The Zonta Club of Tartu is the first which was born in ZI District 20 outside Finland. The Zonta Club of Tartu was established with the support of Vantaa SOM clubs on 19 August 1991 on the eve of Estonia’s rebirth of independence.

Liia Hänni: It was in the year 1990 when I met Finnish zontians for the first time in the Jyväskylä. I looked at these well-dressed women who were speaking with the clear and loud voice, who did not fare to stand up and express the opinion. It was surprising. I thought how much time it would take when Estonian women can behave so. I understood that Finnish women were free, open and self-confident.

Estonia have been an occupied country for many years. In 1990 Estonians began to understand what freedom was. We had our women’s movement which dealt with charity. For example, women were knitting socks for soldiers, etc. But we did not have women’s organizations where women could bravely express themselves in political issues.

Zonta woke us up and brought the understanding that women’s position in the society is something we have to unit our efforts. In the Soviet period the women’s position in society was formally rather good but in fact they did not discuss the women’s situation how women feel really.

The foundation meeting of the Zonta Club of Tartu was held on Monday 19 August 1991 in Tartu cafe “Illusioon”. PIP 84-86 Annikki Mäkinen from Helsinki, Inger Lehti and Ulla-Stina Westman from Zonta Club of Vantaa had come for this event from Finland. It was not an ordinary Monday. At four o’clock at night in Moscow the coup d’etat began. President Gorbatšov was removed from power. At Monday night Russian armoured vehicles moved via Tartu to Tallinn. Extraordinary situation in Estonia was established.

Tiina Rebane: On that day all the meetings and gatherings were prohibited. We in our closed society were used to the fact that many things were prohibited but all the things were done in spite of that. So we did not feel that our foundation meeting would not take place. My motive to become the Zonta member was the curiosity to know how women live and what they think in other countries. Zonta is a possibility to widen our would and do something for other people.

Asta Niinemets: 19 August 1991 was the very special day for me. In the evening we planned our club foundation, in the morning my 18- year- old son came to me and said that together with the Defense League he would go to Tallinn to defend our liberty. I could only say in answer: come back healthy. I could not tell him that he was too young. At this moment I felt that I was sending my school-leaver son to war. I may say that on that day I was full of emotions. Perhaps that I remember very brightly the question from one woman: will we make the club today? Perhaps it is more reasonable to wait and see what would happen in the future? This was the question of fear and not confidence. But our club was born.

Today, in the year 2018, our club has 26 members and 7 members are from the year 1991.

From its very start the Zonta Club of Tartu began to operate most actively. At that time (1991) Estonia was a poor country and this is why it was important to distribute second-hand clothes, collected by Finnish members, to the people in need. Also, in cooperation with the whole D20, the first family ward in Estonia in the Tartu maternity hospital was renovated (1992), the Tartu Auditory Centre was bought hearing aids (1995), the Tartu Women’s Clinic was helped in buying computers (1992) and furnishing their laboratory (1995). An international campaign among Zonta clubs was started with the purpose of getting dolls of different nationalities to the Tartu Toy Museum (1994). To improve the situation of girls in Tartu, the Zonta Club of Tartu supported the Tartu Christian Home for Young People (1998, 2001). The Zonta members in the Tartu Club have always participated actively in the D20 Yellow Rose Campaigns which also helped in furnishing the shelter for mothers and children in Tartu in 2004.

From the very beginning the members of the Zonta Club of Tartu had an aim of raising the awareness of society in women’s issues. The club itself organized seminars (in 1993 “The Woman in the Changing Times”, in 1998 “Cooperation between Women”, in 2000 the Second Baltic Seminar „From a street child to an active citizen“, in 2004 The Fifth Baltic Seminar „Anti-Trafficking in Women“) and the members of the club participated with presentations in the events organized by others (in 1996 Dagmar Kutsar „The woman in the welfare society“ in Turku, Finland and in 2008 „The choices of girls in Estonian society“ at the area meeting in Viljandi, Estonia, and in 2002 Tiina Rebane spoke about equal opportunities of Women at the Third Baltic Seminar in Valmiera, Latvia, and in 2003 about violence against Women at the Fourth Baltic Seminar in Marijampole, Lithuania.) In the years 2006-2008 Tiina Rebane from Tartu was the first Estonian governor of District 20.

From the year 2011 the Zonta Club of Tartu concentrated its attention to local charity projects, mainly to the issues of violence against women and began to support different activities of Tähtvere Open Women’s Centre (counselling of women and children, publishing the book „Brides of Bluebird“, supporting women in the need of help, etc.) Since 1997, the Zonta Club of Tartu has paid scholarships: in 1997-2005 to talented girls studying at music schools, in 2007-2014 to the teachers of Tartu and the County of Tartu for their excellent work and since 2015 to the people dealing with the solution of hard cases of violence in partnership relations. In addition to the activities given above the club has conducted courses for girls to find future professions (1995-1996), the courses for mothers and girls for building better relations (2006) and the course for misbehaving girls about values in life (2006). In the year 2008, proposed by the Tartu Club the Estonian girl Marleen Pedjasaar won the ZI YWPA scholarship for high school girls.

The club is open and international relations play an important role in its life. During more than twelve years, initiated by Tartu zontians, Estonian clubs together have made trips to European countries and met the Zonta members in their clubs.

The 8th European Interdistrict Zonta Seminar 2019 “Do values become older?” will take place in Tartu.


Tarton Zonta-kerhoa perustamassa maailmanpolitiikan mullistuksessa