On 24 January 2023, Soroptimist International (SI) hosted a webinar to celebrate International Day of Education by showcasing our Federation's important education projects from around the globe. The webinar was exceptionally well attended, seeing hundreds of members from over 30 different countries joining!
Led by SI President Maureen Maguire, whose President's Appeal, 'Opening Doors to a Bright Future', has paid significant attention to the instrumental role which education plays in providing women and girls with opportunities they would otherwise not have access to, the webinar showcased some of the valuable education projects delivered by Soroptimist clubs worldwide. In every instance, the significance of education as a tool for delivering tangible benefits to the lives of women and girls was highlighted, as well as the role which our organization's global cooperative efforts have played in opening the doors of opportunity for women and girls.
Each Soroptimist Federation President illustrated how their Federation is striving to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals 4 & 5, Quality Education, and Gender Equality.
Beginning the showcase, SI Africa's President, Jalila Moufqia, guided us through many of the fantastic achievements of the clubs in her Federation. For instance, SI Club Marrakech Fondateur of Morocco who dedicated 17 years to building and equipping a home to welcome rural girls, bringing them closer to high school and university, as well as offering them a quality of life and an optimal education. This project has enabled over 300 girls to achieve university level qualifications.
SI Yaoundé of Cameroon have also been running educational projects, teaching pastry making to internally displaced women and girls affected by the Civil War. This income generating project has run continuously for 3 years and has supported 300 women and girls, allowing them to develop sustainable streams of income.
SI of the Americas
In SIA's presentation, President Stephanie Smith introduced the 'Dream It Be It' Programme, which prioritises the education of disadvantaged girls. Since its launch, the programme has helped a total of 98,000 girls with their education and career opportunities, guiding them toward a more sustainable future. An important aspect of this programme has been the flexibility of the curriculum, allowing girls to be reached in different contexts – a key example being the work of SI Terronal of Panama, who have worked with the Ngäbe Indigenous community. Here, the girls are engaged in sewing classes which encourage them to tap into their existing skills and values, whilst teaching them an income generating skill, which can allow them to become financially independent members of society.
SIE President Carolien Demey introduced the project 'Autonomy through Education for Women in Shelters' (Club of Almere) carried out in The Netherlands, Suriname, and Curacao. The project targets women in shelters who are victims of domestic abuse, and has helped such women by providing them with support through the delivery of educational programmes, as well as providing the women with laptops so they could have easy access to educational materials in an increasingly digital world.
Additionally, the SI Union of Italy set up a project with the Bank of Italy in October 2020, where 300 Soroptimist club members took part in online training, aiming to help participants to be better at managing their finances and to become future financial educators. Women in vulnerable positions in particular were targeted for recruitment as part of this project, whilst the courses were mostly delivered online. Ultimately, 42 courses were carried out, with 3,000 women successfully completing the study programme.
SI of Great Britain and Ireland
SIGBI President Cathy Cottridge presented a project delivered by SI Leeds, which is focused on girls in local schools, hosting a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) immersion day – showcasing women successful in these career fields to the schoolgirls. As many STEM subjects are male dominated, girls can be frequently disaffected and demotivated to pursue these subjects further, often due to a lack of visible role models and representation. SI Leeds wanted to combat this issue by asking women in STEM to host activities during the immersion day. As a result, the girls who participated were able to do so in an informal and fun atmosphere – constructing parachutes which could safely carry an egg, as well as building rockets, and taking part in the incredibly popular slime making class! Most importantly, however, the girls were encouraged and engaged throughout to ask questions and interact with the inspirational women in STEM who led each activity.
SI South-East Asia Pacific
Lastly, SISEAP President Christine Johnstone presented a long-standing project run by SI Club Damansara of Malaysia, 'Building Bridges Beyond Borders' (BBBB). Malaysia has a significant immigrant population whose children do not have access to formal education. In order to resolve this issue, BBBB was launched in 2011 with the aim of supporting many of these children with university student mentors, as well as other volunteers helping to deliver educational support online. Local volunteers also helped with delivery of educational materials to children in refugee schools.
The project has supported 1500 students since being launched, with recipients sharing that they felt better equipped to seek employment as the programme had boosted their confidence as well as their English skills! On top of this, the Programme won the Best Practice Award twice, with 254 university graduates who were able to access higher education thanks to the programme.
Toward the end of the webinar, there was an opportunity for those in attendance to ask more detailed questions about the various projects and programmes discussed throughout. One particularly common question was about the acquirement and application of funding, to which SI Director of Advocacy, Leigh Ellwood Brown, responded that one of the main sources of funding comes through partnership with NGO's and brands who support Soroptimist international's initiative. We reach out to potential partners who could also benefit from partnering with us. Additionally, partnering with big brands helps to raise SI's visibility which further generates funds.
You can watch a recording of the webinar here:
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