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Dame Vera Baird Speaker and New President at the AGM

On a wet day in London it was a relief to be out of the rain and in the company of inspirational women for the SI London Chilterns Region Annual General Meeting with special guest speakers Dame Vera Baird (National Victims Commissioner, Member of SI Newcastle and formerly Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria) and Dr Kay Richmond (Soroptimist International Great Britain and Ireland Programme Director

Dame Vera Baird started by giving us some background on domestic abuse – with its history of the crime being treated as a “private matter” by police and the whole criminal justice system. The presentation is available to download here SDVC Presentation – SILC Soroptimists 10.2019 In 2018 she was the force behind a report “Specialist Domestic Violence Courts – How special are they?” – you can download the report by clicking on the link. The report provided evidence for improvements which are included in the UK government’s proposed new Domestic Abuse Bill, to make sure that measures which already exist are working properly. Volunteer court observers, mainly from the North of England Soroptimists and trained by CPS and the Courts Service, observed 223 cases between July and November 2017. They found a significant number of gaps in the system but that if both funding and training were improved SDVCs would work as was originally intended. The report showed that defendants are “gaming the system” in specialist domestic violence courts by intimidating partners into not appearing in the expectation that magistrates will drop charges. It suggests those in which the complainant does not appear are dismissed too readily and that criminal justice services are under-resourced. The defendants, almost all men, continued to exert coercive control over their victims through the mechanism of the courts system. The results of the report made the news and you will find newspaper stories like this about it  The proposal, made by Dame Vera, to the SI London Chilterns Region, is for all Soroptimist Regions to do similar pieces of work to feed into the work of the National Victims Commission. Dame Vera Baird is pictured here being presented with a gift of thanks by Pauline Panter (l) and Pam Robertson (r) who invited and introduced Dame Vera to our conference.

Our speaker after a delicious lunch where we “mixed and mingled” was Dr Kay Richmond, who was introduced by our Chair for the afternoon Rita Beaumont (Kay is pictured here on Rita’s right). Kay is a SIGBI Board Member and presented “The Way Forward” for Soroptimists – she explained the new structure for the SIGBI Federation Management Board which will voted on by Clubs at the General Meeting in Bournemouth in October. The Goal for the way forward for our Programme work is GENDER EQUALITY BY 2030 and it has been set by the United Nations – Planet 50:50 by 2030  this work goes back to the Beijing Platform for Action in 1995. Kay also explained the new Sustainable Development Goals, how they link to our Programme work and how much better they are than the previous Millennium Development Goals because SDGs apply to all countries and not just developing countries. Kay explained that when the new Programme Database is launched in Bournemouth we will all need to familiarise ourselves with a new way of reporting our Programme work and Projects using the Soroptimist Alphabet from the current emphasis on the 3E’s (Educate, Empower, Enable) to the future UN vision of the 5Ps (People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, Partnerships), which will contribute towards the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Clubs will be be receiving information and guidance soon.

Johanna Raffan (pictured here), SIGBI Vice-President and Member of SI Thames Valley in our Region spoke earlier in the day about the Soroptimist Centenary in 2021 – and encouraged us all to take a look at the website – Clubs and Regions will all be asked to create a page for their website with their own Region and Club history so that it can be linked to the rich history that is being show-cased on the Centenary website –

Johanna Raffan is also the Chair of the next Soroptimist International Convention which will be held in Dublin  27-29 July 2023. She showed us a couple of videos to whet our appetities – with this quadrennial event just a short journey away for Members of this Region it is a wonderful opportunity to be a part of what promises to be a once in a life-time experience. Put the date in your diaries now! Follow on Facebook and Twitter @sidublin2023 and visit the website to register your interest

The AGM business was conducted efficiently earlier in the meeting and notes are circulated directly to Clubs. We also watched the excellent video from SIGBI UK Programme Action Committee which you can watch by clicking on the UKPAC website or this YouTube link

The last joyful thing on the agenda was to wrap up the year just past and install Denise Powell as our Region’s new President (see pic when Rita Beaumont hands the chain of office over to Denise). This will also happen more formally at the end of the Bournemouth Conference  on 26 Oct. Denise’s introductory speech is summarised on this website


In 2018-19 SI London Chilterns had a rainbow” year with the role of President shared by all Members of the Region’s Executive Team (see pic which includes most of the rainbow team). We were fortunate to have a strong group of Officers to support the Clubs in the Region. International Women’s Day was a highlight of the last year with the Region and almost all of the Clubs doing something to mark the event and raise the profile of Soroptimists. The four Region Meetings have been mini-conferences with motivational speakers to inspire all delegates – news items about all of the events are in  Region News on this website.