The Soroptimist International London Chilterns Region Conference and Celebration of International Women’s Day on 5 March was exhausting it was so inspiring! We had two speakers, Dr Sue Hills from the Alice Ruggles Trust on stalking and Kate O’Brien from Kinship on kinship carers – both really relevant for IWD and delivered brilliantly. We also heard from the Region’s Officers and Clubs and highlighted inspirational women to celebrate the day. The agenda can be downloaded here Agenda IWD 5th March 2022
These two photos were taken at the end of the meeting with attendees making the sign for #BreakTheBias for #IWD22
The meeting began with the Region’s Immediate Past President Helen Byrne in the chair. After a warm welcome to almost 50 people on the Zoom call and the Soroptimist Vision and Mission being shared by Jo Swift from Aylesbury, Helen was then able to introduce our first speaker – Dr Sue Hills co-founder of the Alice Ruggles Trust www.alicerugglestrust.org. Dr Sue Hill‘s daughter Alice was stalked and murdered by her ex-partner in 2016. Sue is pictured here with her beautiful daughter Alice in happier times. Sue spoke about Coercive Control and Stalking, the fantastic work of the Trust and what can and should be being done to support victims and eliminate stalking. Please click here for Sue’s presentation Alice Ruggles Trust – Soroptimists IWD Mar 2022 . Of course Sue told us far more than can be conveyed by her slides – she spoke calmly and eloquently from the heart and we heard the tragic story of a mother’s loss. Sue gave us lots of statistics which are in the slides e.g. 1/5 women are stalked and 1/10 men, 90% of perpetrators are men, conviction rates are very low and the crime has a serious negative impact of victims’ lives. A startling fact is that 94% of homicide victims have been stalked. Everyone who attended wanted to know what they can do to get stalking taken much more seriously by the criminal justice system, preventing more deaths and harm, as a legacy to Alice. Our audience, as always asked great questions which Sue fielded brilliantly.
WHAT TO DO: If you are being stalked, or think you may be being stalked, or you are worried about someone’s obsessive or controlling behaviour, first and foremost, call 101 to contact the police (or, in an emergency, 999). Stalking is a crime: every force has specialists who can advise you and take appropriate action if needed. For more information see the website www.alicerugglestrust.org/aware
There are lots of resources on the website www.alicerugglestrust.org including this excellent video www.alicerugglestrust.org/storage/app/media/Downloads/Alice_Ruggles_Trust_Stalking_Video-SD360p.mp4
There was then a short session to cover the Region’s business, including finance, and the latest on the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine – information from which will be circulated to Clubs. After this we had a break.
Pam Robertson introduced Programme Action Highlights and asked Louise Marron from SI St Albans and District to talk about the Orange the World Campaign that she had spear-headed for the Club. Please click here to watch the 9 minute video about the campaign www.youtube.com/watch?v=5g6Uhoy7PH8 There is more on the Club’s website www.sigbi.org/st-albans/orange21 including the information pack which can be downloaded. Louise highlighted that organisations, especially Councils, start planning their year now so for any Clubs thinking of turning buildings orange in Nov/Dec in their area, now is the best time to make contact. If other Clubs want to get involved with OTW in their area this year in the 16 Days of Action to End Gender Based Violence 25 Nov to 10 Dec please contact Louise at the St Albans Club firstname.lastname@example.org – she is happy to provide advice. Clubs could start this year with maybe 1 building turning orange and an event where Club Members wear orange, and then build on that in 2023.
Pam also referred to the Domestic Violence Courts Observations project, highlighting that two London Clubs in our Region – SI Greater London and London Central and South West – had begun their observations this week as part of the SI London Collective Project Group. Pam thanked those Club Members who had signed up to extend the project across the Region.
Jane Slatter, the Region’s Communications Officer was hosting the second half of the conference and introduced our second speaker, Kate O’Brien, director of business development and programmes at Kinship kinship.org.uk . Kinship is the leading kinship charity, there for all kinship carers – the grandparents and siblings, the aunts, uncles, and family friends who step up to raise children when their parents can’t. Kate told us moving stories of some of the kinship carers they have been able to help in the most dire situations.
Kate’s presentation can be viewed in Canva by clicking on this link: SILC Kinship Presentation IWD 5 Mar in this version there are links to films for you to view.
To download and view the PDF version of Kate’s presentation please click here Kinship – Kinship – Soroptimists IWD Mar 2022 Web Version
Angela’s story can be downloaded and read separately here Kinship Angela’s story Mar 2022
Kate read a moving poem written by a kinship carer – “Because of You” – please click here to read the poem www.kinship.org.uk/news/because-of-you-a-poem
There is a lot of useful information and statistics in Kate’s presentation – for example, according to Kinship’s annual survey of over 1,600 kinship carers, 26% of kinship carers suffer child-on-carer violence from the traumatised children they are caring for. 70% of kinship carers said they are not getting the support they need from local authorities and yet the carers save the “care system” a fortune. There is higher prevalence of kinship carer in deprived areas but random circumstances mean that anyone can become a kinship carer and there isn’t much support out there – financially or emotionally. Kate and the team at Kinship have grown the charity and now has a Community of around 10,000 carers in total with around 3,000 carers receiving one-to-one help. Again we had great questions for Kate which she was more than happy to answer, feeling how keen everyone was to know more about the issues around support for kinship carers. There will be lobbying opportunities for Soroptimists and Kate has promised to keep us up to date. Kate was a perfect role model to hear from for International Women’s Day.
Please click here to view the short BBC interview with Kinship for Comic Relief – Mayrem tells her story about taking on her sister’s three children when her sister became unwell and Tom Daley tells us how Mayrem has motivated him in his fundraising challenge https://kinship.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/All-interviews.mp4
Please click below to watch this brilliant short film by Kinship www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IDYP3lrmvE
With both our speakers today “Awareness, Advocacy and Action” by Soroptimists was at work – now we have been made aware of the problems facing women and girls in the two areas of stalking and kinship caring we can be advocates and Members are already taking action on these issues.
Both speakers will be paid a small fee for their charities, and attendees were given the opportunity to make an optional additional donation which will be split between the charities. Please understand there is no pressure to make a donation. To request bank details please email email@example.com
Helen Byrne then took back the chair to wrap up the conference. The UN theme for International Women’s Day this year is “Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow”. To quote UN Women – “Advancing gender equality in the context of the climate crisis and disaster risk reduction is one of the greatest global challenges of the 21st century. Women are increasingly being recognised as more vulnerable to climate change impacts than men, as they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent on the natural resources which climate change threatens the most. At the same time, women and girls are effective and powerful leaders and change-makers for climate adaptation and mitigation. They are involved in sustainability initiatives around the world, and their participation and leadership results in more effective climate action. Continuing to examine the opportunities, as well as the constraints, to empower women and girls to have a voice and be equal players in decision-making related to climate change and sustainability is essential for sustainable development and greater gender equality. Without gender equality today, a sustainable future, and an equal future, remains beyond our reach”.
This theme for International Women’s Day 2022 is aligned with the priority theme for the upcoming 66th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66). So we, as women, have a major focus for 2022 and we, as Soroptimists, have been asked by our Programme Director Kay Richmond to continue and accelerate our work on Sustainability and the Climate crisis.
Helen said “if we are to rise to these challenges we need some ideas and inspiration and so I would like to finish by celebrating 2 female leaders in the world of sustainability and gender equality“. Please click here to view Helen’s 2 slides IWD 2022 Inspirational Women.
Greta Thunberg said “The climate crisis has already been solved. We already have the facts and the solutions. All we have to do is wake up and change”. We don’t doubt that Greta will continue to challenge us all and inspire us to make the change which is needed.
Wangari Muta Maathi‘s life is an amazing story of activism which came out of a love of the natural world and a desire to support the basic needs of women and her community. Wangari Muta Maathai was a Kenyan who started out planting trees and empowering women by paying them to plant the trees and earn an income for themselves. Working with others and her Green Belt movement, Wangari eventually helped to bring peace to Kenya and changed its political face. If you click here you can watch a video of the proposal speech given when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/2004/award-video/ Please just watch the first part which is about 3.40 long.
Helen was proud to report from the latest Centenary Project Tree Planting Map that Soroptimists in our Federation, SIGBI, have planted, as at end of Feb, 94,700 trees across the world! Hopefully these two amazing women will help inspire us to continue and do more.
The IWD event ended with the first minute of this uplifting video:
This Is Me – from the film “The Greatest Showman” – a fitting anthem for equality and diversity.