The term “Soroptimist” can be best interpreted as “the best for women”; it was coined from the Latin “soror” meaning sister and “optima” meaning best.
In 1921 a group of over 80 business and professional women from California, banded together to form the first Soroptimist club. Their purpose was debating service projects and hearing speakers on worldwide issues that would inspire and broaden members’ horizons. While their initial work focused on the preservation of “ancient trees” their efforts soon turned to the growing concerns for women in their community. In the years that followed, many similar clubs sprung up unknown to each other until upon discovery, they finally joined together to form the international organization we know today – Soroptimist International. This organization consists of 3000 clubs across five federations, which boasts Category 2 Consultative Status with Economic and Social Council, United Nations!
SI Anaparima is proud to be one of these clubs under the federation of Great Britain and Ireland (SIGBI). We are proud to uphold SIGBI’s vision which seeks to ensure that “women and girls will achieve their individual and collective potential, realize aspirations and have an equal voice in creating strong, peaceful communities worldwide”. We join with our sister clubs around the globe to continue the work that aids in “transforming the lives and status of women and girls through education, empowerment and enabling opportunities”.
At SI Anaparima, we have a group of passionate and brilliant women of varying ages and ethnicities, from various walks of life and with a wide range of professions, talents and skills. Though we are uniquely different individuals, like the founders of Soroptimist International 100 years ago, we are united in our desire to make a difference and face social issues and disparities head on. In our brief period of operation – just shy of 4 years – we have embarked upon many different projects focused on People, Planet and Peace that align with many different Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and diligently followed the example set out for us by our exceptional mentor, SI San Fernando. While we have enjoyed this journey every step of the way, we know that it is important to find our own voice and style – one that is uniquely SI Anaparima.
This year, without intentional deliberation on how to create our unique style, we stumbled upon a formula that is by no stretch new. In our planning, members started sharing ideas and goals that had personal meaning to them; battles they themselves had fought, environmental and social issues that move them, hopes and dreams for young girls that reflected opportunities missed by the women in that planning session. Very soon we had a buffet of potential projects that focused on education and advocacy of womens’ issues as well as projects that inspired and actioned change. As a group, we built our projects around the individual passions of our sisters and we allowed the bonds of sisterhood to motivate and propel us forward. The result – these projects created a wonderful space not only for serving others but also for learning from each other and growing together. The passion that came through the projects not only inspired us to create opportunities of great value that could be easily replicated, but many of our beneficiaries expressed the feeling of being genuinely seen and heard.
As women living in a world of inadequate resources, a dearth of information and broken systems, we were able to think back on our past, identify the gaps and shortcomings and create solutions so that others could thrive where we struggled. The spaces we were able to create were “safe” because we created them from a place of shared experiences.
This year, we will continue to strive to be “the women we needed as girls”. We are excited to find new opportunities to educate, empower and enable women and girls through passion and purpose.
Written by Ahhalia Ramdass