Conference Blog – Saturday 23rd October

Saturday –First Timers the main day of conference – pictured here are three “conference virgins” – they were all immersing themselves in the experience and definitely want to come again next year.

“What is that the Optimists are sore about?” Was the joke from our first speaker Dr Ian Oliver who spoke about the global issue of “Drug Affliction” and how it ruins lives and powers the darker parts of the world economy – it must be tackled by all governments around the world.

“Programme in Action” – we heard best practise from clubs about their projects: SI Tenby working in partnerships to combat Human Trafficking and Slavery. SI Ellesmere Port and SI Colombo using their friendship link to meet the needs of women and girls after the Tsunami disaster. SI Birkenhead and SI Port Elizabeth SI Mauritiusworking on continuing projects from their friendship link, including an aids haven. SI Mauritius (pictured here) told us about their profile raising WIN “Women in Networking” project working for equality, with training and support for women to become leaders and politicians. SI Downpatrick innovation produced a carbon footprint leaflet – see www.soroptimists.info to download. SI Tynemouth, Whitley Bay and District made a big impact when they painted the town pink raising awareness of breast cancer and funds for the Breast Cancer Campaign www.breastcancercampaign.org .

WaterAid – 7WaterAid5 for 75 – last year President Jackie Mosedale set clubs the challenge to raise £75 to mark our 75th Anniversary year for water and sanitation projects in Bangladesh www.wateraid.org/soroptimists We raised a massive £26,000 – which equates to 1700 people with a sustainable supply of water. The presentation is pictured here.

Loos for Lynn – this project is in memory of our past SIGBI and International President Lynn Dunning. So far it has raised £11,000 and the fund will remain open until December with the hope of taking it to £17,000. Projects being funded aretoilets for a woman and baby unit in Bamenda Cameroon, a women’s centre in Kampala Uganda, a rural school in Bulawayo Zimbabwe, and an adult literacy school in Lagos Nigeria.

Lesley Abdela (pictured here) gave us a call to arms on more projects for equality for women globally. Her inspirational talk was around the conference theme of “Accept the Challenge, Secure the Future”. A message for us all to act against is that men injured in war are treated as heroes whereas women raped through war are treated with contempt. She drew our attention to GAPS Gender Action for Peace and Security – www.gaps-uk.org and urged us to sign up to the “No Women No Peace” Campaign www.nowomennopeace.org She said it is realy important for women to be at the heart of peacemaking in countries around the world because men have demonstrated that they are not very good at it! She ended with the cry of the Suffragettes “What we want is Deeds not Words – when do we want it? – NOW!”

www.breastcancercampaign.orgStalls – at coffee and lunch-time people had time to peruse the many stalls at the conference to renew friendships with organisations like Breast Cancer Campaign (pictured here), support clubs like SI Ramsbottom raising funds for “Loos for Lynn” – see above, and to find out about our sponsor Riverford’s organic veg and fruit box home delivery service in the UK www.riverford.co.uk (pictured here).

www.riverford.co.ukAnn Garvie provided an update on the Diamond Education Fund – which urgently needs more funds to meet the demands on it. We heard a moving story from a young woman whose grant of £595 paid for a health and safety course which has changed her life – injury caused her to lose her job, and this course has opened the door to a new career.

Margaret Cook SI Assistant Programme Director, gave us a snapshot of the world of the United Nations- where we have consultative status. She have best practice awards to SI Karachi, SI Stafford, SI Ellesmere Port and SI Bangalore.

Hilary Ratcliffe – informed us that we would soon be hearing more about the SI Long Term Project on Education and Leadership for Women and Girls.

Talat Pasha showed us a moving video of the floods in Pakistan where 20 million people have been affected by this humanitarian crisis. Donations can be made through the SIGBI Emergency Relief Fund, Red Corss, UNICEF and Oxfam. A recommendation was to donate to UNICEF when it has set up a Soroptimist fund for Pakistan so we can be sure that our money will be going where is is needed, and it will benefit from UK Gift Aid.

Satish Kumar (pictured here) re-energised us on the quest for global peace, and urged us to buy his book. He is also the editor of Resurgence magazine – a forum of thought on environmental and social issues including ecology, alternative education, sacred art, the economics of wellbeing, sustainability and climate change. If we accepted men into Soroptimists we feel sure he would be our first male member!