Skip links

Recent Speakers

Pat Black – Speaker at the Regional Meeting of 2nd March 2019

Soroptimist International Adviser 2017 – 2019

I am currently a special adviser to the SI President and Board on matters related to our work at the United Nations.

I was SI Director of Advocacy for two years and very fortunate and privileged to take the work which clubs are doing locally to the many agencies and committees at the United Nations.

This is something which I am passionate about because I have seen first hand around the world the way in which Soroptimists make a difference in the lives of women and girls.

But sometimes it saddens and disappoints me that when I talk with club members, they do not see the connections, or recognise the importance of the work they do locally on the international stage.

So I would like to demonstrate these connections for you.  I hope to show you how I and the Soroptimists working at the United Nations, together with national and international bodies need your work.

SI Midland Arden Region March 2019

“The things you do for yourself are gone once you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy.”

Resources on UN activity

The following information relates to the main activities with which SI is involved in the UN.   Check out information on the SIGBI and/or SI websites or search for the specific topic or UN agency.

General UN activity

This is the main website where you can find information about the UN’s work generally:

You can watch live or from the archives everything which happens at the main sessions at the UN.

Sustainable Development Goals

There are many websites which will give you information on these.

The official document on which everything else is based can be found at:

The following website gives the SDG icons which are downloadable:

UN Women

Below is the main website to find all activity undertaken by UN Women including some of the main campaigns such as He4She.  If you go to this website you will also find access to the information about CSW:

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) (New York)

The major event at the UN which Soroptimists are involved with. You can attend as part of your Federation delegation. For next year (2020) CSW64 SI has already started planning.

Currently, the Commission is made up of 45 representative member states who work in regional blocs.  So for example in the negotiation process, the USA is part of a grouping described as Western Europe and Other States. Many of the sessions after the first week are closed sessions as negotiations on Agreed Conclusions take place. NGO’s may be invited to make Oral Statements on the main theme or review theme, but this will be restricted on a time basis. Resolutions of urgency may be introduced by Member States for debate.  Often these do reach the point of voting.

“The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) first met at Lake Success, New York, in February 1947, soon after the founding of the United Nations. All 15 government representatives were women. From its inception, the Commission was supported by a unit of the United Nations that later became the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) in the UN Secretariat. The CSW forged a close relationship with non-governmental organizations, with those in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) invited to participate as observers.”

For more detail on the history of the CSW see

CSW Advocacy Training booklet

For the last few years, free advocacy training has been provided by the NGO CSW NY Committee and a supporting booklet is available on the website. It is a great resource for everyone to use.

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (Geneva)

This Committee works closely with Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, but is independent and deals with the Member States responsibilities for complying with legislation and international conventions on gender equality.  Each Member State is required to report on a regular basis on their achievements, which can be commented on by NGOs in a shadow report to the Commission.

Committee on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (Vienna)

This Committee works under the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and deals with anti-trafficking amongst other issues such as terrorism  SI UN representatives attend regularly and there are opportunities for Soroptimists to attend sessions.

United Nations Environment Programme

The UN environment work is spread around the world with very active regional centres. If you go to the main website you can then explore the geographical area which you are interested in.

Speakers at the 1st December Meeting 2018

Federation President-Elect Isobel Smith

Isobel told us about the SIGBI Strategic Growth Plan 2018-21.  This had been formulated in Glasgow. The plan included areas such as Finance and Marketing and Communications (for which there are 10 working parties).  The goal is to Advance the Lives of a million Women and Girls globally.  She urged us to fill in our progress focus forms, which will be made more accessible and easy to complete in line with our sustainable education goals.

We are now a charity and there is a Public Benefit Statement Programme which can be viewed on the main website.

The programme consists of the 5 ‘ps’

  • People
  • Planet
  • Partnership
  • Prevention
  • Prosperity

All linked to SDGs 1/3/4/5/6/8

Clubs are to be encouraged to focus on goals. Regarding finance, the emphasis is to balance the budget, monitor membership fees and to utilise standing orders and gift aid donations.

Regarding the Growth Plan phase 3, there is to be a Development Day on the 1st of June.  This will include areas such as valuing members and the code of conduct, as well as taking a look at campus clubs,  mentoring, and the complaints policy.

Isobel reminded us of President Sue’s theme this year ‘Think on it

Anthea Sully – Chief Executive White

Anthea Sully is the new Chief Executive of White who took up the post in March.  She asked us to imagine a world without gender-based violence.  We were asked what men needed to do.   Early age conditioning and normalising degradation were sited as playing a part in the crimes of rape, assault and ultimately the murder of women.  White Ribbon is asking men to challenge these things and to lead by example. They are asking all men to take a stand and become ambassadors.

Time frame of White Ribbon

  • 1981 Mirabel sisters
  • 1991 white Ribbon Canada
  • 1996 White Ribbon South Africa
  • 1998 Womankind World Wide
  • 1999 UN recognition
  • 2004 White Ribbon UK
  • 2005 UK member org
  • 2009 White Ribbon Scotland
  • 2013 Welsh government adopted
  • 2016 All-party parliamentary group

She reminded us that every week 2 women are killed by a partner.

Speakers at the AGM 29th September 2018

Jean Nutt, Loves Me, Loves Me Not

Jean is a secondary school teacher and member of SI Central Birmingham.  She delivers talks to schools for both girls and boys on healthy relationships and how to spot signs of emotional abuse.

Jean has helped produce foldable bookmarks that young people can carry to help to identify and differentiate between healthy and unhealthy relationships. They give contact phone numbers of helplines for any young person needing to access help.

Jean told us that on-line grooming is a big problem, and 40% of selfies young people take eventually appear on porn sites.  Young people can be groomed online in approx 45 minutes.

Jean is challenging each club in the region to deliver the talk to 5 schools over the next academic year and will give them the resources they will require.

Catherine Milhench and Melanie Douglas  ‘This is Me’

Catherine the President-Elect of SI Northern Ireland, and her daughter Melanie Douglas the President of SI Downpatrick and District, told us of their work with mental health charities.  They explained that mental health issues still carry a stigma and know no boundaries.  Research has shown that 3 children in every class have a mental health problem, 1 in 10 pregnant women also suffer and this is a leading cause of maternal death.  Also, 1 in 4 college students suffer.

They encouraged all clubs to undertake 8 activities that focus on helping: Activ8

Speakers at the Regional Meeting 10th December 2016

Helen Murdoch, Organiser for Cardiff 2017 Conference

SIGBI Federation President, Ann Hodgson’s first Soroptimist club was SI Kenilworth so her heart is in the Midlands and she would like Midland Arden to participate. Malta was a superb conference and they would like to emulate the good things learned there. Helen told us that they had been mandated “to shake things up” so there may be a different feel to future Conferences.

The theme will be “Step up, lead the way.” It is all about getting everybody involved. The conference website is already up and running and you can book hotels through it. The Conference will be held in the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff. It is a phenomenal venue with lots of eating places around the Bay.

Helen is looking to Midland Arden for Stewards. The new name for stewards will be “smile makers”. This job will be to support the Chief Steward to provide a safe, caring environment to ensure the enjoyment and well-being of all candidates. There are a variety of jobs available. If you would like to be involved, email conference secretary stating any preferences.

Pat Martin – Meru Garden Project

Pat explained the project for the benefit of new members present. This project was first introduced by SI Canterbury and was taken up by Federation as our 4-year project, ending in March 2019. The initial target was to raise £10,000 to train the first group of 30 women in sustainable food gardening methods. This will allow the women to feed their families and to sell the surplus. The intention is to take on another group of 30 women when the first has been trained.

Our partners are Child.Org and CIFORD (Community Initiatives for Rural Development). They have recently started a breakfast club which encourages girls to attend school without hungry.
The target of £10,000 has been achieved. Pat thinks a lot more has been raised so she asks us to tell her what we have done for this project, how much we have raised – and sent in (do not wait, send it in immediately) and she will monitor this through SIGBI.

We are urged to continue to bring knitted blankets for the Hamlin Fistula Charity as these are still greatly needed. Mobile phones and jewellery is being collected by SI Kenilworth. We are also still collecting bras – SI Kidderminster doing this.

Jayne Senior MBE. talks about “The Journey”

Jayne was the child sexual exploitation “whistle-blower” in Rotherham and she told us what happened. She said that we are missing something about child sexual exploitation and the question is why. She has never had an answer as to why nothing was done.
She started work in a coffee bar as a youth worker. There it was possible to identify girls at risk and realise that something needed to be done.

From 1999-2011 she worked for the Risky Business Project, working with girls who were labelled as prostitutes but were being exploited.  For example, the 14-year-old girl with a 28-year-old ‘boyfriend’. The girls thought they were in a caring relationship. Nobody seemed to question whether this was right.

The team was non-judgmental and build up relationships with the girls so that they had the confidence to tell them what was happening. During this time, they worked with 1400 children (probably nearer 1800-2000) who were supported by a dedicated team of staff. They had a different approach and if the girls didn’t come to them, the staff found them. Over time, they built up information: nicknames, car registration numbers and details which could be used to identify the perpetrators.

In 2002 there was a Home Office Pilot and a family law solicitor identified a group of three/four brothers who were targeting a high number of young people to traffic and abuse. The paperwork was stolen. The researcher had kept quite a lot of information and this was used last year to send these brothers to prison. These girls had waited 14 years for justice.

The reason why nothing happened was that the authorities believed that there was consent, but in reality, the girls were being groomed. Jayne thought that children “fibbed” but didn’t lie about really important things like being threatened to be doused in petrol and set alight and gang-raped. Why did nobody believe them? It was said they were prostitutes, a life-style choice, or that they were lying.
In 2011, for the first time, something happened. They closed down the Risky Business Project! It became a Social Care Model instead but the problem with this was that it didn’t identify children at risk but had to wait until abuse happened.
Jayne moved to Swinton Lock Activity Centre where she works with young people and survivors of sexual exploitation. There was a case of a 13-year-old girl referred to statutory services. 42 contacts were made for early intervention. Nothing happened.
Jayne met Andrew Norfolk, a Times journalist. He said he could not publish the facts she had given him as nobody would believe it. She drip-fed him evidence and information and kept her identity secret. An investigation was launched – into her – not into what had happened. The Times lawyers said they would represent her if she was arrested. Press wrote about the damage the whistleblower had done and not the damage caused to the children.
In 2014 she reluctantly met with Alexis Jay who was connected with Rotherham Council. Jayne now regrets not sharing more with her as she obviously believed her. Jayne told her about the petrol threat. The report came out in 2014 and caused a media frenzy around the exoneration of the Risky Business Project.
There followed a Home Affairs Select Committee.  Jayne printed off significant evidence because she decided she could no longer keep this secret and handed the information over to Keith Vaz. Another media storm.
Louise Casey was appointed in 2014: A damning report was written and all powers were removed from Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council.  Jayne met with David Cameron. In 2016 she decided to write a book “Broken and Betrayed”. In it, she explores the difficult area of grooming and explodes the myth that these children are the result of bad parenting. One parent had rung the police 200 times and when he rescued his daughter himself, he was arrested and now has a criminal conviction.
Childline couldn’t understand why the children hadn’t contacted them. It was because, at 13, they thought they were adults, not children so Childline didn’t apply to them.
There is an App called “Is it Ok?” which deals with questions about drugs, radicalisation, grooming. Trained people can give advice.
Two years on from Rotherham children are still not being given relationship education in schools.
One Child is one Child too many.

Jayne received a standing ovation.