Almost 20 Soroptimists from London Chilterns Region were blown away by the Soroptimist International Convention Dublin July 27 – 29. We had delegates from SI Aylesbury & District, SI Bedford, SI Central & South West London, SI Greater London, SI Hertford & District, SI St Albans & District, SI Slough Windsor & Maidenhead and SI Thames Valley, plus an Associate Member too. Although almost everyone had been to a Soroptimist International Great Britain and Ireland Conference before, most were new to the experience of attending an International Convention and found to their delight that it engages and inspires on another level altogether. Please carry on reading to find out more, but it is difficult to get the immersive experience across on a web page.
There is also a 2 minute post-event video to watch https://www.soroptimistinternational.org/soroptimist-international-2023-dublin-convention-after-movie/
An international SI convention allows Members to experience the highest levels of Soroptimism as well as the depth and breadth of the organisation. It is an opportunity to engage with other members from every corner of the world and to appreciate fully what is meant by ‘A global voice for women’. The Dublin Convention afforded all of this and much more. The high calibre of well-chosen presenters delivered diverse presentations which were inspiring and thought-provoking. The topics covered were relevant to the Convention theme ‘Challenge the Future’ and could all be tied in to the various UN SDGs.
Deborah Thomas, Executive Director of SI introduced the flags from all the countries in the organisation. They were shown on the screen with maps of each country and an opportunity for Soroptimist Members of every country to stand up and make themselves known to everyone in the auditorium. This is always very moving because it makes you aware of the scale and reach of our organisation.
We were welcomed to Dublin by Roderic O’Gorman, from the Irish Government – Minister of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth of Ireland.
Delegates were privileged to see and hear keynote presentations from:
- Mary Robinson, first female President of Ireland – ‘Women Leaders must Step up and Lead as Never Before’ https://www.soroptimistinternational.org/keynote-speech-mary-robinson/
- Suba Umathevam, CEO of DROSOS Foundation- ‘My Journey Towards Inclusive Leadership and Gender Equality’ https://www.soroptimistinternational.org/keynote-speech-suba-umathevan/
- Sean Wensley, Veterinarian – ‘Securing Well-Being for Animals, People and Planet’ https://www.soroptimistinternational.org/keynote-speech-sean-wensley/
- Jim Gamble, CEO of the Ineqe Safeguarding Group – ‘It’s Not About the Technology’ https://www.soroptimistinternational.org/keynote-speech-jim-gamble/
- Nicole Ameline, French politician, lawyer and diplomat – ‘Stand up for Human Rights’ https://www.soroptimistinternational.org/keynote-nicole-ameline/
- Renata Dwan, Policy Expert and former UN official who works on peace and conflict issues in some of the world’s most intractable crises – ‘Women, Peace and Cyber Security’ https://www.soroptimistinternational.org/keynote-speech-renata-dwan/
- Felissa Tibbits, UNESCO Chair in Human Rights and Education – ‘Transformative Education for Addressing Climate Change’ https://www.soroptimistinternational.org/keynote-speech-felisa-tibbitts/
As an organisation that enjoys general consultative status with the United Nations, delegates had an opportunity for the first time at an international convention, to hear reports from our UN representatives at the various UN centers in New York, Paris, Rome, Vienna, Geneva, Bangkok and Nairobi. We heard reports about their work at the UN and how the data from all our projects (reported by us on our online database), is used to support their advocacy work at the UN. Click here to read more https://www.soroptimistinternational.org/our-voice-at-the-united-nations-si-dublin-convention-2023/
Also, for the first time, delegates were afforded the opportunity to view the work of clubs through a display of close to 100 posters showcasing projects by clubs across the globe including our Club’s Orange the World Campaign. Denise Powell and Jane Slatter from SI St Albans & District (also Treasurer and Communications Officer of the Region respectively) “womanned” the poster during the breaks in the first 2 days of the Convention which led to some wonderful conversations with Soroptimists from around the world.
Sushila Sadarangani from SI Central and South West London was selling her beautiful silk scarves at the Convention. Jane is modelling one of the new orange ones in the photo above and she also has some in Soroptimist blue. The shop information needs updating to include the new orange and blue silk scarves but the contact details are the same https://sigbi.org/london-chilterns/shop/.
One of the surprises of the Convention was the unveiling of a new Soroptimist International Emblem – a modified version of the original emblem. This elicited many comments and, like with any change, some Members have embraced the new look while others have not and are asking questions.
The reports from the Five Federation Presidents gave delegates an insight into the range of projects, themes, achievements and challenges of each Federation, allowing us to appreciate our similarities and differences as we work towards the common goal of transforming the lives of women and girls. It was particularly interesting to hear the report from our newest federation – SI Africa. Please click here to read Soroptimist International’s 2020-2023 Quadrennial Brochure, https://online.fliphtml5.com/frvwm/npmp/#p=1
International President Maureen reported on her President’s Project ‘Opening Doors to a Brighter Future’ https://www.soroptimistinternational.org/presidents-appeal-2021-2023/ which involves an education project in each of the five Federations and is still ongoing. We learned a bit about each of these projects. The transformative effects of these projects were well documented in the video testimonies of some of the recipients from each Federation. Hearing the heartfelt appreciation from beneficiaries gave delegates every reason to have deep pride in our organisation. It also inspired us to continue to support this project in the remaining months of what will be the last International President’s Appeal.
The Soroptimist International Foundation https://www.soroptimistinternational.org/si-foundation/ As the organisation evolves, we look for new and different ways of serving women and girls and to this end the December 10th President’s Appeal will now be replaced by ‘Soroptimist International Foundation Day’ This will also be observed on December 10th. Soroptimist International has set up a Charitable Trust – The Soroptimist International Foundation. The objective is to increase our impact and maximize our resources. The Foundation will provide funding and support to projects and initiatives that share our mission. The projects may be short term – up to 2 years; medium term – up to 6 years; and long term – up to 10 years or more with a focus on:
- The advancement of education
- The relief/prevention of poverty
- The advancement of human rights, peace, equality and diversity
It will be funded by donations from clubs, individuals, legacies etc via the 5 Federations.
For a start two major projects have been identified:
Project 1 – Funding for women and girls in war-torn countries across the world.
SI Taiwan has made a donation of US$100,000 towards this particular project the details of which are still to be worked out.
Project 2 – Entitled ‘Visible and Vocal’, this Public Speaking Competition seeks to:
- Encourage girls to play a more prominent role in public life
- Promote an awareness of global issues
- Improve the art of communication
- Encourage girls to develop the skill to speak effectively and articulate with clarity
- Develop self-confidence and personality
- Encourage higher-order thinking skills such as research, critical and analytical thinking, evaluation and synthesis of knowledge.
The Competition will involve Heats to be held in:
- 5 Commonwealth Countries with a Soroptimist club
- 5 non-Commonwealth countries without a Soroptimist Club
Finals will be held online via a webinar
If attendees were in any doubt about the value of such a project, the presentations by the winners of the Irish Soroptimist Public Speaking Competition would have changed that. The girls were confident and poised, and delivered brilliant speeches!
Six excellent workshops were run on the Thursday and the Friday and delegates had to make the difficult decision of which two to attend. There was one about ancestry reflecting that we are in Ireland which is a country with one of the largest diasporas in the world. The other five were delivered by each Federation – SI Americas, Education; SI Europe, Gender Equality; SI Great Britain and Ireland, Life on Land; SI South East Asia Pacific, Climate Action; SI Africa, Cervical Cancer Elimination. Click here to read more https://www.soroptimistinternational.org/our-voice-at-the-united-nations-si-dublin-convention-2023/
Siew was unable to attend the Convention due to the recent passing of her husband but sent an interesting, forward-looking and inspiring video presentation of her plans for the next biennium. Under the theme ‘Save Mother Earth, Save the Future’ her focus will be on the environment and Climate Change in particular.
To the surprise of many of the 1,700 delegates, it was announced that the next International Convention hosted by Soroptimist International of the Americas will be an Alaskan Cruise in July 2027 under the theme ‘Waves of Change’!
Opportunities for networking and socialising with old and new friends were provided during the lunch and coffee breaks, an informal Friendship Evening at the ICC, and planned social events off site. The Region’s Membership Officer, Helen Byrne is pictured here with Members of St Albans Friendship Links in Osaka and Muenster. Hilary Ratcliffe OBE, is past Programme Action Officer of the Region, who went onto become the International Programme Director. She is pictured here on the right, having fun with Jean Eaton, past Treasurer of the Region. Click here to read more about Hilary with the top 100 Soroptimists https://sigbi.org/london-chilterns/history/
The formal closing event on the last evening was every bit a gala event with a delicious meal, performances by Irish dancers and an opportunity to shake a leg and learn a few Irish dance moves.
SI San Fernando, in Trinidad displayed two large and imposing Peace Quilts in the huge forum hall, which include a square from SI St Albans & District. The square is 2nd from bottom on left – a tree growing from an acorn in a hand – the words around the square are from Rosa Parks and read “Stand for something or you will fall for anything. Todays mighty oak is yesterday’s nut that held its ground”.
President Maureen Maguire and Convention Chair Sue Perry and the Convention Committee (all SIGBI members) must be congratulated for planning and delivering a fantastic Convention which was innovative, forward thinking, very enjoyable and which definitely delivered on the theme of Challenging the Future. The Team included Rita Beaumont from the Bedford Club and Secretary of our Region who worked incredibly hard as the Convention Secretary holding the Team together. The challenge was made harder by the sad loss of Johanna Raffan MBE from the Thames Valley Club in our Region who was the original Convention Chair and who was SIGBI President when she died in June 2021. Click here to read more about Johanna with the top 100 Soroptimists https://sigbi.org/london-chilterns/history/