SIGBI President Isobel Smith

At the Bournemouth Conference Isobel Smith was installed as President of Soroptimist Great Britain & Ireland for the year from 2019 – 2020.  In her inauguration speech President Isobel outlined her theme for the year “We Stand Up for Women”. In choosing this theme she united the Great Britain & Ireland Federation theme with that of Soroptimist International Europe for the first time.  She described her excitement at the opportunity this gives SIGBI to clearly articulate the difference we make to the lives of women and girls and the opportunity to work with others with the same intent, to make a difference,  strengthen our voice,  increase our visibility and  harness the power of a global brand.

Since joining the Soroptimists in 1989, first as a member of SI Manchester, then SI Central Birmingham and now SI Solihull, President Isobel has been involved in a wide number of projects and making a difference.  Changed legislation relating to bail hostels, recruiting members for the Carers Association, participating in a cross party consultation on Violence Against Women, and at Solihull being an ordinary member providing an extra pair of hands… and occasional brain cell… and always making a difference.

The Federation is involved in many different projects with many different strands to its activity… Isobel likened it to a bowl of spaghetti!  To increase visibility and have a clear voice on women’s issues she wants us to pull on some of these strands to have a coherent story about the difference made.

The Federations work in the areas of Violence Against Women,  Prison Reform, Trafficking and the new three-year SIGBI project ‘Empowering Girls in Nepal’, provides such an opportunity.  Soroptimist International is well known at the United Nations and through its action we have ECOSOC consultative status.   In 2020 the UN is 75 years old and it is also 25 years since the Beijing Platform for Action.  Despite some progress, real change has been agonisingly slow for the majority of women and girls around the world and many women remain undervalued, continue to work more, earn less, have fewer choices and experience multiple forms of violence at home and in public spaces. 2020 is a pivotal year for the accelerated realisation of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, everywhere.

President Isobel intends to use the celebrations around these landmark anniversaries as an opportunity to  ‘Stand Up and Speak Out’ about the work of SIGBI.  A big ambition for a small organisation.  For her, the sauce in the bowl of spaghetti is the members, the ones who make it zing … who raise awareness, take action and advocate, increase its voice and visibility, build and sustain relationships.. build relationships with each other, with Friendship Links, with partner organisations.

President Isobel’s father always said “that you are only ever as good as your relationships”, she believes this is true for organisations. She asked all members to use their relationships, their “6 degrees of separation”, to be influential and have a voice and visibility.

She challenged the members – Who do you know?  Who do you want to know?  Who can help you achieve the difference you want to make? Can we be known locally, nationally and internationally in the way that we are known at the UN? Who is in your 6 degrees of separation?  She wants SIGBI to be known as the go-to organisation for women’s issues locally.

Her desire for the coming year… is that SIGBI has a voice, increased visibility and new members and new Clubs who are attracted by what we do and …of course the fun and friendship they receive.  President Isobel looks forward to meeting in a year’s time at the Belfast Conference and celebrating success.