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Wow – what an inspiring Region Conference and Celebration of Human Rights Day!

President Helen Byrne on ZoomThe Soroptimist International London Chilterns Region  Meeting/Conference & Celebration of UN Human Rights Day was held on Sat 12 Dec via Zoom.

Wow – what an inspiring way to spend a Saturday morning!

This was the first meeting with our new Regional President Helen Byrne’s theme for the year “Celebrate the Past, Create the Future” – and it met the brief perfectly!

We welcomed two speakers: Kimberley Lamb, Head of  Bedfordshire Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit and Johanna Raffan MBE Soroptimist International Great Britain and Ireland President for 2020-2021. Scroll down to read about Kimberley and Johanna’s presentations and a short biography of each of them.

58 Soroptimists attended, not only from around the London Chilterns Region but also from Sheffield, Selby, Croydon, St Austell and as far away as Norway too! The wonders of technology and being part of a global organisation….

Kimberley Lamb presentation on ZoomKimberley Lamb kicked off the morning. She was introduced by Sharn Basra, Assistant Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police who can’t sing her praises highly enough. Kimberley outlined the challenges for Bedfordshire’s Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit, her innovative vision for the service and and the successful work it undertakes. Click on this link to view Kimberley’s presentation Kimberley Lamb – 12th December 2020 and click on this link to read the report of Kimberley’s speech Kimberley Lamb – HR Day 2020 report Kimberley is a remarkable woman and many people in attendance are already looking at ways they can move forward in support of Kimberley’s vision to end violence and exploitation in our communities.

Feedback about Kimberley and her presentation from the Zoom chat:

What an amazing person and a true role model to every woman and girl.


A tour-de-force. Fantastic.

so so relevant to us,

phenomenal speaker and role model

absolutely amazing

so powerful, inspirational and fantastic role model

Human Rights Day Candles

We also celebrated the United Nations Human Rights Day  On 10 Dec 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): a milestone document proclaiming the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

The theme for Human Rights Day 2020 is Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights

Our Region has traditionally lit candles to celebrate Human Rights Day – and this year was no exception – even on Zoom!

The candles were lit by the Region’s Immediate Past President Denise Powell (pictured above with the candles).

The first candle was to celebrate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. President Helen Byrne read the UN High Commissioner’s message.

The second candle was to celebrate the work of Women across the World towards the achievement of Human Rights for all. Doltice Grey, President SI Greater London delivered a Black Lives Matter reading .

The third candle was lit to celebrate the work of Soroptimists across SIGBI.  Federation President 2020-21 Johanna Raffan MBE spoke of the Centenary of Soroptimist International in 2021.

The final, fourth, candle was to celebrate the work of Soroptimists across the world. Hilary Ratcliffe OBE, SI Programme Director 2011-15 delivered words of Eleanor Roosevelt, Chairperson of the Drafting Committee of the Universal Declaration.

The script for all of the readings is here:  UN HR Day Candle Lighting Readings

President Helen Byrne then encouraged Clubs to support the SI Centenary & Regional Project #PlantTrees for a Brilliant Future click on this link to find out more

Before our coffee break we watched the first 3 min of a brilliant poetry and music performance on video (click the YouTube link below to view) which eloquently reminded us why if we are to Recover Better we need sustainable development for people AND the planet. The video is taken from Intrinsic : a poetry and music performance by Climbing Poe Tree

Johanna Raffan PresentationSIGBI President Johanna Raffan MBE spoke to us about Human Rights and the UN Sustainable Development Goals,  her year and the Soroptimist International Centenary which will be celebrated in 2021. Click below to view Johanna’s presentation. She gave us a great example of how we can “believe to achieve” – her theme for the year, Johanna Raffan Human Rights Day Presentation  Johanna gave of her time generously and answered many questions. She recommended that we all read a book by Eleanor Roosevelt “You Learn by Living”. She said “when women thrive everyone benefits”. Johanna encouraged us to visit the SIGBI centenary website and the new SIGBI online shop To read the full script of Johanna’s presentation please click here Johanna Raffan HR Day Presentation Script

Molly Robinson SIGL on Zoom
Lastly we heard from 5 Clubs in the Region about recent projects they are most proud of. This is always a really popular part of our Region’s meetings when Clubs can share ideas with one another.
Jo Swift from SI Aylesbury told us about the vouchers they give to the women’s refuge so that when residents leave they can buy what they need for their new homes.
Rita Beaumont from SI Bedford told us about the Housing Association that they have managed for many years, providing safe accommodation for women with limited incomes.
Molly Robinson from SI Greater London (pictured above) told us about their representing SIGBI on the UK Centenary Action Group. The Centenary Action Group was established by Helen Pankhurst in 2018 to mark the centenary of some women first getting the right to vote and take action over the next ten years to ensure equal representation by 2028, the centenary when all women in the UK won the right to vote.
Barbara Diamant from SI Central and South West London told us about their Club’s support for a local foodbank and trees for cities. They are also looking to engage with a women’s refuge.
Sally Radford from SI Slough Windsor and Maidenhead informed us about a legacy from former Member Pam Robotham, a solicitor, who died 3 years ago. Pam’s legacy is sponsoring a female student in Nepal, enabling her to study law at University.

President Helen summed up the meeting and gave us these closing thoughts: ‘Thank you everyone who has taken part in this Meeting and you all for attending. I hope like me you go away inspired both by Kimberley and the work of her unit and by Johanna – there is much to be done but I feel invigorated by the challenge they offer us. I also love our Human Rights Day celebration and in this strange and uncertain time it is good to have something familiar and relevant to help us start our build up to the Christmas season.. I can confirm that our Next Meeting will be on Zoom. It is our Celebration of International Women’s Day on Sat 13th March 2021. I look forward to seeing you then and in the meantime may I wish you and your families a safe and peaceful holiday season.’

Helen was also able to tell us that the event had raised almost £400 for the SIGBI Diamond Education Fund. President Johanna said she was thrilled because this was in support of her call to Clubs and Regions to donate £100 for this year, the 100th anniversary of Soroptimist International. Click here to find out more about the Federation’s charity If you want to make a donation please email us on and we can provide payment details.

An item of business to share:  the United Nations they are undertaking a consultation #UN75 which includes a short survey on UN priorities for the next 25 years which individuals can take part in. As, according to Amnesty International, countries like China are trying to change the UN’s priorities in ways with which we may not agree. It only takes about 10 mins to take part – #UN75 2020 and beyond

Feedback about the day from the Zoom chat:

so proud that Johanna is from our Region – lovely speech – thanks!

Brilliant speakers and excellent presentation.

Thank you to all the organisers. Well-done! Advance Merry Christmas everyone. 

Lovely to have guests from around our Federation and Norway too!

Merry Christmas everyone – and here’s to a hopeful 2021!

Kimberley Lamb, Head of Bedfordshire’s Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU)

Kimberley Lamb brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise to her role as Head of Bedfordshire VERU. She has an amazing personal story and  having started out in financial and legal firms has worked across the public sector, social enterprises and community projects doing innovative work especially with young people. Kimberley moved to the Signpost Victims Hub, where she led Bedfordshire Police’s work around victim services and early intervention and has also played a leading role in the county’s stop and search scrutiny panel. Kimberley leads a unit which is unique in the Country  – a real rather than a virtual unit and one which covers Exploitation as well as Violence.

Johanna Raffan MBE, SIGBI President 2020-21

Johanna became the President of our Federation, Soroptimist International Great Britain and Ireland, in October having been a Soroptimist for over thirty years and an active member of SI Thames Valley where she is heavily involved in the Club’s Kori project including being Chair of Trustees. 

Johanna worked for 34 years in education, 25 of them as a Head Teacher. During this time she developed a passion for educating  the very able and was a founding member of the National Association for Able Children in Education (NACE) in 1983 , subsequently being its President and a Founding Director. This work has taken her to more than 30 countries advising teachers on how to recognise and support able pupils and on to provide advice and guidance to 4 countries on policy and strategy. For this amazing contribution Johanna received an MBE for services to Education in 2013.

The theme for SIGBI 2020/21 is We Stand Up for Women! Believe to Achieve – and it uses the purple and gold colours for the Soroptimist International Centenary 2021.