Being a younger member as I am regularly referred, I am often asked “Why are you a Soroptimist?”. It seemed fitting to answer this question as part of SIGBI’s membership month of May. The truth is, there isn’t one simple answer. It was a gradual affair, peaked through my own interest on meeting such an incredible group of women.
It started when SI Bristol invited my place of work, a female only offenders day service to a conference on Reducing Women’s Imprisonment. I expected to turn up with a stand, hand out some leaflets and be on my merry way. I found I was inspired by these women, putting themselves forward to make the voices of female offenders heard. They were all so organised and passionate about their cause I found myself surprised that I had never heard of them and my first thought was what a interesting name! On that evening one SI Bristol member had a quiet word in my ear, handed me a leaflet and invited me to a meeting. What have I got to lose I thought!?
With no expectations I went to my first supper meeting and I saw over 30 smiling faces looking back at me. I had truly never felt so welcome. Not only had SI Bristol assigned someone to help me on the evening, it seemed that everyone knew my name or where I worked and were genuinely interested in making me feel part of something. This feeling of being part of something has never gone away. Don’t get me wrong, it’s taken me time to get my head around being a Soroptimist and what everything means, but this has only served to inspire me more.
Every single Soroptimist I have met has been patient and understanding that I may have lots of questions or get things wrong. I have never felt under pressure to be involved, nothing is ever expected or assumed. I have learnt about myself and what my passions are, particularly when I started to realise the history within Soroptimism. I am a huge fan of the vintage scene and in 2015 SI Bristol held their 95th birthday celebrations and I had a lovely surprise. We were presented with a booklet that showed all the names of the women that had been former Presidents of the SI Bristol Club. I found myself researching these incredible women that had come before me as Soroptimists and I immediately felt that I had a duty to continue their legacy of inspiring action.
From being involved in Programme Action, where through both annual and regular projects we can genuinely make a difference locally and globally, to learning from inspiring individuals through our fortnightly speaker meetings I can now confidently say that I get what Soroptimism is about (and explain it to other people!). I have been a Soroptimist for just over 2 years and I really feel that I am just at the start of my Soroptimist journey. I am keen to recruit more younger members and the existing members of SI Bristol are right behind me in this quest. SI Bristol already do an incredible job and if things stayed the same I would be just as happy, but equally I want other younger members to feel what I feel, true friendship, a legacy to be proud of and part of an incredible group of women who actively make a difference for women and girls. This year I have put myself forward to be joint chair of Programme Action. Working directly with my fellow Soroptimists who share the same goal that women across the world have a right to be educated, empowered and enabled, means that I am in it for the long haul and this younger member couldn’t be happier about it.
In Friendship, Gemma Green
If you would like to find out more about being a Soroptimist, please go to our Contact Us page and send us a message, we would love to welcome you to one of our meetings.