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What are Soroptimists doing during Lockdown?

We’re living through a funny old time aren’t we?!

At the time of writing this, the vast majority of the world have been living in lockdown thanks to the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic.

Here in the UK, we’re now entering our 12th week of lockdown. Only key workers have been allowed to continue working; the rest of us are either working from home or have been furloughed at the order of a government trying to contain a virus and keep a population safe. A Sisyphean task, some might say.

Yet, whilst the thought of being instructed to go home and stay there sounds like a utopian dream to some, the reality for many women and girls around the globe is far more serious. Far from having a lovely peaceful few weeks of rest, women all over the world are facing reduced income, reduced job security, struggles to feed, home and clothe their children, and increased levels of domestic violence…to name just a few of the stresses.

And, obviously, the 80, 000 or so Soroptimists around the world are in no different a situation; our lives have all changed drastically in the past 3 months and there’s no denying that some of our women will be struggling massively with their own unique set of problems, not to mention those listed above.

How Has Lockdown Affected Me?

From my own perspective (which is the only one from which I have any right to speak), I am struggling to entertain an only child whose world has shrunk to the size of a four bedroom house and two adults. I am struggling to keep a small business going that currently employs 6 people, all of whom have mortgages to pay and mouths to feed. I am worried about my parents and parents-in-law, who have no concept of staying indoors and appear to be continuing with life as normal (“I just had to nip out to Asda, I needed some box files”).

I’m not going to deny that, at times, it is stressful.

However, whilst it might sound a bit new age hippyish, I have nonetheless been checking my privilege and practicing gratitude. Although my four bedroom house is considerably smaller than the whole wide world, which a 10 year old boy should be spending the summer exploring, it is a very nice house with several acres of land in a beautiful bit of countryside. Thanks to the death of everyone I love, I have a chunk of money in the bank that will see me through if absolutely necessary, although it will be at the sacrifice of other things (pension, anyone?!).

Thanks to a decent education and a laptop, I am able to work my ass off to keep my business afloat. And do it whilst sitting in a lovely garden. And it looks, at this early stage, like it might be working (although I don’t want to tempt fate).

Hence, I have an awful lot to be grateful for and most of it is derived from my privilege. Which is why I, like many of my Soroptimist sisters, am still doing what I can to help other women and girls, both in my own community and around the world, who aren’t as lucky as me and aren’t doing as well.

Women who have had to flee their homes with nothing but their children and the clothes they’re wearing. Women who now can’t feed their children because the security of a daily school meal has been withdrawn. Women who have lost their zero hours contracts and are having to wait up to 10 weeks before any benefit money comes in from the government. Women who have been denied their freedom and are unable to leave the house to receive an education, and are thus expected to serve a domestic role in the meantime.

And these are just women in the UK.

What Is SIGBI Doing During Lockdown?

SIGBI has pledged to stand up for women and girls from local to global and we don’t believe that pledge is any lessened because of lockdown. In fact, quite the opposite; lockdown has made any pre-existing needs even more urgent.

Which is why Soroptimist members from clubs all over the Federation have been pulling together and working – in a socially distant and responsible way, of course – to ensure that their local community receives the help and support it needs to survive this pandemic.

And sometimes that’s helping in an obvious way – such as delivering vital equipment and PPE to frontline NHS and care workers – and sometimes it’s helping in a less obvious way – such as providing hand cream to combat the effects of wearing said PPE for long hours on end.

Up and down the country, Soroptimists have been putting their skills to good use, by sewing and stitching drawstring bags for medical staff to transport their scrubs in, by using their training to provide telephone support to the bereaved, by cooking food to feed the homeless and most vulnerable in the community.

Supplies have been gathered and distributed, such as basic food for primary aged children, who are now missing out on a daily school meal (often the only hot food they get each day), essential supplies for migrants, who have been left to fend for themselves thanks to the withdrawal of support and services, and toiletries for women’s refuges, which are experiencing a higher than usual demand for their service.

Soroptimists have also been getting creative in terms of fundraising, raising money in ways that are both innovative and yet still responsible and socially distant. Several clubs have managed to raise funds by taking part in bike riding and walking challenges that sometimes haven’t even required anyone to leave their house!

And of course, we must not forget all the Soroptimists who are helping out the pandemic effort by working hard on the front line, whether as doctors, nurses, care workers, supermarket staff or postwomen, along with many, many other women in many different roles. Their contribution to keeping the country running is invaluable.

When I think of the work that these women on the frontline are doing, I am certainly humbled. It puts my home-schooling battles with my 10 year old into perspective, anyway! At least we are safe and secure and, hopefully, able to stay that way.

Watch Our ‘Soroptimists In Lockdown’ Video

That’s why, to celebrate the work of Soroptimists all over the Federation, we’ve put together this little video.

We hope it’s going to be the first of many, because this crisis is by no means over and there is a long road ahead of us before the world returns to some sort of normality.

Get In Touch

We’ve purposefully made our video positive as we believe that, whilst the issues being tackled by Soroptimists are incredibly serious, the efforts that individual Soroptimists and clubs have gone to are positive and worth celebrating. At this time, we all need a little positive light to illuminate the darkness.

We’d love to hear your thoughts about the video, so please do let us know.

And, of course, if you would like to add a contribution by your club or members to future videos, please do send in your photos and descriptions to hq@sigbi.org. We’ll do our best to feature as many of them as we possibly can.

In the meantime, stay safe.

Rachel Weinhold
Soroptimist in the Rossendale Club