What are the ingredients of a successful meeting? One can google all day to reveal hundreds of different answers, however a number of fundamental ingredients appear on every list. The first is coming prepared, and the second is creating an environment for respectful discussion, while not avoiding healthy debate. Related to this, I like the saying “Where all think alike, nobody thinks very much.” While it is always nice when others agree with us, often the best ideas are generated when we are challenged – this is when we make real progress and effective plans to drive change.
Our recent Governors’ Meeting in Bratislava excelled as a ‘successful meeting’ thanks to the attitudes and care of the participants. As a result, I, and many fellow Soroptimists returned from my trip highly motivated to put plans to ‘Stand Up For Women’ into action…
We frequently refer to our motto: ‘We Stand Up for Women’, though must ask ourselves to what extent we meet this promise. Equality and equity form the bedrock of a democracy-based organisation like ours, and our slogan is therefore tied to common, rather than individual goals.
It becomes even more hazardous to state ‘We stand up for women’ in the context of women in warzones. As peacekeepers, we are aware of the critical role we play, and that part of our organisation’s effectiveness is due to our political and religious neutrality.
Maintaining this neutrality is not easy, especially when witnessing escalating acts of terrorism and inhuman behaviour – barbaric massacres, kidnapping, the slaughter of civilians, and rape used as a weapon of war…again. Children living this reality will not forget the images seared into their memory, nor forgive the acts they have seen and experienced. Our experience tells us that such devastation can give rise to a generation of embittered men and women, who may themselves retaliate with acts of terrorism.
So where do we stand when nations start fighting about territorial boundaries? How do we reconcile our organisational neutrality with our constitutional duty to defend human rights and strive for equality, development, and peace through the advancement of international understanding and goodwill?
There is only one real frontier that we must safeguard, and that we can safeguard as an NGO dedicated to remaining neutral. That is the boundary between peacekeeping efforts and humanitarian work aimed at establishing sustainable peace and cohabitation solutions, while distancing ourselves from extremist fanatic movements that breed terrorism. This divide exists across Europe and the Middle East.
In this context, our commitment to uphold international law is not a naïve endeavour.
During these critically challenging times marked by terrorism and ongoing acts of brutality, we do not need to question our relevance as an NGO. Our relevance is evident as we stand up for women in warzones, and significantly impact countless lives, both in the present and for future generations, by remaining steadfast in our organisation’s fundamental mission.
SIE President 2021-2023
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