Soroptimist International of Africa Logo
Members Area 
Help change lives
Members Login
Home Who we are What we do Our clubs Contact us
Soroptimist panel on building a future after conflict.

Taking Action to End Sexual Violence in Conflict

Soroptimists from the UK and beyond joined world leaders, global celebrities, NGOs and members of the public at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in London from 10-13 June.The Summit was co-chaired by William Hague, UK Foreign Secretary, and Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Soroptimists were delighted to welcome hundreds of visitors to their information stand, including Angelina Jolie, while a panel event on building a future for women and girls after conflict featured Soroptimist projects from around the world. Lois Kamara from Sierra Leone described her work with war orphans and girls, including SI's Project SIerra. 
Silvana Arbia, an Italian judge and SI Europe Peace Prize winner spoke about re-establishing justice in Rwanda with the UN International Criminal Tribunal and the panel also included SI International President Ann Garvie. SIGBI's Pat Black attended official discussions by UN Member States. More on Soroptimist panel event and participation.

While the Summit was taking place, our UN Reps attended parallel events in New York and Geneva. The message was clear: to end sexual violence, coherent and cooperative policies must be adopted globally. 155 countries have now signed the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, which sets out practical and political steps, and many countries have developed National Action Plans to help turn commitments to action. Next steps and advocacy ideas to end sexual violence in conflict.
Nordic Soroptimists unite for new action on women's rights
Soroptimists from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, SI International President Ann Garvie and SI Europe Federation President Ulla Madsen were among nearly 20,000 participants at the Nordic Forum - new action for women's rights in Malmö, Sweden marking the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
Speaking at the event, President Ann highlighted the need to tackle the roots of gender inequality and to change attitudes, including among men and boys. The conference ended with a a final document being presented to Government Ministers from the five countries, reminding them of the commitments made in Beijing and setting out key points for action. More about the Nordic Forum. 



29 July 2017, Rotterdam, Mariet Verhoef-Cohen, Netherlands was inaugurated with overwhelming support as President of Soroptimist International (SI) for the 2017 2019 biennium; the first Dutch President in the organisation's almost 100-year existence.

Becoming a member of Soroptimist International in 1996, Mariet held several offices at SI Club Zwolle, the Netherlands, beginning her leadership career as President of the Union of the Netherlands, Suriname and the Antilles, a post she held from 2002-2004. In 2007, Mariet was elected President of the Soroptimist International of Europe (SIE), introducing 'Soroptimists Go for Water' as her biennium theme. The project succeeded in raising over 2 million euro for water related projects.

Educated in the Netherlands, Mariet studied, worked and lived in Brussels from 1974, moving to the UK in 1985, where she lived until returning home to the Netherlands in 1992. Married to Jan Pieter Verhoef, with three children, Mariet is owner and Director of Bacolet Translations BV, since 1992. During her inauguration in Rotterdam, Mariet was awarded the Royal distinction of Officer in the Order of Orange Nassau, in recognition of her ground breaking voluntary work, her dedication to social issues and social engagement, and her tireless devotion to women's rights and gender equality worldwide.

If it is true that we have two hands, one to help ourselves and one to help others, then it is clear that Mariet has spent much of her life dedicated to the latter. Employing the deep-rooted belief that women must support other women, Mariet explains: "One of my favourite, if rather controversial quotes, is that "there is a special place in hell for women who don't support other women". Women who empower women, women who are willing to lift each other up, inspire me. It was the President of my own Soroptimist club who first encouraged me to step forward into SI leadership, convincing me I was the right person, telling me "you can do this".

During my time as SIE President I travelled widely, meeting many Soroptimists. The women I met encouraged me to do my best for the empowerment of women, and to support women to become agents of change in the alleviation of poverty. As Soroptimists, we strive for a world where women and girls may achieve their individual and collective potential, and we as Soroptimists, can play an active role in supporting that vision, not only on the ground through the projects that we action, but also within our own organisation. In the Netherlands, I am energised to see the number of young Soroptimists joining the organisation, and it is important that we support and enthuse these young women after all, they will be the decision makers and the leaders of our organisation in future years".

SI President Mariet's dedication to gender equality and water is evident. "Women (gender equality) and water, are two interlinked causes that have run like a thread through my life", explains Mariet. "We know why we fight for gender equality, for equal rights for women, but maybe my passion for water is less obvious. Water for me is right at the start more important than oil, the most expensive commodity. Water is the cornerstone of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and essential to the attainment of the 16 other SDGs".

Image: SI President, Mariet Verhoef-Cohen joins an expert panel at an event organised by the Permanent Mission of Brazil and co-sponsored by Soroptimist International, Women for Water Partnership and BPW Brazil. Mariet's enthusiasm for the topics of women and water resonates in her decision to choose 'Women, Water and Leadership' as her Presidential Appeal for the 2017-2019 biennium. Mariet is also President of the Women for Water Partnership, whose mission is to position women as active leaders, experts, partners and agents of change. The President's Appeal will support at least five projects in five continents, increasing awareness of the vital role of women as equal partners at all levels of the water sector. Through education and empowerment, it will seek to ensure women and girls have the capacity, education and experience to gain careers in water-related professions.

Image: The SI President's Appeal 2017-2019, 'Women, Water & Leadership'. The first project to be supported is 'Improving access to agricultural information, clean energy and water, to achieve better food security for 500 women farmers in Kenya, Africa'.

Of the coming biennium, Mariet explains: "With the restructuring of the SI board , I have plans for the African Federation and for Communications, which will feature heavily in our goals. Clear and transparent communication is paramount, internally as well as externally, to show the world what a great and wonderful organisation we are. Our strength is in our worldwide membership: 75,000 professional women in 122 countries, each woman with her own expertise, skills, knowledge and experience. Can you imagine how fantastic it would be to truly utilise this expertise on the global platform?"

"Furthermore, SI has outstanding and competent UN representatives at six UN Centres", Mariet continues, "and with their help, our immense experience and the vast amounts of information we hold, can be shared more widely. We must also now strive to secure an SI UN Asian Pacific representative at the 7th UN Centre the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok".

Image: SI President Mariet Verhoef Cohen with SIE President Renata Trottmann, SI Past President Yvonne Simpson and SI UN Representative Dora Vrdlovec at the 26th Session of the CCPCJ, Vienna, May 2017. Mariet's passion and presence has not gone unnoticed on the international scene. In recent years, Mariet has organised High-Level sessions at CSW and appeared as an opening speaker during the Gender Seminar at the Stockholm Water Week. Mariet was a panellist at the WASAG, Water Scarcity Framework together with the FAO, promoting gender equality in the water sector, and last month presented on Literacy and Lifelong learning at UNESCO, Paris. On 27-28 September, Mariet was key note speaker at the conference Rules of Water, Rules for Life, (Link: Commemorating the 25th Anniversary of Dublin Principles: Recognizing women as agents of change in water resources management.

Mariet Verhoef-Cohen succeeds New Zealand's Yvonne Simpson as International President, joining a celebrated list of Soroptimist International Presidents, including Anne Garvie, Glasgow, Scotland; Alice Wells, Phoenix, USA; Hanne Jensbo, Aarhus, Denmark; Margaret Lobo, Mosman Park, Western Australia and Jane Zimmerman, George Town, Tasmania, to name just a few. We are sure you will join us in wishing Mariet every success in the becoming biennium.


Sustainable Development Goals Margaret Clark

If we want to end poverty, combat inequalities and promote prosperity while protecting the environment we need to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

These are 17 Goals with 169 Targets which were formally adopted by all Member States at the United Nations Summit, New York, in September 2015. Soroptimist International Great Britain and Ireland (SIGBI) were represented, as was Soroptimist International (SI).

The new SDGs aim to complete what the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) did not achieve, and go much further, addressing the root causes of poverty and inequality and the universal need for development that works for all people.

The new agenda is an action plan for: people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership. It will foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies and requires the participation of all countries, stakeholders and people. The ambitious agenda seeks to end poverty by 2030 and promote shared economic prosperity, social development and environmental protection for all countries.

Governments are united behind this agenda, which includes unprecedented inclusion of civil society and a stand-alone goal on gender equality SDG 5. We know now that without gender equality and a full role for women in society, in the economy and in governance, we will not be able to achieve the world we hoped for. These are the changes for which governments have repeatedly signed their support, with international protocols on non-discrimination, and on different aspects of rights and global goods. To date, that support has not been felt all the way through society; consequently results have fallen short of aspiration. In 2015 there was a review of implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on its 20th anniversary. One-hundred sixty-seven countries reported their own successes in achieving gender equality and women's empowerment. These reports are in effect national blueprints for action. Soroptimist Goals link with the SDGs such that by achieving one you may be achieving another. We need action. Advocate for change. Put ourselves and the world on the right side of history by working towards achieving the UN SDGs.


SI Lagos Mainland Club. International Women's Day



SI Board Restructure


At the recent SI Final Board Meeting of the 2015- 2017 biennium, the directors unanimously agreed to restructure the SI board. Today, they have released the following statement to ensure all members are informed and have the opportunity to show their support for this positive step forward for our global organisation.

STATEMENT 16 August 2017

The Soroptimist International (SI) Board approved to restructure its size and composition at its meeting on 28 July 2017 in Rotterdam.

The SI Board took this decision to be cost effective while retaining significant involvement of its member Federations, all designed to align with the SI Board's 2016 2019 Strategic Plan approved in 2016. This restructuring is the result of concentrated efforts of a board-appointed Restructuring Working Group which studied the issue for nearly two years.

The new structure ensures that Soroptimist International's governance model will involve its Directors with a focus on providing appropriate skills, and will lead the Company to focus on its Mission in a more nimble and effective manner.

The existing SI governance structure of 12 voting Directors, 4 officers, and various committees will be reduced. The newly restructured SI Board will be composed of two representatives from each Federation, the SI President, SI Treasurer and SI Director of Advocacy. Going forward, SI Directors will chair the committees of Governance, Finance, Communications, Advocacy, Convention, and Presidents Appeal.

The new SI board structure will be implemented on 1 January 2018. Future SI Boards will commence on 1 January of even numbered years, e.g., 2020, 2022, 2024, etc.

The Soroptimist International Board believes this new structure is more appropriate to the Mission and clarity of purpose of SI as set out in the SI Strategic Plan, and better aligned with SI's key strategic priorities. The SI Board is confident this restructuring is a bold step forward which will lead Soroptimist International well into the future.


Immediate past president of Soroptimist International visits SI Kenya Union.


SI Antananarivo on educating the girl child!


SI Antananarivo tackles the environment with high school girls!



SI Gisenyi club Rwanda on sexual violence.


SI Karen Bixen in training


SIGBI President Ann visits SI Port Elizabeth


Visiting the Mapula project.


Yvonne Simpson graces SI Union of Kenya meeting.


ceremony for young girls in the soroptimist home of Marrakech.

Ceremony for award,

ceremony for young girls in the soroptimist home of Marrakech, with the presence of Mr. the wali of Marrakech and several personalities representing the ministry of education and health. A beautiful message of hope for a better future.


President Ann urges renewed action on gender violence

Following recent shocking killings in USA, India and Pakistan, SI International President Ann Garvie has called on Soroptimists to continue and develop their work to address violence in their own communities, while also adding their voice to SI's advocacy work. "In every culture, every community, and every country, women’s lives are being blighted by violence. We will only see a difference when we change attitudes and challenge stereotypes, something we all have a role in doing.  We all must continue to raise awareness, take action, advocate on behalf of the billions of women and girls worldwide who are subjected to violence, every day." Read President Ann's full message.
Brazil Soroptimists say no to violence

Tackling violence against women and girls in Brazil

With the eyes of footballing nations on Brazil, currently hosting the World Cup, we invited Brazilian Soroptimists to share some of the work that the 31 clubs are doing to tackle violence against women. Read about Soroptimist projects on domestic abuse and trafficking in Brazil. 


From our UN Representatives - Speaking up for Women

Alice Odingo - UNEA
Nairobi - SI’s UN Reps Alice Odingo and Rose Mwangi, are making SI’s presence felt at the world’s first UN Environment Assembly this week. As a Global Co-ordinator for the Women's Major Group, Alice (pictured) has been facilitating discussions, drafting statements and making sure the voices of women are heard. 
Rome - Christina Hoefferer, SI’s new UN Rep at the Food and Agriculture Organisation attended a planning meeting for the Second International Conference on Nutrition, which will take place at the FAO in November.  “Gender discrimination is one of the main contributing factors of malnutrition" explains Christina. "Civil Society Organisations must focus on small scale food producers, above all women. It is crucial that women are accorded full and equal land rights”.

New York - UN Rep Bette Levy, was a key player in organising a launch event for UN Women’s Beijing+20 campaign yesterday.  Speakers included UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, activist Gloria Steinem and poet/writer Carlos A Gomez, one of the panellists from our CSW58 event on men, boys and gender equality.Read a report by UN Rep Angelina Akhvlediani.

For more on these events in Nairobi, Rome and New York, read our advocacy round-up.


Soroptimist clubs in action around the world!

SI clubs have been busy as always: building girls' self-esteem in Australia and the USA, economic empowerment in Madagascar and India, supporting women recovering from addiction in the USA and Germany...and much more. See some of the latest Soroptimist International club activity in our round-up of projects reported via the Programme Focus Reporting system in June.
Hilary Ratcliffe OBE

International Programme Director honoured for promoting gender equality

Congratulations to our International Programme Director Hilary Ratcliffe, made an “Officer of the Order of the British Empire" (OBE) in the UK Honours List this month for promoting gender equality around the world. Read more.


President Ann's double challenge for solar appeal - skydive postponed

Soroptimist International President Ann Garvie has been forced to postpone her planned skydive due to health issues, but is determined to fulfil her commitment to take to the skies for her See Solar, Cook Solar appeal. "Now my challenge is a double one", explains Ann. "First I will be following my doctor's orders and bringing my blood pressure down to safe levels, and then I will carry out the skydive". Read more.


SoroptiVoice Blog this month



     Home | Who we are | What we do | Our clubs | Contact us

Copyright © 2014 Taskforce Committee, Future African Federation, Soroptimist International. All rights reservrd.