A welcome sisterhood
A club of 80 women set up in Oakland back in 1921, Soroptimist now helps women in very different situations everywhere, from victims of domestic violence to those who want to read and write.
SORO WHAT ? Soro who? This is indeed a tongue twister of a word. Several people split the word into Sor and Optimists and wonder if this word means optimism gone sour? None of that. Soroptimist is the name of an international social service organisation that works towards "making a difference to women". Comprising almost 1,00,000 members in about 120 countries around the world, the Bangalore chapter of this organisation was inaugurated early this year.
The first Soroptimist club was formed in 1921 by a group of 80 women in Oakland, Alameda County, California. They chose their name from two Latin words meaning "best for women". It marks the spirit of sisterhood across nations and races and is a voluntary service organisation for women in business, management, and the professions. Social work, very often, is seen as a full-time occupation. This organisation allows space for women to engage with social needs while keeping their professions as priority. Its defining slogan is: "We will share our time, talents, and financial resources to enrich our communities."
Soroptimist International is divided into four "federations": Soroptimist International of the Americas, Great Britain and Ireland, Europe, and South West Pacific. The Americas is the largest of the four, representing about 45,000 members in 19 countries and territories. The Indian branches of Soroptimist International are affiliated to the U.K. body.
Soroptimist uses its international voice and official status with the United Nations to advocate women's issues. Projects are carefully chosen to address challenges unique to today's women. The sample club projects would include providing minority women with routine medical care, funding domestic violence shelters, sponsoring career development programs for abandoned women, and tutoring women in literacy and basic job skills.
The larger plan is to make a difference in the areas of health, education, environment, human rights/status of women, economic and social development, and international goodwill and understanding.
Goals, however, are based on the needs of individual communities. International goodwill, for instance, may not mean much to a banker woman who has to reach her home in time to get dinner ready for the family. The purpose is to join with other women and engage in awareness, advocacy, and action in the service of her community and society. The fundamental faith is that she can make the world a better place for humankind.
The Soroptimists International of Bangalore was initiated, informally, in October last year and has already enrolled several volunteers through word of mouth. This organisation, in keeping with the larger goals of the parent body, has taken up, as its first project, the mission to improve health, living, and literacy levels of orphaned children. In the pipeline are plans to work for the betterment of street children, to help in the functioning of old age homes and to work with women living in halfway homes.
Two of its members, who are doctors, have already begun the work of providing medical assistance to orphans and are looking out for generous contributors who can help carry out an immunisation programme for these children. The members of this organisation are clear about two things: One, they do not have too much time to devote to a cause, and two, big journeys happen only with small steps. Lack of time is compensated for by a greater ability to network. And this is where these women in professions want to make their contribution they would like to spread awareness among members of the local community.
The members are required to meet once every month preferably on a second Saturday and discuss the project at hand. This is clearly not a tea party. It is a business meeting. A core group can meet more often if a certain deadline has to be met. Membership fees to the club is a nominal Rs. 500 per annum, nearly half of which goes towards registration charges to the U.K.. Bangalore women interested in doing their bit towards improving the lives of the less fortunate can get details from Margaret Ponnaiah at 6571655.
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