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President Josie’s Jottings

  • 5th July 2021

It’s National Thank You Day, thanking NHS and all Key Workers who made it possible for us to continue to function under lockdown. I thought it was an apt moment to thank you all for continuing to deliver Soroptimist International Mission and Vision.

The restrictions imposed by the Government had us all thinking outside the box but once we had the measure of the situation there was no stopping us. I think the restrictions made us more determined to do what we always do … get on with it.

I continue to be in awe of Soroptimists who found innovative ways to ensure that Programme Action initiatives were undertaken. Funds were raised for charities under stress and that the public were made aware of the tremendous impact of Covid-19 on women and girls, So many are caught up in abusive relationships, forced to marry whilst still too young and put under the knife of female genital mutilation. So WELL DONE.

There has been sadness and tragedy – but triumph and happiness, too. Many clubs lost members and our Federation mourns a true leader in President Johanna Raffan. She made a tremendous impact on the education sector during her professional life. She stepped up to bring her calm strength to the Federation Management Board when Barbara Dixon was also lost to us.

Federation President Cathy Cotteridge has tasked her team with contacting you – club members – for suggestions for a memorial for President Johanna. I will be writing to club presidents in more detail.

The good news is that our New Members’ Lunch will go ahead on September 19th. I must thank Region Membership Officer, Anne Grimes, for all her hard work in ensuring that this can happen.

The winning clubs for the Rose Bowl Challenge and the Programme Action Award will receive their trophies at the lunch. Anne and I would like it to be a celebratory event in recognition of South Lancashire members, past and present, for the work they have done to enhance the lives of women and girls.

A special plea – Clubs need to complete report forms for the PA Award and to contribute to the United Nations’ continued work with Soroptimist International. Plus, I am looking forward to reading club submissions for the Rose Bowl Challenge.

If you haven’t already done so please consider joining Soroptimist International’s Centenary Celebrations on 3rd October. The early bird registration has been extended to 15th July.

Don’t forget, too, that the Llandudno Federation Conference registration is now open. There are conference workshops on Friday and Saturday which you can opt for on registration. However, places are limited and an early registration is recommended.

Also for your diary, the SIGBI Day of Action is raising awareness of Climate Change on 17th July; and the COP26 Conference in Glasgow in October.

  • 9th April 2021

There has been a lot happening in our world since I last wrote;  some great and inspiring, some sad and depressing. Throughout I have seen Soroptimists continuing to strive to improve the lives of women and girls. You have all continued to use your social media platforms to raise awareness of issues. You have drawn attention to the rise in domestic violence and child sexual exploitation linked to the negative impact of the COVID-19 lockdown.

The United Nations International Women’s Day celebrations and the CSW65 on-line conference have been a highlight of Soroptimist activism. Many of you accepted the IWD #choosetochallenge call to action. It was heart-warming to see the pictures posted of Soroptimist members and their families holding up their hands in acknowledgement of their support for women everywhere.

Many of the South Lancashire Region clubs held events to raise awareness and show solidarity with women suffering a wide range of abuse globally. I think, whatever negative impact the lockdown has had on our work as Soroptimists, it has been offset by the determination and persistence of members to overcome obstacles and have their voices heard.

There are still many challenges ahead as we move to a return to normal life. Some clubs may struggle to resume working as they did prior to the pandemic. However, our work is important and still not finished, so we cannot turn our backs on what needs to be done.

Our Region must work together to ensure that we support each other as restrictions recede. We must work as a team and in partnership. We must put the Soroptimist vision and mission at the forefront of our thinking when we make decisions about the kind of meetings we want. How can we include all our members by making club activities and events more accessible?

There is a lot to look forward to including UKPAC virtual Study Day on 17th April and SIGBI’s Llandudno virtual conference, 29th – 30th October. The Centennial Celebrations at club, region, national and international level will give us all an invaluable opportunity to raise our profile and awareness of Soroptimism as an enduring and impactful women’s organisation that does what it says on the tin!!

I hope you and your families remain well and are staying safe. As the days grow longer and the weather improves I am beginning to want to get back to the fight for gender equality. It’s as if I have excess energy that needs to be productively employed! I hope many of you feel that way too.

There are challenges ahead but that is to be expected – the world has been upended in the wake of the coronavirus. Don’t forget my theme for the year “Facing Challenges, Making Changes, Moving Forward Together”. I’m looking forward to seeing you all soon.

  • 10th February 2021

We will soon be having our first region meeting of 2021 – but still under lockdown restrictions. These, in some ways, have made it more difficult for us to function as Soroptimists. However, in other ways, they have encouraged us to become more creative in our activities.

As I read the media posts from clubs I am in awe of members’ determination to continue to serve their communities. They raise awareness of how women and girls are treated and demonstrate their commitment to what being a Soroptimist means.

Traditionally a New Year means we look for something different to re-energise our lives – but that may not be possible at the moment. There are, however, plenty of ways to rejuvenate what we are already doing.

Think of the new three ‘Rs’ : RE-CYCLE, RE-USE and RE-PURPOSE. How can we do this in our lives without being part of a group activity? We can still promote the ‘Planet’ part of the 5 ‘Ps’ – perhaps as a shared build-up to a more substantial club project to raise awareness of the often-hidden use of plastics in the products we use and buy.

I watched a fascinating programme about activists who used crafting as a means of raising awareness of a national problem in Chile. These ‘craftivists’ were all men who used knitting and crochet as a means to highlight the way in which indigenous people in the country were being abused. The fact that they were men who crafted got them noticed by the public. They produced a huge knitted / crocheted banner showing how people were being incarcerated and tortured for who they were. It led to a policy change.

Globally, Soroptimists have been ‘craftivists’ for many years and I know that there are many crafters in our region who continue this. Is this the perfect time to use your gifts to highlight those issues that you are passionate about? FMG, period poverty, domestic abuse, climate change, or something closer to home? We have the time, so let’s not hide our talents under the bushes! I love seeing just how creative our members can be and am inspired by some of your ideas.

There are also opportunities to use our everyday exercise hour to help other and ourselves. Cafod is running a “Walk for Water” campaign to fund clean water for the millions in the world who go without and, currently, this is an essential piece of work as Covid-19 thrives in dirty environments. Of course, money need not go to Cafod – Water Aid, for example, is desperately in need of funds.

Another idea I saw on Love Your Weekend was to keep a nature journal as you walk. It could highlight the positivity of nature whilst you’re keeping healthy.

Finally, please don’t forget to complete the Government’s on-line survey on Domestic Abuse (closing date 19 February). It is simple and easy to complete but also provides a huge amount of useful information.

Remember ‘challenge’ changes and shapes us – but it also helps us to move forward.

  • 12th January 2021

Happy New Year! How strange it is to be offering the traditional greeting for the New Year when we all know that what lies ahead will be unprecedented in so many ways. Yet how difficult it is not to wish everyone a better year than the last one! There are so many variables and very few definites ahead.

The one thing I do know, though, is that Soroptimists will still be doing their very best to serve their local communities in any – and every way – they can. Even in this quiet period just after Christmas, South Lancashire clubs have been posting their activities online and making people aware of what they can offer.

Soroptimist International has entered its centennial year. The pandemic will, inevitably, have an impact on just how we celebrate this momentous occasion. However, that does not mean we shouldn’t make the world aware of what we have achieved globally. Look ahead, too, to what we will achieve once this virus allows us to become more than ‘virtually’ active.

I know that SIGBI and SI clubs are well into their preparations for a celebration which will be launched as soon as restrictions allow. There is much information available, too, about CSW 65, centenary merchandise, tree planting and the ‘Bright Past and Brilliant Future’ project.

  • 22nd December 2020

It has been a pleasure and made me feel immensely proud to see just how committed our members have been during the 16 Days of Activism. At club level and on an individual basis you have raised awareness of the global rise in violence towards women during the pandemic. Your social media have been buzzing with photos, comments and events. They open our eyes to the many vicious forms of violence that women and girls have to endure worldwide.

Clubs have persuaded their local councils to light up civic buildings in orange, tied orange ribbons to lamp-posts, worn orange tops, scarves and hats, created short videos of talks and events and showed just how creative and innovative they can be to achieve what they set out to do. Individual members have started conversations and discussions by leaving painted stones in public places and using Twitter and Instagram accounts to demonstrate their commitment to “Oranging the World”. The challenge has been met and changes made to ensure that any barriers have been overcome.

Our Soroptimist International centennial year is only a few weeks away. I am sure that clubs are already looking ahead to the challenge of celebrating this amazing milestone whilst still under COVID-19 restrictions. The Federation tree planting group has made tremendous progress and I know several clubs are organising tree planting in their local areas.

Federation President Johanna reminds us that there are first day cover envelopes and stamps, and a commemorative brooch. There is a celebration lunch at the House of Lords, details to be circulated in the New Year.

South Lancashire’s clubs continue to serve their local community through activities and events designed to help the most in need. Many homeless people, key workers, the housebound and the lonely have had their situation eased by our members. I genuinely don’t believe there is a challenge that we cannot meet together.

It has been a year of ups and downs; we have been in and out of lockdown, weathered a multitude of changes to the way our world works and said goodbye to family, friends and Sister Soroptimists; I was privileged to represent you all, along with Region Secretary Margaret, at Kate Fussell’s funeral on 21st December. What a truly inspiring women she was.

I hope that you all have a blessed and peaceful Christmas. I am sure you are envisaging a better 2021. There is plenty to look forward to next year, and I can’t wait to see what you all have planned. It will be lovely to meet face to face once again and maybe use the technology we have all relied on so much during these past few months to better effect.

  • 21st November 2020

It has been three weeks since Conference and the second lockdown is asserting a tight grip on our lives once again. I thought this would mean I would have more time to catch up on reading and getting everything ready for Christmas. However, I have been busier than ever keeping up with the constant changes to guidelines and being in daily touch with the school where I am Chair of Governors. Although I spent 44 years in education, I never experienced the level of pressure our teachers are currently under. My gratitude for their commitment to our young people grows daily.

There has also been plenty of Soroptimist activity. I was delighted to attend SI Bolton’s (virtual) Charter Celebration and later devastated to learn of the tragic loss of one of their members. On Remembrance Sunday I was privileged to stand, distanced, with SI Leigh President Lynda and six of our members as she placed our club’s commemorative wreath on Atherton’s Cenotaph. It was a very personal moment without the usual march, speeches and religious service. However, it focused my mind on family members who served and gave their lives in two world wars.

We now face the first real challenge of this Federation Year; how to ‘Orange the World’ during lockdown and with Covid-19 restrictions on meetings. It will, of course, mean changing our approach but I have no doubt that South Lancashire Soroptimists will be innovative, creative and make an impact.

I know that each club will have their individual approach to raising awareness of the UN Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25th and the following 16 Days of Activism. I am looking forward to seeing what is posted on social media and your websites.

This is also an opportunity for individuals to reach a wider audience by posting online. I intend to borrow an idea from my daughter to paint stones orange and add information, then place them in the park. Hopefully, they may start conversations! I am also borrowing an idea from SI Bolton’s speaker, who used the phrase “an everyday activist”. I shall post a different message on my Facebook page for 16 days.

A suggestion from a niece was to produce an orange themed quiz for our family quiz night and to ask every member who joins in to donate to the Federation Appeal. I’ll let you know how that goes. If anyone would like a copy of the quiz (with answers) please contact me via the Region and I will send you one.

I hope that you and your families continue to be safe and well. With luck we will all be able to spend some time with them over Christmas. I am looking forward to celebrating this wonderful time with them.

  • 1st November 2020

As a result of Covid-19 restrictions South Lancashire’s clubs have been creative, innovative and determined to serve their local communities in spite of the ever-changing lockdown guidelines. You have all shown that you can be flexible and adaptable in your approach. This was showcased in the ‘celebration of membership’ on the second day of the Belfast conference. It was awesome to see our region’s clubs’ projects up there, on-screen.

If you were lucky enough to be able to attend this, the first virtual federation conference, I hope that you enjoyed it as much as I did. The federation’s Programme Action session was invaluable; I am sure that clubs’ PA officers will be following up many of the ideas and initiatives.

The four keynote speakers brought their passion for improving the lives of women and girls to life. They were committed, vibrant and amazing role models yet offered practical and accessible ways for clubs to raise awareness and become involved.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for the cards, emails and congratulatory messages that I received: they were much appreciated. I would also like to thank Immediate Past President Yvonne for all that she has done over this past most difficult year. I congratulate her on her federation appointment as Assistant Programme Director – People. I know she will give the same commitment and passion to that role as she gave to our region.