Dear friends, like many of you, I have hundreds of friends on my Facebook account. Before I go to bed, or early in the morning, I usually scroll through their posts, and every day I see news items indicating how women’s rights are disregarded, limited or simply ignored.
While defending what our grandmothers and mothers have achieved, we are also facing new challenges that are slowly pervading our society, such as trafficking, FGM, child marriages, forced marriages, cybercrime and, today, in Europe, we even have to defend our lifestyle.
This is the reason why I have decided to focus on women’s rights in my biennium. Now more than ever, women’s rights need to be defended. What we have achieved could easily be lost again. Our work is even more important in these challenging times, as some elements of society try to curb women’s rights and liberties.
This is why, dear Soroptimists, my slogan for the next two years is
We stand up for Women!
We stand up for Women!
Because violating Women’s rights is NOT Acceptable!!
Just as violating Women is NOT acceptable!
And when I say violating I mean not only in the physical sense, but also the violation of basic human rights for women, the right to education, the right to equal pay, the right to equal access to justice, or simply the right to speak up and finish a sentence!
This theme is perfectly in line with SI’s ‘Where We Stand Statement’ on ‘Gender-based Violence’, published earlier this year.
I am excited about working with all of you to make this world a better place by improving the lives of women and girls, by fighting for their rights.
I am enthusiastic about dedicating my energy and passion to women, to the organization, and to all of you.
You have already executed countless projects with a similar focus in past years. You have been engaged in various ways to make the lives of women better. Excellent projects have been realized, and many more are in progress.
- Take, for example, last year’s Best Practice Award winner in the category Violence against Women, the Union of Turkey, with their outstanding and creative evolution workshop for the victims of violence.
- Or, the many projects that fight against human trafficking
- Or, the many projects presented during the 16 days of activism last year.
This is Soroptimism at its best.
New projects will be developed, and the Programme Team will support you with ideas.
The well-established PD trainings will be given a new twist: as a reflection of your feedback we will offer separate trainings for Unions and Single Clubs to better serve the needs of the participants.
And, we will revise the current programmes and awards.
I firmly believe in the effectiveness and power of Advocacy. Therefore, like Soroptimist International, our global organization, at Federation level we will engage in strong advocacy work for women as well.
Why this? Because this is where the Federation can play a strategic role thanks to the combined power of all the Unions and Single clubs.
As a Union, it is almost impossible to influence on a level beyond national boundaries. Supranational influence is clearly the task of Soroptimist International and the Federations. Of course, Unions will benefit from the impact of our efforts and profit from the knowledge and insight we can share with you.
To empower you on a national level, we will organize special sessions on advocacy and share best practices. We sincerely hope each Union will nominate an advocacy director to facilitate this work!
Another biennium focus that is close to my heart is our membership! Besides seeking to be more successful in retention, we must rejuvenate our organization by recruiting ‘new blood’. Let’s be honest: with an ageing membership, it becomes more and more difficult to attract to younger members. And to keep our selling point and defining feature as a network of active and socially engaged professional women, we desperately need this population!
We are a great organization! But, if we want to remain a powerful force for women, if we want to continue influencing women’s causes, we must gain the support of younger women. The ideas and energy of younger women who share our values are crucial to our future.
We need to attract the younger generation who, together with us, will
Stand up for Women!
To reach these younger women, we have to use the communication tools of the 21st century!
Classical communication methods are no longer sufficient!
Blogs, Twitter, Webinars and Instagram, these are just a few of the many newer tools that need to have a greater presence at SIE.
At the moment, not enough of us have the skills or time to make effective use of these digital tools. This is why I have nominated a competent Soroptimist to be in charge of ‘Modern Media’ on the Board. I look forward to benefiting from her expertise, as we transition into the new media world.
You have already heard about the updated status of the Branding Campaign, and I want to stress that the new Board will pursue this roadmap as outlined.
Now let’s talk about strategies:
As some of you may be aware, the current Strategic Plan for SIE will be completed by the end of 2019. Therefore, one of the key tasks of the new Board will be to shape the future of our organization. Of course, we welcome your views, so please share them with us as we discuss and draft a new Strategic Plan.
The strategy I have envisaged for my presidency will be discussed and adopted at the first Board Meeting at the end of September / early October.
All of you should have the possibility to see first-hand how Board members work, which is why I will continue to open Governors’ Meetings to all who wish to attend. The only limitation will be the available space!
Among the other key questions that need to be addressed is whether we are organized and structured in the best way to cope with today’s challenges.
As you know, SIE introduced a Triangle structure six years ago, and some Unions have followed this idea. Now is a good time to review whether this structure is the best one to lead us into the future.
For example, digitalization is changing our lives in a dramatic way and is even turning traditional companies upside down. It is thus obvious that digitalization is going to have an influence on an organization like ours and should be reflected in our strategy as well.
Another aspect of my strategic plan is to shift focus to Eastern Europe.
Over the past few years, SIE has strongly supported the establishment of the SI Future African Federation. With a constitution and task force in place, it is now up the African Soroptimists to get operations off the ground and increase membership, which ultimately will lead to a new African Federation.
In these circumstances, SIE will now shift its focus to Eastern Europe. It is time to revisit this part of Europe, especially in light of recent developments, and see how we can support to our Soroptimist sisters there.
And finally, there is the issue of the SIE Constitutions and By-Laws.
Revising the SIE Constitutions and By-Laws has been on the agenda for quite some time now, and I am making its completion a priority. Therefore, I nominated a ‘project lead new constitutions’. I am determined that the GM should be in a position to approve the new SIE Constitutions and SIE By-Laws by 2019.
It is also my intention to give members of Single Clubs the same rights as those afforded the members organized in Unions. As you have seen in the paper presented by the Constitution and By-Laws Committee, this will not be an easy task and will demand some very creative ideas. However, I feel confident that we will find a solution with the help of our experts.
I sincerely hope our members will be open to real change, because if we want to ensure a successful future for SIE, we must be willing to re-think our structure and the constitutions. If not, we can only achieve some cosmetic nips and tucks.
I am very honoured to be your president for the next two years.
This function gives me the possibility – and indeed the mandate – to shape our future with your guidance and approval.
I will do my part with energy and passion.
My Board and I will do our utmost to achieve the plans I have shared with you today.
Your SIE officers invest a lot of their spare time into fulfilling their SIE responsibilities, and I want to promote a positive team spirit which is both motivating and supportive. We have to make the best of our limited financial and human resources.
After all, our only reward for serving on the Board is seeing that we have made a difference – by inspiring projects for women and girls and accomplishing strategic work for the organization.
And one thing is for sure: By motivating and supporting each other, we will be able to enjoy the time together and have fun while doing voluntary work for SIE!
Because this work is worth it!
Stand up for women – stand up for Soroptimists!