Special Guests Biographies

Messages from Special Guests

Soroptimist International President Mariet Verhoef-Cohen

Dear Soroptimists of Great Britain and Ireland, as one of my first events after assuming the office of SI President, it will be a pleasure and an honour to attend SIGBI’s 83rd Annual Federation Conference in Cardiff and to meet as many members of your Federation as possible! The Conference theme, “Step Up, Lead the Way”, is highly appropriate as both an appeal and an inspiration – also for Soroptimist International, as we explore paths to secure the future of our organisation. After all, we have important challenges in our role as a “global voice for women”! Working together, Soroptimists throughout the world can lead the way to achieving gender equality. As women in business and professions we know that empowering women and girls with more choices and greater freedom is crucial to ensuring a better future. Let us use our influence to lead the way to a world free from poverty and with human rights for all, with no abuse and where women are treated with respect and dignity. In this spirit I look forward to seeing you in Cardiff!


Soroptimist International President Europe President Renata Trottmann Probst

I am very honoured and excited to attend the SIGBI Cardiff Conference 2017. The conference theme is perfectly timed for me because in fact, it is my turn to ‘Step Up and Lead the Way’ of Soroptimist International of Europe! And I am equally committed to growing our organisation and securing the future as a worldwide network of and for women.

In the face of growing pressure on our lifestyle and challenges to our values, I have chosen to focus on protecting and advancing women’s rights in my biennium. Trafficking, FGM, domestic violence, stalking, child and forced marriages are all very real threats which need to be addressed. We have to be vigilant about injustices and infringements of women’s rights. For all the importance of cultural tolerance and respect for other beliefs, we must and will defend our freedoms. And this is why my slogan for the next two years is ‘We Stand Up for Women’!

And when I say that Soroptimists will stand up for women, I mean we will work to defend all violations, not only violations in the physical sense, but also the violations of basic human rights for women, such as the right to education, the right to equal pay, the right to equal access to justice, or simply the right to express ourselves! This theme is also perfectly in line with SI’s ‘Where We Stand Statement’ on ‘gender-based violence’, published earlier this year.

I am passionate about women’s rights and hope to motivate Soroptimists in our European Federation to be a powerful force for these causes. As we look to the future of our organisation, I am convinced that we can reach a younger demographic with these initiatives.

Thank you, SIGBI President Ann, for the invitation to attend your Conference and for the opportunity to be inspired by the excellent work of your Federation. I look forward very much to meeting many ‘old’ and new friends in the beautiful city of Cardiff!

Soroptimist International President of the Americas Dawn Marie Lemonds

Dear SIGBI Sisters of the heart Friends past and future. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be invited to be a part of your Conference in Wales this year. Some of my greatest memories have been sharing time with you at SIGBI events- small and large and I know that I am ready to STEP UP and get yet another opportunity for that treasured experience!

When I think of SIGBI events I hold in equal measure the opportunity to LEARN about cutting edge information and wonderful programmes that your clubs undertake, watch amazing LEADERSHIP in action as you demonstrate that Soroptimists in SIGBI lead every aspect of their activities, and PLAY enthusiastically and freely with people who know how to celebrate! I look forward to every minute with you as you show, once again, how SIGBI Soroptimists Step Up and Lead the Way.

I can’t wait to meet and share with you,

About our Special Guests

Soroptimist International President Mariet Verhoef-Cohen

I became a member of Soroptimist International in 1996. After holding several offices in my club, I started my ‘career’ in the organisation as President of the Union of the Netherlands, Suriname and the Antilles from 2002-2004. Shortly after this I was elected President of the Soroptimist International of Europe (SIE) 2007-2009. My biennium theme was ‘Soroptimists Go for Water’, and my presidency culminated in the SIE Congress on this water theme in Amsterdam. I continued on the SIE Board as Liaison Africa, which involved helping the fledgling SI Future African Federation. I am currently President of Women for Water Partnership, whose mission is to position women as active leaders, experts, partners and agents of change to realise access to safe water for all – including gender responsive sanitation – for all uses. As you can see, this goes hand in hand with the Soroptimist vision.

During these years I have travelled extensively and visited many Soroptimist projects and the different SI Federations. I also attended the CSW and other sessions at the UN more than once and actively participated in four World Water Forums as an official representative. I have also had the honour to be a panellist or speaker at several high-level sessions and conferences, including at the Stockholm Water Week. In my capacity as President of Women for Water Partnership (WfWP), I was invited by the Dutch government to take part in the economic and water mission to South Africa as the only NGO. Wherever I go, I always try to involve local or national Soroptimists to help achieve our goals.

As you may have gathered, my passions all these years have been women (gender equality) and water. These two interlinked causes have always run like a thread throughout my adult
life. Soroptimists are striving for a world where women and girls together achieve their individual and collective potential, realise aspirations and where women are seen as equal. SI is committed to creating opportunities to transform the lives of women and girls through the SI theme Educate, Empower and Enable. I am completely dedicated to this mission and pledge my support, whether it be to grass-root issues involving women or to the highest levels of the UN, where SI is well represented. I will continue to work untiringly to make this world a better and more equal place for all women and girls.

Soroptimist International President Europe President Renata Trottmann Probst

Renata is a lawyer and member of SI Zug, Switzerland since 1995,

Since 2008 she has been running her own real estate and legal consulting company, working in Switzerland and abroad.

Renata has over 20 years of professional experience working in international banks, including 10 years at UBS AG in Zurich. At UBS, Renata held various executive positions, including serving as Head of the Management Office of Global Private Banking. Prior to this, Renata was in charge of Human Resources for Continental Europe at the Investment Banking Division of UBS. Before joining UBS, she worked for a smaller bank where she was responsible for all non-banking transaction areas of the business, such as Legal, Human Resources, and Office Management.

Renata holds a Master’s degree in Law from Bern University, Switzerland, and a Master of Laws from the Institute of Comparative Law at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. She further developed her leadership and management skills through Senior Executive Programmes at Columbia University in New York and Steinbeis University in Berlin.

Renata is Soroptimist International of Europe’s President Elect for the 2015-2017 biennium. As such, Renata is responsible for supporting the President of SIE and for overseeing the development of two Strategic Goals, Programme and Advocacy. She also acts as Chair of the Peace Prize committee. As President Elect of SIE, Renata is also a voting member of Soroptimist International.

Soroptimist International President of the Americas Dawn Marie Lemonds

Dawn Marie Lemonds is a native Californian and lives in Tustin. Dawn holds a Masters of Science Degree in Special Education. She worked for the Department of Developmental Services for the State of California for 41 years in a multitude of capacities- being first attracted to the field because of her personal experience of having family members with disabilities.

In Dawn’s personal life she is very involved in the international service organization, Soroptimist International. Dawn Marie served as Governor of Desert Coast Region in 1994-1996 and since then has served Soroptimist International of the Americas as a Board member, was the Soroptimist International Coordinator for Human Rights and Status of Women, was the International Project Liaison for Project Independence: Women Survivors of War. In 2007-2011 Dawn Marie undertook her most challenging assignment for Soroptimist International serving as the International Programme Director for Soroptimist International. Since retiring Dawn Marie has continued her work with Soroptimists and September 1, 2017 will serve as President of Soroptimist International of the Americas. Dawn Marie has continued her work with fighting Human Slavery helping start and chair the Aldersgate Abolitionists at her United Methodist Church in Tustin, and serving on the the Advisory Board for the Global Center for Women and Justice. Inspiring others to join social justice causes particularly for women and girls with tangible opportunities to help is Dawn Marie’s greatest joy.