Zonta District 17 sent out 5000 necessity packages to provide immediate aid to the tsunami survivors. The District 17 Tsunami Relief Fund was set up to help alleviate the suffering of the victims and aid in the long-term reconstruction of their future. The generous donations from Zontians from all over the world following ZI President Ellen Bittner's and Gov. Peters' appeal to raise funds from Zonta Clubs worldwide show her biennial theme has come to fruition - Zontians across areas and countries have united to make the world a better place. Since she took over the governorship, many clubs in District 17 have strongly implemented the ZI mission by selecting numerous service projects, advocacy efforts and ZISVAW projects which have advanced the status of women and bettered their lives. The first half of the biennium has seen an increase in membership, the chartering of 2 new Zonta Clubs and the organization of 2 Golden Z Clubs. So far, District 17 has been able to raise more than half of the target amount set by the governor to support the Zonta International Foundation.

Presiding over the 13th District 17 Conference in Kuantan (Malaysia, with 65 clubs represented, Gov. Peters ensures the affirmation of the commitment to service and the opportunity to share in fellowship by the club officers and members which are important prerequisites in strengthening District t17. Governor Peters is instrumental in encouraging the next generation of Zontians from District 17 to bid for the 2010 Zonta International Convention to be held in Bangkok, the City of Angels.

"Move on S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Zontians"

Heralding the 14th district 17 biennium (2006-2008) of Governor Virma Vergel de Dios and her Board of Directors is the slogan embodying the leadership principles and platform of governance approved for implementation: "Move on S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Zontians."

The acronym stands for:

       S - Strategies for Service
       M -Measurable mission focused
       A -Align, Act and Advocate with Passion
       R - Realistically meeting community needs
       T -Team Power
       E -Excellence Driven
       R -Results-oriented

For the district-wide president-elect's training workshops covering strategic planning and teambuilding in April and June 2006, Governor Virma brought her team to the different areas such as in Hongkong, Thailand, Luzon and the Visayas in the Philippines. A first to be implemented thus, it was conceived to create an immediate impact on the vision of the current district board which is to quote: "We envision Zi District 17 to be the leading organization in advancing the status of women and advocating women's rights with an expanded membership thru service and solidarity of purpose." This aligns with the over all goals set by Zonta International in this biennium in which Olivia A. Ferry serves as the First Asian to be at the helm, of this world-wide service organization.

A first in Zonta International, is establishing a club data base to which the time expanded and the service projects which the members support are reported periodically. Governor Virma by propounding on the synergistic energy expected among the clubs in District 17, meets with success the submission of the required report by the club presidents. Concentrating in building on the achievements of her predecessors and thru the example of hard work and indefatigable energy with which she leads District 17, she engenders an osmosis of strength and commitment throughout the membership of District 17. As a result three clubs have been "sommed" (sponsoring, organizing and mentoring) and added to Dist. 17 namely, ZC of Bohol sommed by ZC of Cebu II, ZC of Fort Bonifacio sommed by ZC of Pateros Taguig and ZC of Alabang sommed by ZC of Muntinlupa & Environs Foundation.

A brokering of strong and firm linkages between District 17 and District 31 marks another first when a joint inter-district conference takes place in Laoag, Ilocos Norte. Counting further, it is the first Inter-District Conference to be held in the northern part of the Philippines set on September 14-16, 2007.

One, is a premium number. Evidentially, it figures prominently in the configuration of events and how the achievements in District 17 14th biennium qualify. "Move on S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Zontians,"is a victory rally by Governor Virma upon the district. Ergo, moving on in service and advocacy, is mission accomplished for all.


District 17 History [ View ]

Latest Issue of THE ZONTIAN

17th District 17 Conference in Hong Kong
September 13-15,2013