Speech: Incoming President Maureen
Below is an edited version of the inaugural speech to Federation Conference by Maureen Maguire, Federation President 2011-2012 – Saturday 29 October 2011, Brighton.
Maureen started with messages of greetings and generous thanks. She then intruduce the theme for Soroptimists in the Federation for the year ahead – ‘Facing the Future Together’.
Maureen continued: “I joined Soroptimist International well over 20 years ago, and it has changed my life. I have made many, many friends, travelled considerably, been involved in volunteering and sought to assist and support others in their resolve to move their lives forward. We are an organisation of friends and mentors – we learn from each other and we in turn should pass that learning on. As President Liz said last year, “Don’t pull the ladder up after you – make sure you hold it steady for the woman who is following behind. Every person around you here has the same hopes, the same dreams, and similar aspirations to transform the lives of women and girls worldwide. My vision has always been to work to improve the lives of women and girls who are less fortunate than ourselves. My theme for this year – one that I want you all to work towards is ‘Facing the Future Together’. There are many challenges for this organisation and for ourselves, but together we can drive future developments. As the 21st century moves into its second decade, our countries and communities are experiencing startling changes that are profoundly altering the character of society. These changes are challenging us personally and in our family and community lives. It is worrying to see the destruction of some of our time honoured traditions and institutions, and yet we hope to witness the construction of new ways of living, with new opportunities and values.
Internationally, nationally and locally, there are many priority areas that are fundamental to women’s equality –
Violence against women – this fundamental violation of women’s rights remains widespread, affecting all countries. Women need strong laws backed by implementation and services for protection and prevention.
Peace and Security – There is international recognition that women bear the brunt of modern conflicts including where rape is a weapon of war. Specific threats to women must be identified and stopped and women must be at the centre of peace talks and post conflict reconstruction. I was delighted to hear that the United Nations are now recognising this and that it has declared that sexual violence in conflict situations is a threat to peace and security. For decades, sexual violence was treated as a health issue and therefore, low priority. Kofi Annan said recently “From now on it will be treated by nations as a security issue and governments will be required to establish accountability regimes by the UN Security Council”. This is a major advancement in women’s rights for millions of women who are vulnerable and exposed to high possibilities of rape, sexual abuse, abduction and torture in conflict ridden countries
Leadership and Participation -Across all areas of life, whether in political bodies or corporate boardrooms, women have a limited say in the decisions that affect them. Quotas and other special measures open more space for women’s participation. New skills help women realize their full leadership potential.
Economic Empowerment – Women lag far behind men in access to land, credit and decent jobs, even though a growing body of research shows that enhancing women’s economic options boosts national economies. Macroeconomic policies and policy-making can make the connections to gender equality. The multiple barriers that prevent women from seizing economic opportunities must be dropped.
National Planning and Budgeting Public planning is the jumping-off point for the range of public services and policies that citizens expect from their governments, yet it often overlooks women’s specific needs and priorities. Gender equality should be a stated objective of all plans, backed by specific actions for implementation and sufficient funding.
Human Rights -The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women sets comprehensive international standards for women’s human rights. Signatory governments are obligated to take steps in laws and policies to achieve these norms.
Millennium Development Goals – The MDGs provide a basic roadmap for development. Gender equality is the third goal, but it is also integral to achieving all eight MDGs, from preventing the spread of HIV to sustaining the environment in the face of climate change.
This is a great opportunity to demonstrate who we are and what we do and the difference we may make through raising awareness, becoming advocates and taking action on all these issues. People working and facing the future together such as building, sharing supporting, helping, encouraging can and will accomplish anything.
We could learn a lesson from the “flight of the geese” – you will see this in the short DVDthat I am now going to show to you. These graceful birds when they fly give great support and friendship to their team members especially in times of need.
Follow the link here to view: www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmjqHWYg5_Q
We all may at some time or another need to “honk” for help…….
In the past years we have transformed the lives of women and girls through numerous projects which are too many to mention, but our International project – Project SIerra – is one that I must mention. We have announced at this conference that we have hot the £1million target! www.sigbi.org/2011/1million-raised-for-project-sierra-by-soroptimists/ This programme, which I visited last year, is not only giving these young mothers and their families a future but we are also showing them that we care. May I thank you for your generosity.
The essence of the Soroptimist model is simple: educate women and girls today to create the female leaders of tomorrow. We all know how important it is for women and girls to be given the opportunity to lead and participate in decision making at local, national, and international levels. We also know that, in order to get to that place, we need to educate, empower, and enable – We educate women and girls by increasing their access to the skills necessary to take on whatever challenge they desire – from basic literacy and numeracy skills to vocational training to health or sanitation to climate change to preparation for running in elections and everything in between. Improving physical environments, such as gender appropriate sanitation facilities or building dormitories, also increases access to skills and thus also falls within this framework. In doing so, we empower women with confidence and choice, giving them the tools necessary to achieve their fullest potential. Thirdly, we go beyond the individual woman or girl and work within the wider community to enable opportunities for women and girls to use their skills and confidence as leaders and role models. We achieve this through our Awareness, Advocacy and Action strategies. We seek to educate individual women and girls with skills, empower them with confidence, and enable opportunities in the wider community. Put it all together and we have a positive collective global impact which transforms the lives and status of women and girls worldwide, opening doors for women and girls to become leaders in many different ways.
During this conference you will have heard from International President Alice, who spoke of her 10th December International Appeal – Birthing in the Pacific www.soroptimistinternational.org/our-projects/december-10-appeal/birthinginpacific I would like our Federation to take this a step further, by extending the principle and idea to support more women in another country. Therefore I am pleased to announce the launch of A MAJOR FEDERATION PROGRAMME INITIATIVE AND PARTNERSHIP. I am pleased to advise you that the Federation Programme Action Team and the Federation Management Board have agreed that there should be a project that all clubs may support. The title of the Project is
The 3E Project: Healthcare.
We will work with Maternal Childhealth Advocacy International (MCAI) who is currently working with government in The Gambia on an education and leadership project, and we have set ourselves a target of £100,000 each year for three years. Their strengthening emergency health care programme aims to overcome the many barriers faced by women, children and infants when seeking appropriate and timely care and takes a practical rights-based approach to health care. The programme does this by:
1) Training health staff, community workers, and traditional birth attendants in emergency skills (and then training some of them to become trainers so they can continue to teach their colleagues);
2) Refurbishing health care facilities;
3) Supplying necessary medical devices, drugs, and equipment and ;
4) Setting up emergency transport facilities (ambulances and boats).
This Strengthening Emergency Health Care Programme takes a sustainable approach by giving ownership of each project to the national Government, local authority, health facility, health and community workers, and the local community. The objectives (which will be worked on simultaneously) of our strengthening emergency health care programme are to:
- Develop the core knowledge and skills of healthcare workers at all levels by organising and running comprehensive and sustainable training courses in emergency obstetric and paediatric care and in life threatening illness and injuries;
- Work with partners to build systems to deliver emergency care at all levels i.e. from an individual’s dwelling in a village to the hospital bedside;
- Ensure that healthcare facilities are fit for purpose by doing a rigorous needs assessment and then helping local partners to meet these needs, and in doing so improve staff morale and retention;
- Work with national government/local health authority/hospital staff/local communities to adopt and embed these system changes in order to achieve a sustainable health system that can deal with emergencies.
I am very excited about this project, especially as it fits so well within the new Programme Theme “Educate to Lead” –it educates through skill and learning, empowers by giving confidence to women and girls and enables opportunities for them to become leaders within their country and community. And it also works with my theme – Facing the Future Together.
Secondly, I would also like to launch an initiative to support the Federation Diamond Education Grant www.sigbi.org/our-charities/diamond-education-grant/ Members will have read in the Annual Report that each year we receive many more applications from women than we are able to support. We are also aware that the balance within the Diamond Education Fund decreases year on year, therefore I wish to launch £60 for 60. Countries who are within the British Commonwealth may like to tie the theme in with the Diamond Jubilee Year, when Queen Elizabeth II will be celebrating 60 years as Queen. I also would like you to continue all of the great work that yo do within your Clubs, including continuing your links with the girl Guides and girl Scouts.
And so to Conference next year – www.sigbi.org/belfast2012 I am delighted that it will be in Belfast,Northern Ireland. Norma Evans, our Conference Chair, Theresa Nixon our Chief Steward, the rest of the Committee and I are looking forward to welcoming you to Belfast. Dynamic, inspiring and innovative, three words that I truly believe Belfast to be. Don’t let Belfast’s modest size fool you – it’s a city with a wide range of quality accommodation, world class restaurants, eclectic cultural events and entertainment venues to compete with cities double its population. Billions of pounds worth of investment over the last decade has established Belfast on the tourism map. Some of the World’s best golf courses and most stunning scenery are close by. Visit the majestic Mountains of Mourne, the tranquil Fermanagh Lakelands, and stunning CausewayCoast and Glens. So please bring friends and family and take a short break either before or after Conference. You will not forget the warmth of the welcome that Belfast is renowned for either – something else that comes naturally! After a decade of unprecedented growth,Belfast has evolved into a confident and cosmopolitan city eager to welcome visitors from far and wide. As well as inspirational keynote speakers, we plan to have a strong focus on our own project work. To Soroptimists – thank you for the privilege to serve as your Federation President, I will do my best. I am so looking forward to meeting and spending time with many of you during the next twelve months. I would assure you that I am looking forward to ‘Facing the Future Together’, no matter what that may entail, provided that we are there to support one another. Thank you all.”
Maureen Maguire, President 2011-2012, Soroptimist International Great Britain and Ireland