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Soroptimist International 21st Convention in Kuala Lumpur – 19th – 21st July 2019

21st SI CONVENTION KUALA LUMPUR 19th – 21st July 2019

Immediate Past President Kam’s Feedback

The theme was “Soroptimists Enable a Sustainable World – Global Connections, Empowered Women”. The Convention delivered the opportunity for approximately 1,000 members from across the globe to come together, to meet friends, new and old, to experience fun/friendship and exchange good practice and ideas. The importance of working as a global team and the emphasis on grassroots level involvement were cascaded to the delegates present.

The programme brought passionate speakers like Christina Lamb (Author & chief foreign correspondent of the Sunday Times) and panelists, Mariet Verhoef-Cohen SI International President, of new ideas and solutions, and inspired perspectives on the future for women and girls. Informing and celebrating the work of Soroptimist International. I was truly honoured to be part of something extraordinary and memorable.

It was very special for me personally, as Kuala Lumpur is my place of birth. I have connected with several old colleagues & friends, Mrs Beh Suat Pheng who will be the next SI Bangsar President and also made a few new ones Dato Anusha the President of SI South West Pacific (SISWP) and Puan Sri Siew Yong SI Convention Chair.

There were a few highlights for me – meeting up with Mary Muia, President of SI Future Africa Federation (SIFAF), sharing the same hotel with other Soroptimists having breakfast in the club lounge. I was delighted to meet up with Jane Walker from PCF at the community stalls/projects fair in between sessions. The Location of our hotel was central – within five minutes walking distance on the skywalk to the KL Conference Centre (KLCC) in the vicinity of the iconic Petronas Twin Tower.

The staging of the 21st SI Convention in Malaysia is historic, the first time in Asia. The Malaysians, as host, embraced with passion and commitment, and every effort was made to ensure it was unique, memorable and hospitable  – offering a variety of cuisine and cultural diversity.

Topics such as: – Gender Equality for Water & Food Security, Women Leading in Technology & Innovation, Our Climate, Our responsibility and Our actions were delivered by keynote & plenary speakers. 

I visited many places of interest beforehand as a tourist with Kath and a few other American Soroptimists. I have enhanced my knowledge of the historical and democratic process of Malaysia through visiting museums in Kuala Lumpur and Malacca. We booked two trips ourselves – one day to Malacca which has certainly grown since I left Malaysia 30+ years ago; we also visited the Batu Caves (limestone caves with temples dedicated to deities worshipped by the Hindus) they also had monkeys living in the caves, rather like the Rock of Gibraltar, we also visited the Royal Palace and Putrajaya – the site of the relocated government buildings.  On both of these trips we had a driver and minibus to ourselves and both drivers were excellent tour guides. We also attended a boat trip to Sky Mirror, organised by Soroptimists, this was about two hours away from the city on the coast, we visited a Chinese temple, a seafood restaurant and a rice factory and we met some lovely Soroptimists from the UK and the U.S.A. and have connected with them throughout the convention.

Interactive Workshops on the 3rd day were very interesting – we selected two to focus on which were – The ‘She’ Factor on climate change & Human Trafficking Prevention.

1st day –  full programme – official launch by Queen of Malaysia Azizah – an eloquent speaker with lots of humour also a girl guide then Flags ceremony followed by the Friendship evening with the theme “Rasa Sayang” aka Feel the Love – colour of Love – Red. A note to avoid Yellow as it was the colour for the Royalty only.

2nd day – full morning programme – evening was free to interact and I spent it with my family while Kath interacted with fellow Soroptimists from Australia and New Zealand.

3rd day – full programme with workshops – evening Gala “Kaleiscope of Cultures” where we let our hair down and mingled with many other Soroptimists however we did not manage to get many official photos taken  only own photos.  On our table were delegates from Fiji, the Philippines, the UK and the USA.

Dates to remember

Dublin 27th – 29th July 2023 22nd SI convention – book accommodation first was advised.

San Francisco 1st – 3rd Oct 2021 100th Anniversary celebration

Kath’s views as a new Soroptimist member at the Convention


 We arrived on 14 July and went straight to our hotel, The Impiana, which was close to the convention centre and one of the recommended hotels when booking our place.  I was glad we had a few days to settle in after the 13 hour flight and for me to become acclimatised to the heat and humidity of Kuala Lumpur.

Prior to the convention we met many delegates either at breakfast or in the evening happy hour, this included the President of SIGBI and delegates from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Ivory Coast, United Kingdom, the United States of America and New Zealand.

Soroptimist Federations and Attendees

All four Federations were represented and a breakdown is given.


Federation Number of delegates Countries represented
The Americas 203 9 countries
Europe 196 27 countries
Great Britain and Ireland 157 9 countries
South West Pacific 272 10 countries

As an ex local government manager with responsibility for electoral and boundary reviews to ensure equal representation for all people living in the District Council’s area at a local, county and national level, I found the groupings within the Federations strange.  For example the African continent is shared between two federations and the Asian continent between three.  Clearly this will change with the establishment of the new African federation,  perhaps the time is right to review them all.

The Convention

Kam has already outlined the content of the convention and social events. The opening ceremony was impressive with all of the countries represented presenting their national flag and bowing to the Queen of Malaysia.

It was mind blowing to witness so many strong, intelligent women with a common purpose “to enable a sustainable world – global connections, empowered women” in attendance.   I had to ask myself – where is the publicity?  This should have been reported locally, nationally and internationally – no wonder people ask “Soroptimists’ who are they and what do they do?”  This theme is picked up by the International President elect, Sharon Fisher as part of her appeal.


The Presidents of each of the Federations gave an overview of the status on the projects each had adopted.  During the lunch break (there was too much food offered) so I took the opportunity to walk in the park outside the convention and have some fruit and water, I then visited the stalls and purchased some lovely items that supported projects in Morocco, Fiji, Durban, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand.

The President elect, Sharon Fisher’s Appeal for 2019-2021 is “The Road to Equality” and she encouraged all delegates to hop on the bus for this journey, she certainly had all delegates fired up and ready to commit.  This appeal will be launched on 1 October 2019

Kath & Kam’s overall summary

  • Malaysia was an excellent venue and were excellent hosts.  Kath was very impressed that all of the races coexisted in perfect harmony with religious and social freedoms.
  • We felt the opportunities to network with other Soroptimists at the hotel, the convention and social events were superb.
  • Soroptimists’ need to be more proactive on publicity through the media and social networks to highlight their work and encourage new members.
  • The Centennial of the founding of the Soroptimist movement will be celebrated at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco (the site of the inaugural international convention) from 1-3 October 2021.
  • The next International Convention will take place in Dublin in 2023. Bookmarks from the Irish delegation for any of our members who may be interested in attending are available.  A short plane or ferry ride as opposed to a 13 hour flight!
  • It has certainly given us a wider knowledge of Soroptimist International as an organisation and the important projects we undertake at  grass root levels. Kath felt ready to become involved in Programme Action work.