Over 130 Soroptimists gathered in Liverpool for the inaugural conference organised by South Lancashire Region.
Regional President Victoria Smerdon opened the event welcoming delegates, especially those from adjacent regions North West England & Isle of Man and Cheshire, North Wales & Wirral. The speakers, she promised, would present varying interpretations of her theme ‘Mum’s the Word’.
Federation President Elect Jenny Vince challenged delegates to think outside the box as they develop Programme Action, publicise their work and build the future of their clubs. ‘Keeping mum’ about Soroptimism is not an option, in a world saturated with competing attractions. Jenny’s presentation prompted a large number of questions, primarily on associate membership.
Laura Redhead, Federation Assistant Programme Director (Environmental Sustainability) highlighted women’s relationship with the environment. Crises in living conditions – whether through a changing climate or pressure on energy sources or imbalance in food production – have a direct impact on women in pregnancy, during birth and as they raise their children.
A powerful presentation by Rose Moriba Simbo ended the morning. Rose – a midwife – is Founder/Managing Director of the Kori Development Project (Sierra Leone) and a Soroptimist in Thames Valley. The project works primarily with women and girls, enhancing their skills and self-belief through practical farming and through health/welfare education. Rose is an outspoken opponent of female genital mutilation. She described FGM in graphic detail, and challenged cultural myths that perpetuate the practice in so many countries.
The afternoon opened with Maureen Thompson, co-founder of Tomorrow’s Women Wirral, and a Soroptimist in Heswall & District. TWW helps women work through issues affecting their lives, in order to prevent offending and divert them from custody. The project has grown into an all-embracing service for women, regardless of the source of their vulnerability. Maureen’s two guests – women who have used TWW – spoke movingly of their experiences and the impact on their families.
Dr Val Coupes is Consultant – Child Health at the Royal Bolton NHS Foundation Trust. Focussing on the socially disadvantaged child and on consequent health inequalities Dr Coupes drew on her experience in the community. Factors in the family such as poor nutrition, undiagnosed illnesses and lifestyle choices all impact on children’s health. However, the key to addressing inequalities – for babies and their mothers – is good antenatal care.
The conference concluded with a session from ‘Miss Deborah Marsh’ aka Immediate Past Regional President Liz McConnell. Liz’s tales of a career in retail pharmacy are pin-point accurate, and gently humorous. An accomplished speaker, Liz can never ‘keep mum’! This was an ideal way of rounding off such a stimulating and thought-provoking conference.
A special conference edition of the regional newsletter ‘South Lancashire Leader’ is available here.