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Mind Expanding Region Conference and Human Rights Day Celebration

What a mind expanding morning forty of us had when we attended the Soroptimist International London Chilterns Region Conference and Human Rights Day Celebration on Sat 11 Dec on Zoom.

The images above are of our attendees raising a hand to say “violence against women – stop it now!”

All of the presentation materials are in this blog, and hopefully we have captured some of the spirit of the event. Please have a browse and share with others who were unable to attend.

We celebrated the United Nations Human Rights Day in our traditional way with readings and the lighting of candles. Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December — the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR is a milestone document that proclaims the inalienable rights which everyone is 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.

UN Human Rights Day Theme 2021:  EQUALITY: Reducing Inequalities, Advancing Human Rights  

Pam Robertson led the whole event – Pam is one of the Region’s Officers sharing the Presidency this year. Her script is here: SILC Script for SILCR Human Rights Day December 2021

We heard four readings, all perfectly on message, for Soroptimists on Human Rights Day. After each reading a candle was lit. Click on the links to download the texts of the readings.

Remembering the Plight of Women & Children across the World HR reading Afghanistan girls HR reading Afghanistan Tutor Read by Molly Byrne Robinson & Jonaki Ahtek, Members of SI Greater London.

Celebrating the Contribution  of Women in our Communities  across the World SILC Wendi Momen COP26 IEF panel – Climate Change – Women and Girls  Read by Sue Payne, Member of SI Milton Keynes

Celebrating the Contribution made by Soroptimists in our Local Communities SILC Reading Soroptimists acting locally Read by Joan Howe, Member of SI Bedford

Recognising the Work of Elders fighting for  Human Rights Across the World SILC HRD reading The Elders Read by Sarah Darby, Member of SI Oxford & District

Speaker: Linda Shall Carbon Literacy Trainer & Member of SI St Albans & District. Linda spoke in no uncertain terms about how Climate Change is negatively impacting human rights please click here to download Linda’s presentation – SILC Climate Change and Human Rights

During Linda’s presentation she showed us two excellent short videos which are well worth sharing – the first is on Human Rights & Climate Change a graphical explanation by

The second video Linda showed us is a poignant and moving poem called ‘It seems’ by Niamh McNally who reads the poem with wonderful visuals to bring to life the points raised

Tributes were made to SILC Hr Day tribute to Jill Hackett and SILC Tribute Anne Lines, who, sadly, have passed away since we last met in October. Both of these women were active Soroptimists, contributing greatly to their Clubs and to the Region – they will be sorely missed.

Immediate Past President Helen Byrne introduced Caitie Holden whom we sponsored to attend the Soroptimist International Great Britain and Ireland online Federation Conference in October. SI Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead Club met Caitie through the Girls’ Policy Forum. The great news is that Caitie now plans to become a young Soroptimist Member of that Club. Caitie shared her thoughts and impressions of the Conference – click here to read her really positive report SILC Caitie Holden’s Report Dec 2021

Keynote Speaker: Dr Sham Qayyum, Kings College London (scroll down to read his biography).  Sham spoke to us about  Intersectional Diversity – you can download his presentation here SILC Dr Sham Qayyum – Intersectional Diversity 11.12.21 Dr Sham was able to distil a lot of complex information that we are probably aware of and make it suitable for consumption by non-academicians – a real skill! The presentation does not convey how much we were able to glean from his wise words. He started by asking us how we describe ourselves – what does being British mean? white British? Asian British? African British? Muslim British? etc This is important because it informs our conduct and our own underlying value systems. Nationalism has an ugly side and the UN Declaration of Human Rights was issued and signed after World War II in the hope that genocide would never be allowed to be actioned in our world again. Religious and ethnic communities have long histories of values. We need to celebrate the differences and diversity so we can all live better together. Who decides what our “shared values” should be? In the UK we have been through government policies on assimilation, integration, multi-culturalism and now the terminology in use is “cultural cohesion”. Dr Sham got us to think about Cultural Intelligence, or CQ – there is a good slide about it in his presentation. This is to help us think about how to live better together, identifying who we are and to better connect with others. As Soroptimists we need to look carefully at the new “Bill of Rights” going through Parliament – will it dilute Human Rights? We have the Equalities Act of 2010 – which is an attempt to remove hurdles in our still patriarchal society. We need to agree to disagree with open dialogue – Dr Sham warns us to beware the dangers of silencing people. He finished by taking us through a case study – Case study: R (Begum) v Governors of Denbigh High School (2006) UKHL 15 – there is a slide in the presentation. Shabina Begum believed she was required to wear the jilbab as prescribed by religious canon (shariah) but this was against school uniform policy. The final piece of the puzzle was that other girls complained to the school that if Shabina wore the jilbab to school then they may be forced to do the same by their families. The ruling by Lady Hale who was then President of the Supreme Court was that, although it was the girl’s human right to wear the jilbab, she needed to deny it in order to protect the freedom and rights of others (also inalienable in Human Rights law).

We are grateful to Kate Belinis, President of SI Hertford and District, for introducing us to Dr Sham Qayyum. Sham is an active and valuable Trustee and contributor to the Herts Equality Council, which Kate Chairs.

What a mind expanding way to spend a Saturday morning! We had some brilliant feedback from all of those who attended. In addition we were joined by Brenda Lowe – Divisional President of Inner Wheel for Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire with a view to some partnership working in the future. One of our guests lives in Hull – she received an Eventbrite notification giving her information of forthcoming events that might interest her – so she booked, and is now planning to join a Club in her area. Great news!

At the close of the meeting everyone wished one another season’s greetings and a happy, peaceful and healthy 2022.

Don’t miss the next Region Conference:  5 March 10am -1pm on Zoom – Celebration of International Women’s Day

Opening Doors to a Bright FutureThe event was free but when people booked they were given the opportunity to make an optional donation to the  2021/2023 International Presidents Appeal “Opening Doors to a Bright Future: Changing Lives Through Education”  If anyone would like to make a donation please contact the Region.

Speaker Information

Dr Sham QayyumDr Sham Qayyum will talk on ‘Inter- sectional Diversity’. Now of Kings College, London, Sham is a multi-award winning legal academic whose expertise includes race, religion, ethnicity and the law. In 2014, in recognition of his activities to improve quality and social justice,he received an outstanding scholar award from the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. In the following year he was appointed as a Winfield fellow by the US Embassy. In 2016, he received an award from the Community Leadership foundation, recognising his services to community leadership. In addition, Sham has over a decade of experience providing capacity building support, equality reviews and equality and diversity training.

We are delighted to welcome back Linda Shall who, following her succinct and informative explanation of COP26 at our October meeting, will explore the “Link between Human Rights and Climate Change”. To read about Linda’s presentation at our October meeting please click Linda Shall (pictured here in action at a Soroptimist Conference) is a Regional Executive Member and Carbon Literacy Trainer.


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