As a global voice for women, it is our responsibility to raise awareness of inequality in our communities. But how can this be done?
This summer saw Soroptimists congregate in Frankfurt, Germany. Union Presidents, Programme Directors, and Advocacy Coordinators all made the trip to take part in three days of training.
The intensive weekend started on Friday afternoon with a round table on advocacy, where Union Presidents engaged in conversations with SIE and SI Representatives. The focus of the discussion was on their experience with advocacy on the international, national and club levels.
Carolien Demey, SIE President
As a non-governmental organisation (NGO) since 1984, we have had and have significant influence through our extensive grassroots projects. This is especially the case at the United Nations (UN), since we hold the highest status an NGO can have: General Consultative Status. Of the 142 organisations with this prestigious status, only four are dedicated to addressing women’s and girls’ matters – and we are one of them – the exclusive 3% only working on women’s rights.
Throughout the entire intensive weekend, the common thread that tied everything together was the sharing of knowledge and information among participants through engaging in smaller group exercises to inspire and motivate.
Topics covered in the workshops included:
- What strategies can we employ to transform our five programme/focus areas into effective advocacy initiatives?
- What is your dream project in your Union?
Advocacy is the voice of our projects
For our Saturday morning session, we were joined by Programme Directors and Advocacy Coordinators. The focus of the session was to review the fundamental principles of SIE’s strategy. One crucial point emphasised was that our Programme consists of both Projects and Advocacy, and these elements are inseparable. In essence, the voice of the project is what we want to achieve as an advocacy outcome.
Sandra Gonzalez Sköld (Programme Director) and Jitka Kratochvílová (Assistant Programme Director)
We cannot remain silent
While remaining nationally, politically, and religiously neutral, we cannot remain silent when human rights are being violated. We issue SIE statements and SI position papers which serve as a guide to our members on how to talk to their national and regional authorities about sensitive topics.
To further advocate for women, SI and SIE have representatives in international organisations. At a European level, we have representatives in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Council of Europe (CoE) and the European Women’s Lobby (EWL). As we have a strategic focus on achieving gender equality, with the subgoal of eliminating violence against women, we focused our discussions on work in this area. It is noteworthy that the OSCE has a strong focus on human trafficking and the CoE held the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention. It means that our projects in this focus can be spread in various ways and levels.
Lastly: Use our PFR-system to start your project: the framework is already in place
During this training, our representatives had the opportunity to meet with members, with their main concern being ensuring the continuous reporting and exchange of data regarding our grassroots projects.
Representatives were asked to provide more concise and clear executive summaries of statements, which would facilitate the Unions’ and Clubs’ ability to use them in their advocacy efforts.
During the weekend, a helpful tip came out: to use the PFR system differently by starting a project as a draft in the system. This enables us to gain a better understanding of how to integrate advocacy into all our projects. Additionally, the information can be easily downloaded and shared with members, facilitating seamless collaboration.
The spirit of sharing and inspiration is what all of us will treasure for a long time.
To learn more about the topics discussed during the meeting, please contact your Union President, Programme Director or Advocacy Coordinator.