**International Women’s Day at London Chilterns Region March Meeting

09-SILC-IWD (2)

10-Jen Lesley_anne Alexander

06-Jen Sarah SmartOn Sat 11 Mar almost 50 women from around our Soroptimist London Chilterns Region met in London. A packed agenda included lots of news from Federation and Clubs plus two really interesting speakers – Sarah Smart (pic left with Regional President Jen Simpson), Director of Development and Communications, Food for the Hungry UK, Building Schools in Bangladesh and  Lesley-Anne Alexander CBE (pic right with Regional President Jen Simpson), Trustee of the MicroLoan Foundation. This was an opportunity for Soroptimists to stand together on the closest Saturday to International Women’s Day – see the lovely pic above of our Members holding up #BeBoldForChange calling for everyone to help forge a more gender inclusive world. For more information please keep reading….

We started the day with a reading about International Women’s Day by Moira Watson from SI Oxford and District: “International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day recognising and appreciating women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements over the decades. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.iwd_square

Woman’s Day was first observed in 1909 in the United States and it is only in 1977 that the United Nations officially declared International Women’s Day celebration on March 8. International Women’s Day (IWD) is a collective day of global celebration and is also an official holiday in several countries like Belarus, Armenia, Albania, Brazil, and Cameroon. No one government, Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), charity, corporation, academic institution, women’s network or media hub is solely responsible for International Women’s Day. Many organisations declare an annual IWD theme that supports their specific agenda or cause, and some of these are adopted more widely with relevance than others.

“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights,” says world-renowned feminist, journalist and social and political activist Gloria Steinem. Thus International Women’s Day is all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action – whatever that looks like globally at a local level. But one thing is for sure, International Women’s Day has been occurring for well over a century – and continues to grow from strength to strength. On this occasion, we should endeavour to build a better world where men and women live harmoniously, free of violence and discrimination.”

There is more about International Women’s Day on these websites: www.internationalwomensday.com  www.un.org/en/events/womensday/  www.sigbi.org/members/2017/international-womens-day/   www.soroptimistinternational.org/events/international-womens-day/

Our morning speaker, Sarah Smart (pic above), Director of Development and Communications for Food for the Hungry UK  gave us a lively presentation about herself,the charity and in particular supporting pre-school children in Bangladesh. The charity is child focused and involves the whole community in the transformation. She spoke about the charity being a “hand-up” for children and communities – not a “hand-out”.

We had a great workshop on Club Development and Growth – click on this link or on the menu item to see the documents from the session.

The Region O07-Jen Margaret Badleyfficers gave their reports – and they are now on a page called Reports from Region Meetings  click on this link or on the menu item to see the documents from the session.

Margaret Badley was delighted to be presented with her President-Elect brooch by President Jen (see pic).

Barbara Diamant encouraged us all to use “Number 63” Bayswater Rd, Soroptimist Hotel – www.number63.co.uk/ It is open to all guests and provides high quality hotel accommodation in a great central London location, good business facilities and there is always someone interesting to talk to if you just drop in for a pit-stop!

Our afternoon speaker Lesley-Anne Alexander CBE (pic above) Trustee of the MicroLoan Foundation painted a picture in our minds with her story-telling style of delivery. She spoke about these loans to women she had visited in Malawi and Zimbabwe being a “hand-up” – not a “hand-out” – similarly to our morning speaker. The charity works with the poorest of the poor in rural remote areas. They start working with the men in the villages to gain their “license to operate” first before they can engage with the women. 97% of the loans to women are paid back in full which is much better than any bank! The whole system is built on trust with the women only inviting other women they trust to be part of their loan group because they are jointly and severally liable.  The groups are cooperative and collaborative, for example sharing child-care between them. Their priorities are: feed the children, live in a property with a roof, send children to school…very humbling. They are generous with their love – they don’t have much else to give – Lesley-Anne said she had never been hugged so much in her life as she was by the women on her recent visit! Many children are being raised by grandmothers because whole generation has been wiped out by HIV-AIDS. A typical loan of £50 will be invested in growing tomatoes, maize and beans and even for buying and selling second-hand shoes! The charity has a £2 million turnover – £1 million from individual donations and £1million from other organisations including DFID – and is able to help 30,000 women.

11-Kate Belinis SI Hertford

Lastly we had the Programme Action Showcasefirst up was Kate Bellinis from SI Hertford & District (pic left) who spoke about a charity called Days for Girls  www.daysforgirls.org/ Members of the Club had a day with supporters mainly from a local school creating Days for Girls Kits –12-Denise Powell SI St Albans which include washable sanitary towels, face cloths, knickers (full details are on the website). Next up was Denise Powell from SI St Albans and District (pic right). Denise spoke about the fantastic International Women’s Day event that the Club had hosted. They had a panel of experts, 100 guests in the audience and the subject for debate was “Is It Still A Man’s World” – the conclusion was “Yes but…..” The debate was broadcast live on Radion Verulam. To read more and listen to the podcast please go to the website www.sigbi.org/st-albans/iwd

The event closed with a welcome cup of tea before leaving for home – what an action packed day!!