A blog by Rachel Weinhold, SI Rossendale
Having been a Soroptimist for several years now, I’m often asked ‘what is a Soroptimist?’ and ‘what do Soroptimists do?’.
Well, Soroptimists work to ensure that women and girls get a fair deal, in every country around the world.
We’ve been doing it for 100 years now and we think it’s about time the world knew about us. Which is why we’ve come up with a positioning statement, to help explain what we do, as Soroptimists, day in day out.
Read on to find out more about our position statement.
Who Are The Soroptimists?
It’s a good question and, in my 4 years of being a Soroptimist, it’s one I’ve been asked many times. I’m sure my Soroptimist sisters, some of whom have been members for 50+ years, have been asked it many more times than I.
In short, Soroptimist International Great Britain and Ireland (SIGB) is an international women’s charity who work to improve the lives of women and girls around the world.
The Soroptimists have actually been around for 100 years – in fact, it’s our Centenary year in 2021. And yet, unfortunately, we’re often perceived as one of the best kept secrets amongst women’s organisations.
Chances are, if you are aware of us, it’s likely because your Mum or your Grandma were Soroptimists in their day.
However, the Soroptimists are still going strong as an international women’s organisation, fighting for the rights of women and girls all over the globe. In fact, there are currently about 80,000 Soroptimists in the world, based in over 121 territories globally and that membership is growing year-on-year.
So, you could say, we’re a force to be reckoned with!.
Who Are SIGBI?
Because Soroptimism globally is such a large organisation, it is split into tiers to make it easier to administer and govern. This also ensures that every Soroptimist club is a local group made up of local women, tackling the issues that are most pressing and relevant to the women and girls in their community.
At the top of the tier, we have Soroptimist International; the global governing body, if you like. Soroptimist International has General (Category One) Consultative Status as a non-governmental organization at the United Nations. This means that, as Soroptimists, women have a seat at the highest tables of power in the world.
Soroptimist International is then split into four groups, or Federations, as they’re called. One of which is Soroptimist International of Great Britain & Ireland.
Soroptimist International of Great Britain and Ireland (SIGBI) covers Great Britain and some countries in India, Africa and The Caribbean (although the African countries will shortly be leaving SIGBI to form their own Africa Federation). You can find the full list of SIGBI clubs on the website.
Then, within SIGBI, we have all the individual clubs, of which my club – SI Rossendale – is one. There are over 250 clubs around England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
It sounds more complicated than it is. Essentially, every Soroptimist around the world is a member of a local club that is backed by a global organisation, and we all fight together to ensure women and girls everywhere get a fair share. It’s simple really.
What Have The Soroptimists Achieved?
Well, this is a good question and, funnily enough, one that I am asked less often than ‘what do we do?’.
It’s no exaggeration to say that, over the last 100 years, Soroptimists have been fundamentally involved in changing the world and have ensured the rights of women and girls have been considered at every level.
Soroptimists have fought for women to have equal rights in law as well as the right to vote (many Suffragettes, like Flora Drummond, were also Soroptimists). During the second world war, Soroptimists helped women and children fleeing war to reach safety. Soroptimists have set up national charities and ensured that women and babies have received a decent level of health care. Soroptimists have fought tirelessly to ensure that girls receive a decent education.
There have been famous Soroptimists (such as Sybil Thorndike) and there have been everyday Soroptimists, who have nevertheless made a significant difference in their own communities.
In SI Rossendale, my own club, for example, our membership is comprised of women who, in their own way, have had extraordinary careers and achieved extraordinary things, such as setting up the first hospice in Rossendale and transforming children’s social care throughout the county (as our member Sheila Whipp did over a 40+ year career as a Social Worker for Lancashire Children’s Social Services).
Today, the Soroptimists are working on a diverse range of projects including fighting for the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 alongside UN Women at the United Nations, to helping our local women’s refuges survive the increased stresses of the Coronavirus pandemic.
In short, the Soroptimists are not a cosy club for women who want to get together and have a natter over a brew. Instead, we’re a highly motivated and active professional women’s organisation that fights daily for real change to the lives of women and girls.
So, What Do Soroptimists Do?
However, despite all of this rich history and valuable campaigning work, most of us are still asked on a daily basis ‘what do Soroptimists do?’.
To try and tackle this question, we’ve come up with a short position statement that answers this question in a succinct way. It’s our ‘elevator pitch’ if you like. And it goes like this;
We are Soroptimists.
Women inspiring action, transforming lives.
We are vibrant, dynamic and like-minded women,
Working on global to local projects that help improve the lives of women and girls.
The goal is that our Soroptimists sisters will be able to use this position statement to get across more easily what we Soroptimists do and what we’re trying to achieve.
And, if you’re already a Soroptimist, don’t worry; this does not replace the Aims and Objects of Soroptimism;
Rather, it augments it and updates it for the modern age. We’re not changing anything we’re doing, we’re simply trying to ensure our message is clear, concise and obvious to all.
I really like it this position statement. I think it explains who we are as an organisation and what we’re trying to achieve. However, I recognise it’s not all about me! Most of the time…
Tell Us Your Thoughts
As an organisation, SIGBI is committed to ensuring all our members work together to benefit of everyone, so we’d love to hear your feedback on our new position statement.
We’d also like to hear from you if you’re not already a Soroptimist. What do you think of the new position statement? Do you think it clearly expresses our goals, aims and objectives?
You can tell us your thoughts by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.