Soroptimist International is a global volunteer movement working to improve the lives of girls and women, spreading across all continents, with clubs in many towns and cities. It was founded in 1921 in California by a group of women to “Save the Redwoods”, the club’s first project, which was successfully lobbied saving the forest, creating a following and new clubs. Interestingly, during the same years, in Britain similar clubs for women had been established with the name of Venture which then became Soroptimist clubs. Although neither clubs knew about the others, this marked the beginning of Soroptimist as an international organisation. In 1924, another club was founded in Paris, this time linked to the one in California. Over the years many other clubs started appearing around the world, all with the same principles and vision. Today, the global clubs are divided into four Federations: Great Britain & Ireland; Europe; The Americas; The South West Pacific.
Now, with over 2,500 clubs, Soroptimist International’s vision is present in many parts of our world and is reaching new ones: the advancement of the status of women, human rights for all, equality, development and peace, and advancement of international understanding, goodwill and peace are just a few of the ideals and aims of Soroptimist International. The current SI president Mariet Verhoef-Cohen, a member of SI Zwolle club in the Netherlands, is leading various projects focused on women, water, and leadership. For instance, the Women Water and Leadership international appeal aims at supporting projects that enable and empower girls and wants to make sure that they will have the necessary knowledge and experience to manage water resources and, possibly, start careers in water-related professions.
There are three projects linked to SI President Mariet Verhoef-Cohen: Long Tanyit – Malaysia, Wewash, and Mwihoko Women. The latter project is taking place in Kenya and is working towards sharing agricultural knowledge, clean energy and water, so the community can transition from subsistence farming to selling their produce at market. Five hundred women are involved in this project, linked to IS Union of Kenya to ensure its success. At the same time Long Tanyit – Malaysia is helping the people living in Malaysian Borneo fight climate change, deforestation, mining and continuous logging, which are not only polluting the air but also the drinking water, threatening the communities as well as the rich biodiversity peculiar to that area. Soroptimist International Damansara provided young people a ‘Work Readiness’ programme and has successfully helped women to graduate with a Malaysian Skills Certificate in welding, making them inspired to create a more sustainable future for themselves and their community.
While all these projects may seem far away and difficult to participate, one of the Cardiff Soroptimist club, SI Glamorgan, is organising an event for women’s mental wellbeing on the 18th of May. St Fagans Village Hall will be the venue of the event, complete with a car park and immersed in the picturesque village of St Fagans. The event, held on a Saturday, will offer taster sessions of yoga, mindfulness, tai chi, fell-good therapies and talk by counsellor. These activities are aimed at improving mental wellbeing and to inform the participant on how and where to access more help if needed. After, or between the taster sessions, those who take part in the event will be able to relax and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee with some cakes and biscuits. SI Glamorgan has set up a page on Eventbrite to take bookings and one on Facebook with more information about the event. The best part? The whole event is for free.