Their children may be older than me and they may sometimes misuse the “reply all” in an email chain. Yet since becoming a member, I have learnt so much from the incredible women who call themselves Soroptimists.

Blog by Karess Dias

It has been one year since I was inducted as a member of SI Fremantle, and two years since I first learnt about Soroptimist when I participated in the public speaking competition organised by SI Fremantle (I won’t tell you how long it was before I could properly say Soroptimist).

My introduction to Soroptimist came during a period of real discomfort in my life. When I first took part in the Soroptimist Fremantle public speaking competition in 2015, I was in my third year of studying law at university and frustrated with being able to see such blatant gender inequality (particularly in the legal profession) and feeling like nothing I did would change any of it. Furthermore, it was around the time when friends began to talk about experiences of sexual harassment and assault, but they weren’t speaking of the abstract, these were their experiences. I felt both outraged and helpless.

Before taking part in the public speaking competition I googled Soroptimist. I was inspired – though admittedly, overwhelmed – there was so much being done internationally. Had I just learnt about Soroptimist from my google search, I don’t think that I would have had the courage to seek out my local club because it was difficult to understand how I could contribute to something so large and widespread.
When I think about what actually drew me to wanting to be a Soroptimist, it was meeting the Soroptimist women at the public speaking competition. They were so warm and welcoming and so kind. Speaking to some of the women after the competition I learnt about what their club did, small manageable projects which formed part of a much greater cause. What I really loved was that their projects were not only international, but local too, the benefits permeated throughout the community.

About six months later, I felt the absence of Soroptimist and contacted my local club to learn more about them. I was invited to a meeting, since that day I have refused to leave. At the meeting – which, luckily for me was a social meeting – I was welcomed by all of the women as if I was a Soroptimist. I was in awe of the community they had, and inspired about their attitude of action. I had had an idea of starting up a university club affiliated with Soroptimist and SI Fremantle told me that I had their support. Their ‘support’ has meant an unwavering commitment to achieving this goal, they have helped cross every hurdle that presented itself and it meant continued mentoring and guidance.

Setting up the Young Soroptimists university club has had some serious hurdles, there have been constitutional issues, from both Soroptimist and the university, their issues of membership and of affiliation. SI Fremantle have helped me every step of the way. Since then, I have been inspired to take on new projects, such as a public speaking competition across metropolitan universities in Perth (hopefully a pilot project for an Australia-wide competition). Whenever I have questions, or am unsure of when do to, members of SI Fremantle will meet with me and help me to workshop issues. I am relatively inexperienced in organising events and do not always see the issues that may arise, or am unsure of how to approach them when they do, yet the club has, they are able to point out possible issues before they arise and can help find ways to avoid the problems. I continue to learn so much from these women, and am privileged to have such a wonderful support network.

They may refer to themselves as ‘old birds’, yet their feathers are filled with a wisdom that I hope to one day achieve. Until then I will continue to learn from them, knowing that when I fly, that I am supported by an incredible group of inspirational women.

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