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Report on SIGBI Conference – 2018

I had the good fortune to attend the  annual SIGBI Conference this year-2018- which was held in Liverpool, Uk from the 25th-27th November 2018.This was the 84th Federation Conference and the theme chosen was “Empower today:Enable Tomorrow.”

The conference was held in the maritime city of Liverpool where the river Mersey meets the Irish Sea so it was quite windy and cold throughout.Liverpool as we all know is famous for being the city of the Beatles .The ship Titantic incidentally was also launched from here.

Attending an International Conference is always a very valuable learning experience since one suddenly zooms out of a city/state/nation environment into a truly global environment where there were women of all ages,sizes,attire but bound under one common umbrella which is Soroptimism.

The conference was attended by over 1098 delegates from 29 countries and across Federations.India was ably represented by 6 delegates. It was a proud moment for me to see Bhaswati Biswas at the Friendship Link Desk as well as our APD’s Naina Shah and Nisha Ghosh on the stage to present the Programme Projects for both Environmental Sustainability and Violence and Conflict Resolution. The icing on the cake was the good news of SI Madurai winning the Best Practice Award  under Environment Sustainability for their project on Water.  A Big hand to this club for their innovative projects which do India proud.

One of the important programmes that was discussed and voted was the next Federation Project for 2019-2021.As we know,the earlier Federation Project was the Meru Garden Project. 4 Projects were nominated and the winner was “Empowering Girls from Nepal.” This received the maximum votes from the delegates. We are really happy that our neighbouring country is getting the benefits from this SIGBI Project.

Many other projects from different clubs across the Federation were presented and it was interesting to see how the clubs were showcasing these projects and creating good branding around the same . There is much for us to learn from this.

We had some wonderful speakers too such as Emily Rose Yates who is an accessibility consultant and consults on how to make venuews/events accessibly to physically challenged delegates, Terry Waite-who is a former hostage,writer and lecturer , Dr Ann-Marie Wilson who is working in the area of female Genital Mutilation,Sir Ranulph Fiennes –adventurer and author and others. All of them were of course inspiring speakers but also give us insights about different aspects of life.

The General Body meeting is always a fascinating session to attend.We in India have much to learn from the ways these meetings are both conducted and the way the etiquette and discipline with which members respond . One really feels proud to see the way questions are both tabled and answered. Four resolutions were tabled and all voting delegates had an opportunity to cast their votes on behalf of their clubs. This is done electronically using voting machines given to each delegate and the voting response is immediately seen on the screen. The resolution for increase of the membership fee for our Band  was rejected and the same was the case for the increase in fees for the UK Clubs.President Susan Biggs however did mention that the final decision on this would be taken by the NASI Board and in the minutes of this meeting on the SIGBI website it is mentioned that this resolution has been carried.

While delivering her address to the General Body,the Federation President mentioned that one area she has found missing in many SI meetings has been the lack of respect and decorum while interacting with each other . She emphasized that unless we learn how to conduct ourselves in a professional manner and with courtesy,we fall short of being a true Soroptimist.

The Insignia Change Ceremony was also a formal and well conducted ceremony.It was a matter of pride for me to go on stage and be part of the incoming Presidents of various regions.The incoming President Sue Williams in her Presidential address talked about her theme “Think on IT” which focusses a lot on mental health which is a significant issue in the UK. She had a very nice suggestion for all SI Clubs as part of this theme: take up one event in a year to celebrate the well being of its members.Secondly,take up one event in a year to highlight mental health issues. I think these are very doable suggestions and all our clubs have work on it as part of their plan for the year.

So in a synopsis: the conference was a lot of learning,bonding,entertainment all in one package.   The arrangements were done impeccably –everything started and ended on time.Special arrangements were made for physically challenged delegates. It was inspiring to see the number of older women who attended the conference irrespective of their physical condition. Stewards were around to guide and provide support to delegates.There was an exhibition of projects and products from different clubs.

The next SIGBI Conference is in Bournemouth,UK in 2019 and I hope our sisters can attend. The next significant conference will be the centenary SIGBI Conference in 2034.  Do remember that also have the SI conference in Kuala Lampur from 19th-21st July 2019.

Anu Wakhlu

SI Poona and President Elect