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SI President Maureen Maguire

Climate for Change - 27th to 29th October 2022

Blog by Ahhalia Ramdass, SI Anaparima

“And though she is little, she is fierce” – Shakespeare

During the introduction of our esteemed Soroptimist International President, Maureen Maguire, this quote was met with claps, cheers and laughter. Being a first-time attendee at a SIBGI conference, it was my first opportunity to experience President Maureen firsthand, having only ever heard stories and anecdotes from those who had met and interacted with her before.

Taking her all in, I must say that I understood it’s use and the wonderful reaction it inspired. President Maureen walked with purpose and took her place with confidence. Her voice rang out with clarity as she addressed her Soroptimist sisters both old and new, with passion, urgency and hope.

As she began, she took the time to speak about an overarching aim of making Soroptimist International and making the work that we continue to do, relevant to our members. She shared the importance of engaging the youth, making SI relevant to the younger generations because she firmly believed that “we must work with all generations to ensure that no one is left behind”.

She noted that as we continue to work toward ensuring gender equality, human rights, peace and equality, we should work together. She shared her belief that we are stronger when working together and when our goals align. She emphasized that “collective action” would elicit “bigger and better” impact.

President Maureen also took the time to highlight where we are in the fight for gender equality. Using her words and impactful videos, she painted the picture of our present. While we as Soroptimist continue to find ways to fulfill our mission, the impact of Covid-19, violent conflict, the roll back in reproductive rights and the criminalization of choice continue to undermine our efforts and those of other stakeholders with shared goals.

She shared that “we” (women and girls) were under attack. She encouraged all present to continue working on behalf of the women and girls using accurate and up to date data. She urged all to be inclusive and resilient” in our efforts and underscored the importance of education and advocacy. She took the time to direct all present to the 29 position papers available on the SI website and encouraged clubs to use them in their advocacy.

Her dedication to education and equipping Soroptimists with the right tools were evident in her invitation to reach out to her and her team to share not only concerns but our interests for further development opportunities.

As I sat there, utterly engaged, thinking about the ways we as Soroptimists can evolve and grow to overcome the new challenges we face, the battle cry, “now is the climate for change” resonated within me.

The numbers 286, 140 and 40 leapt off the screen and stung me as I released that these were the numbers of years that women are currently set back when thinking about having basic rights for women, equality and equal representation. The number 511 million seemed to slap me as I thought of that number of women and girls living in conflict zones, without resources and without opportunities.

Hearing it verbalized that with every additional year of education, a woman can potentially earn 20% more forced me to think of the women and girls deprived of continued education or any education at all.

As I sat there mulling over the these and other equally troubling statistics, I was grateful to be a Soroptimist with the opportunity to make a difference. I was happy that our President is impassioned about education as a vehicle for change. I was invested in the way forward and hopeful that we as Soroptimist could start to tackle the inequalities in education through “Opening Doors to a Brighter Future”.

With initiatives such as the Cambodian Community Dream Organization, Rose Academies and World Vision Georgia as well as the potential for projects in the Caribbean region in the coming year, I believe that as Soroptimists we can make a difference. President Maureen’s address highlighted that the work we do, the difference it makes to one woman or one family can have ripple effects to one community, one country, one region and eventually the world.

Today I was proud to be a Soroptimist.

Today I was inspired to continue the work no matter the challenges.

Today I encourage you all to join with us in whatever big or small way to make a difference in the lives of the millions women and girls who await the opportunities to thrive.

Just as our fearless President was fondly described as “little but fierce”, as an organization and stakeholders in the fight for gender equality, do not be daunted by our numbers, be bold and inspired.

It’s time to act.