Skip links

Embrace Equity and DigitALL for Soroptimist International Women’s Day Event

IWD2023 theme EmbraceEquityWhat an inspiring and motivating day! On Sat 11 March it was the Soroptimist International London Chilterns Region Conference and Celebration of International Women’s Day. It was our first time in London since the end of 2019 and it felt great to all be together again. There were almost 50 of us there. This included Members of the London Collective from our two London Clubs (Greater London, and Central and South West London) plus Members from SI East London, Croydon, Bromley and Enfield (which are in South East and London Anglia Regions). The themes running through the day were the London Chilterns Region theme for the year  “The Future is Ours to Challenge”, and the two International Women’s Day themes #EmbraceEquity and #DIGITALL. The fabulous photo below was taken at the end of the meeting with everyone doing the #EmbraceEquity pose.

SILC IWD Group EmbraceEquity

We began the day with Shilla Patel, Training and Events Coordinator for the AVA Project (Against Violence and Abuse) which is a leading UK charity committed to ending gender-based violence and abuse. The AVA Project strives to improve services for survivors through trainingresources and consultancy, to end Violence Against Women and Girls through policy, research and prevention work. Shilla linked her presentation with the International Women’s Day theme SILC IWD Shilla Patel AVA Project#EmbraceEquity. Click here to read Shilla’s presentation SILC IWD AVA Shilla Patel 2023. Some of the training offered to practitioners by AVA is in: Trauma Informed Practice, the Housing and the Domestic Abuse Act, Working with Experts by Experience, Children and Young People, Adult Child to Parent Abuse. Some of the projects they are working on are: CODA (children overcoming Domestic Abuse), Staying Mum (supporting mothers), Women’s Homelessness Project (launched last week), Healthy London Healthy Relationships, Ask Ava. There is some work underway linking DA with the menopause – and the support that menopausal women need. AVA works with the groups in the London VAWG Consortium There are lots of resources on the AVA project website The charity is national and provides free services to practitioners in London with charges applying outside London. Shilla rounded up #EmbraceEquity with this cartoon that shows clearly how to work effectively to support women.

Shilla is an inspiring woman. You can read more about her here: “Shilla lives in North London and identifies as a proud female, Asian, Indian, African and Kenyan Londoner. She currently works for a charity i.e. Against Violence and Abuse (AVA) as their training and events coordinator since November 2022. Previous to this Shilla worked for the London Fire Brigade (LFB) for 18 1/2 years as an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) training designer and trainer, and then Inclusion Manager. Shilla is extremely passionate about promoting and embedding EDI so that it is a golden thread throughout the organisation. One of her primary roles was to oversee and facilitate several staff networks, which included being chair of the Asian Fire Service Association for 6 1/2 years and then founding the Brigade’s first mental health staff network called United MINDs and helping to establish their domestic abuse network, Phoenix. Shilla was given the Special Recognition Award for Excellence in the Field of Mental Health at The Firefighters Charity’s Spirit of Fire Awards in November 2020, which was virtually presented by HRH Duke of Cambridge. Shilla is currently a volunteer for the National Suicide Prevention Alliance, working with the Samaritans and other charities and organisations. Shilla is now embarking on a new journey with AVA and is undertaking a Masters in Counselling and Psychotherapy at the University of East London. Her ambition is to become a qualified counsellor in the Violence Against Women and Girls sector.”

SILC IWD Ruth Healey SIGBI Pres-ElectWe were delighted that Ruth Healey, President-Elect of Soroptimist International Great Britain and Ireland (SIGBI) was keen to be our second speaker.  Ruth gave us insight to where we are currently as an organisation as well as looking to the future with her vision and thoughts for her Presidency 2023-25. Ruth’s presentation can be viewed here SILC – SIGBI Pres-Elect 11.3.23. The Region’s theme is “The Future is Ours to Challenge” and Ruth’s presentation resonated well with the theme motivating all Clubs to go and do things differently.Ruth showed us the membership forecast, declining. Like many voluntary organisations in the current environment it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit new members – so we must make this a priority. If every Club in the country could add one net new member (i.e. taking account of leavers as well as joiners), we could reverse the downward trend. This is an achievable target. Ruth gave us her thoughts on the future: we know that our message is current and valid, we need to focus and do less that has more impact, we need to be more outward facing, we need to be flexible and agile, we need to find out what tomorrow’s members want – because they are the future, and we need to be brave.

Ruth told us that her heroine is a lady who has:
  • SILC IWD Jane Slatter, Ruth Healey, Helen Byrne EmbraceEquitySupported 200,000 women and girls since the start of the pandemic
  • Raised well over £1m
  • She supports the elderly, the infirm
  • She supports the lonely
  • She supports the vulnerable
  • She changes the law and
  • She makes a difference
  • My heroine is you – the 5,500 members of SIGBI who work so hard to make the world a better place. 

Ruth is pictured here with Jane Slatter (left) and Helen Byrne (right) in the #EmbraceEquity pose. Helen led the conference supported by Jane Slatter and other Members of the Region’s Exec (who are sharing another “Rainbow Presidency” this year).

IWD2023 theme DIGITALLThe UN theme for International Women’s Day, this year is “DigitALL – Innovation and technology for gender equality”. This theme is aligned with the priority theme for the upcoming 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW-67) “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”. Ruth has recently overseen the updating of SIGBI’s backroom systems and the Federation Membership and Programme Action Databases and has a lot of experience of IT so her presentation sat well with this theme.

Ruth handled some great questions from the audience and gave us great confidence that the organisation is in safe hands. Click here and scroll down to read Ruth’s short biography:

We then covered Regional Business – the notes from which will be circulated to Clubs.

SILC IWD Room from backIn the afternoon the Region’s Programme Action Officer, Pam Robertson, gave us an update on the Special Domestic Abuse Courts Observations Project which Soroptimists from around the Region made a significant contribution to. The report is due out at the end of March. Members split into three groups – the London Collective, Clubs in the “North” of London Chilterns Region and Clubs in the West of London Chilterns Region, to discuss how Clubs will promote the report to organisations who can work on the recommendations.
June Region Meeting – in June we are planning to have an experiment with Clubs in the “North” of the Region (Aylesbury, Bedford, Hertford, Milton Keynes, St Albans) and Clubs in the “West” of the Region (High Wycombe, Newbury, Oxford, Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead and Thames Valley) meeting in these smaller clusters of Clubs. The London Collective will also be meeting separately. The pandemic has meant little opportunity for Clubs and Region to meet together and having these Geographical Groups and a trial in June of meeting up just within these local groups could help Club members get to know each other and to share information, best practice and news. With smaller numbers of Club members, the Groups could enable joint Programme Action and joint or synchronised activities and events which could help with recruitment – making more effective use of expertise and small numbers of active members. Both North and West groups are now investigating venues to meet in June and both want to use at least part of the time working on next steps for the SDVCO Project.
In addition there was time for Clubs in the Region (North and West) to share Programme Action highlights with one another. SI St Albans have an update on their support for women and girls cricket leading to Jane Slatter’s recent (brief) TV appearance on the Antiques Road Trip on 28 Feb.  High Wycombe spoke about the Azalea project which supports sex workers. Many Clubs shared news about supporting women’s refuges, homeless charities,  food banks, hygiene banks, period poverty – “clean start buckets” sounded like a great idea to everyone. We also had an update on the Kori Project in Sierra Leone from SI Thames Valley, which goes from strength to strength but always needs more funding.
Everyone got back together for the workshop style Club Development and Membership session, timely because it came after we had heard President-Elect Ruth Healey talk us through SIGBI’s plans for the future in the morning session. We looked at the suggestions from SIGBI for May Membership Month  Flyer for Membership Month 2023
We then worked on writing our “Elevator Pitch” – click here to read more SILC IWD 2023 Elevator Pitch. Clubs may find it useful to try that exercise in their Clubs. If you met someone in an elevator (lift) what would you tell them about being a Soroptimist in the 30 seconds (about 60 words) between the ground floor and the 4th floor? A great elevator pitch comes from your heart – your words – your feelings. What is it about being a Soroptimist that really inspires you? Don’t try and be all things to all people. You will need to modify your pitch  depending on who you are speaking to. It conveys a clear idea in a short amount of time and engages the listener. It might be a few sentences, but no more than a paragraph. Keep it under 30 seconds or 60 words.
Ruth Healey gave us her “Elevator Pitch” – “Where else can you join with 70,000 women around the world working together to empower women?”

Several Members shared their pitches – some could could be used as several separate pitches:

“Soroptimists are women standing up for women and girls to help achieve their full potential. We Act, Advocate, we have representation at the UN. We are doers. Being a Soroptimist gives you a purpose, makes you feel better helping others. We meet as a club, we provide friendship and support to each other. We support local charities, communities and we have a global reach.”

“Soroptimist International is an organisation that supports women and girls, through practical deeds, enablement and emotional space. It’s a chance to connect with my own sex and give women and girls a voice.”

“My name is Nnnnn and I am a Soroptimist. I am part of a worldwide organisation of a group of women who want to improve the lives of all women young and old by catering for their needs i.e. where they need sewing machines we will hold raffles, local fairs etc. to provide them with the right equipment to better themselves.”

SILC IWD Group EmbraceEquityBefore we closed the meeting we refocused on International Women’s Day and took the above photo of everyone for the International Women’s Day theme #EmbraceEquity (see the image at the top of this page) Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, Equality Equity Justicestereotypes, and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #EmbraceEquity. Celebrate women’s achievement. Raise awareness about discrimination. Take action to drive gender parity. Here is an image that illustrates equality, equity and justice brilliantly!

To end the meeting Helen Byrne read a poem by Preet Kaur Cox, a friend and supporter of SI St Albans and District.

There was a real buzz in the room all day. The Zoom meetings we organise are brilliant but everyone agreed it was great to meet in person again.

NB Sushila Sadarangani, a Soroptimist Member of the SI Greater London Club, sells silk scarves from India and makes a donation from sales to the Club’s charities. The scarf is modelled here by SILC IWD Ruth Healey SIGBI Pres-Elect with suffragette scarfSIGBI President-Elect Ruth Healey at this International Women’s Event, March 2023

Sushila is expecting a delivery of the suffragette scarves in April and will also soon be selling Soroptimist blue and Orange the World orange scarves. She will have a stand at the International Convention in Dublin – so if you’re going, do go and say hello and buy a scarf (or two!).