It is a global organisation which has sought to improve the lives of women and girls throughout the world for almost 100 years.
And education has always been a key driver behind the work of Soroptimist International (SI), which was founded in 1921 in Oakland, California, and began life in the UK later the same year.
Advocating human rights and gender equality are at the heart of SI’s work across eight United Nations centres, within which representatives ensure female voices are heard and grassroots projects are supported to help people achieve their individual and collective potential, realise aspirations and have an equal voice in communities.
SI consists of four federations – which is shortly to become five with the formation of the African Federation.
Locally, SI Crieff is a member of SI of Great Britain and Ireland (SIGBI), a group which also includes many Commonwealth countries.
The organisation’s motto is ‘Educate, Empower, Enable’ and the name Soroptimist comes from ‘soror’, Latin for ‘sister’, and‘ optima’, meaning ‘best’.
SI Crieff member Len Schofield explained: “Worldwide SI has over 72,000 members in 121 countries and SIGBI has 7000 members in 29 countries.
“SI Crieff was founded in 1958 and a charter dinner was held in the local George Hotel.
“Members of both Dundee and Perth – Crieff ’s ‘grandmother’ and ‘mother’ clubs, respectively – attended and there are interesting photos of the occasion held in the archives showing how rather more formal things were 60- plus years ago.”
Len continued: “Thankfully things have changed! At the moment there are over 20 members and we would love to welcome more. There is regular contact with members at regional, national and international level.
“Club members usually meet twice a month, in the evenings of the first and third Thursdays of the month, from September ‘til June, in Strathearn Community Campus.
“Generally there is a speaker once a month, if possible to talk on a subject connected to the club’s theme for the year, and visitors are always welcome to come along. The other meetings are usually for club business.
“Hopefully the current situation will improve very soon and allow us to all get together again.”
Members also volunteer in the community. Currently, some members are sewing masks, helping with the local foodbank and delivering shopping and prescriptions.
And Crieff Soroptimists hold a variety of fundraising and inspirational events throughout the year.
Len went on: “Before lockdown, our most recent event in March was held in Strathearn Arts to celebrate International Women’s Day, which was a great success as so many friends and guests joined members for a thoroughly enjoyable evening of entertainment with music and comedy, along with a talk by the head teacher from Muthill Primary who spoke about the school’s twin school in Africa while we all enjoyed wine and finger food which the local Co-op very kindly sponsored through their community fund.
“Local businesses are extremely supportive of the club and its activities throughout the year.
“Various fundraising events are held in aid of the club’s chosen charities for the year so members may for instance be spotted bag-packing or doing a beach/river clean.
“Some members also become involved in lobbying for women’s and girls’ rights or even climate change.
“There is no shortage of ways to be a Soroptimist!
“Interestingly, one of the very first projects SI in California undertook was to help the legislature to save the giant Redwood trees which were being unmercifully cut down and a good number of these trees still stand.
“As part of the forthcoming centenary celebrations of Soroptimism, Scottish Soroptimists are to be planting trees in this country to mark 100 years of service to local, national and international communities.
“However, much of the time is spent having fun – and members know how to enjoy themselves, on theatre trips, visitstoplacesofinterest,meals out,partiesandquizzes.”
Heather on 07796 031510 or visit https://sigbi.org/crieff