Watch the SI Convention KL 2019 Wrap Up Video Here


I have just attended the 21st SI Convention in KL 2019. This was my 2nd International Convention and it did not disappoint.

Story by Kath Gribble SI Australia

Firstly, being the National Representative of Australia, I had the privilege of carrying the National flag of Australia on to the stage at the opening of the convention.

After the welcome by Sri Siew Yong Gnanalingam, chair of the convention committee, Her Majesty arrived.
The first guest speaker to give an address was Her Majesty KDYMM Seri Paduka Baginda Raja who was dressed in an all-white gown (the symbol of mourning for her recently deceased father in law). She spoke simply but with a sense of humour about her work and interests. One of her interests is crafts and textiles and the preservation of silk weaving and ancient weaving patterns. She started a project where men are trained in this art in prison and continue when they leave, giving them financial prospects for the future.

SI DAY 1 117 Her Majesty

Mariet Vehoef-Cohen, Soroptimist International world president, and SI IPP Yvonne Simpson gave a brief overview of their time in office and corresponding Presidents appeals.
Then Dato Anusha Santhirasthipam, our SISWP Federation President, warmly welcomed all present on behalf of the host nation.
The keynote speaker was internationally renowned Author and Chief Foreign Correspondent for the Sunday Times, UK Christina Lamb OBE. She was fascinating and so brave to venture into war zones. She stated she had sometimes been in the right place at the right time and seized opportunities when they came her way, such as meeting Benazir Bhutto which enabled her to have a continuing interest in Afghanistan. She visits many war zones and witnesses the heartbreak of the common people and believes education is the key to people reaching their full potential.
A very inspiring, courageous and indomitable lady, who through her work makes us aware of the injustices of the world.
The Friendship night was colourful, full of chatter and dancing by national groups from Asia.

Information sessions

Sonia Casanova, Immediate Past President of SI Griffith and President Elect SI Region of NSW spoke on Soroptimist work on ending violence, trafficking and exploitation.
She talked about advocacy and the part SI Australia is taking on overseas backpackers working in Australia and how her club SI Griffith has expanded this to include migrant workers, partnering with the Salvation Army. She suggests holding Community Forums to give information, awareness and take action. It is imperative to contact members of parliament and state your case.
Sonia suggested we write postcards translated into key languages which provide information and to hold Community BBQ’s to feed exploited workers and check on their welfare. Sonia also suggests to help them complete forms as most migrant workers have poor English and general literacy skills.

Sonia Casanova SI Griffith Guest Speaker

Soroptimist International Region of Malaysia presented a session on “Clean Water for Rural Communities”.

1 in 9 people worldwide lack access to safe water.
Every minute a child dies from water-borne diseases. Childhood diarrhoea remains a leading cause of death in children under 5 years and is directly linked to consumption of unsafe water and food.
In many parts of the world women and girls bear the responsibility of collecting and carrying water from wells and streams. In some instances, women and girls are kidnapped, sexually assaulted or raped on their way to collect water.
In 2016, 17girls, including 5 Penan girls from Long Tanyit, decided to step out of their comfort zones and break gender stereotypes to be trained as welders. They graduated with their Malaysian skills certificates in September 2017.
The primary objectives were to bring clean water to rural communities in Sarawak and Sabah, improve the health and well-being of the villagers, improve the communities through sustainable organic farming and land cultivation and generate income from their current lands.
The secondary objectives were to upskill the 5 Penan girls to diploma level in welding which would allow them to become Welding Inspectors. Also to train the women in the village in organic farming methods so that they can play a major role in building and sustaining the livelihood of the community. They will in turn move on to positions of leadership in their community.
The project will address these 5 SDG’s: No poverty, Good Health and Well Being, Quality Education, Gender Equality and Clean Water and Sanitation.
I visited the Taman Tugu Forest for the tree planting ceremony and then went on a guided walking tour of the forest.

21st Convention SI Australia

SI Australia Executive attending the Convention - Anne Marsden (Treasurer) Karen Thornton (Victoria) Di Lockwood (South Australia and Advocacy Lead), Vicki Bailey (Queensland), Kath Gribble ( SI Aust NR) Sandra Richards ( Newsletter Editor), Carol Thomas (SI Tasmania) Liz Butson (SI Western Australia), Nerida Murray (SI NSW)

Hands on Development Immersion to Nepal Soroptimist Tour

I arrived in Kathmandu the night before the tour commenced with Paula Siddle SI NZ and settled into the charming Moonlight Hotel.
Next day we ventured out to see the Garden of Dreams and then onto the Narayanhity Palace which long served as residence and principal workplace for the reigning monarch of the Kingdom of Nepal. Not long after the Nepalese Royal massacre in 2001 and the revolution in 2006, the monarchy was toppled and it is now a museum. The traffic was unbelievable!
That evening we met the group and our guides and had a short walk thru the streets of Thamel for a group dinner.

The next day we were taken to Pashupatinath temple cremation site to observe the ritual of a Hindu bereavement ceremony and cremation. We also visited and witnessed for a brief moment the current (no photo allowed) kumari Goddess. Here we saw the child who is selected after much analysis to live in a temple from approx. 4 years old to puberty. To see her at the window is said to bring good luck.
The following day we visited the Seven Women Centre and were introduced to the women and assembled in the kitchen for a cooking class. I learnt to make dahl and tomato pickle by two lovely, patient girls Bimala and Amrita. We then sat down to a delicious lunch after which we had a Nepalese language class. The most important sentence for me was Can you show me the toilet!!!

21st Convention SI Australia Nepal Visit 5 small
Next day we visited the famous Fred Hollows eye hospital Tilganga Institute which for me was particularly interesting, being a nurse. We were able to witness cataract surgery, outpatient services, recovery dept and making of lenses.
We experienced rural life the next day by travelling to the rural town of Sudal and on to Bhaktapur for a stay overnight. We were given a demonstration of Tanka art and many of the group purchased these beautiful works of art.
We returned to Kathmandu the next day after visiting various temples and had a tour of the Nepali Fair-Trading Centre. Here the craftspeople demonstrated weaving, dyeing, pottery, woodwork and glassmaking. There are over 800 craftsmen outsourced. The mission of Fair trade is to provide a decent price to low income, primarily female craft producers. We also visited a silversmith at his factory with excellent craftmanship and reasonable prices (all the women were like kids in a candy shop). That night we spent a musical evening at a restaurant where the profits go towards rebuilding houses after the earthquakes.

The next day we visited Maiti House which is an organisation to stop trafficking in Nepal. It is a rehabilitation centre for trafficked women and children. We were not allowed to photograph people or have any eye contact. We watched a harrowing video and of course all donated money to the cause.
We did go back to the Seven Women Centre and try our hand at craft. I made a hair tie for my granddaughter, some felt baubles on a key ring and a coaster with a lot of help from the girls.
We visited many temples both Hindu and Buddhist. We saw lots of monkeys and cows on the street, unbelievable traffic jams, wonderful shopping and most of all lovely gentle people anxious to please and show us their beautiful country. We had a brief meeting with members of SI Kathmandu and they told us of their projects. They have been going for 7 years and have 27 members. One of their long term projects is the education of girls in government schools. They support 50 marginalised girls in Kathmandu. They provide uniforms, books, bags and stationery. The teachers recommend which girls need the most help.

21st Convention SI Australia Nepal Visit 6
It was a wonderful tour and we all connected very well with the same interests in helping disadvantaged women. It was great to meet the real people of Nepal and get to know them and all the difficulties they have to overcome.
An amazing thing also was no one fell down a pot hole, got hit by a car or got sick from the foreign food!!I can recommend this amazing tour.
Kath Gribble
National Representative SI Australia