August is the month to focus on two major internationally recognised United Nations Days - International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples & International Youth Day. Read more from a few of our many Soroptimist Clubs involved in supporting these themes.
World Indigenous Peoples Day
Why acknowledge International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples? There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world, living across 90 countries. They make up less than 5 per cent of the world's population, but account for 15 per cent of the poorest. They speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages and represent 5,000 different cultures. Gender and geographic inequalities mean that rural women including indigenous women are disproportionately affected by poverty, exclusion and the effects of environmental and climate change. Indigenous peoples have sought recognition of their identities, way of life and their right to traditional lands, territories and natural resources for years. The international community now recognizes that special measures are required to protect their rights and maintain their distinct cultures and way of life. The Voices of Indigenous Peoples must be heard.
As a Soroptimist what can you do? You are encouraged to participate in observing the day to spread the UN’s message on indigenous peoples. Activities may include educational forums, informal talks at your monthly meeting to gain an appreciation and a better understanding of indigenous peoples in your country. Events may include messages from the UN secretary general and other key leaders, performances by indigenous artists, and panel discussions on reconciliation.
Actions by Indigenous Peoples of the Asia Pacific Region: If you want to read more about Indigenous Voices in Asia view here.
Malaysia – Indigenous Borneo groups begin to embrace Eco Tourism, Richard Gunting is an 67 year old elder and his project Orou Sapulot and is based around a comfortable and traditional wooden longhouse for guests and a community farm. Here, agar wood grows alongside cocoa plants and fruit trees of papaya, guava, soursop, mango, pineapple and pomelo. Newly formed ponds home tilapia and valuable palian fish to eat, sell and distribute. It is a wonderful mix of activity, the foundations of which Gunting wishes to not only use to feed his visitors, but educate guests and locals alike about the potential of sustainable agriculture, Read More.
Thailand -The indigenous peoples’ way of life, their independent, sustainable lives in the mountains of Thailand is now under threat. Commercial farming, national boundaries and ‘modern life’ is compromising and taking away their last remaining link to the earth—the very source of their distinct indigenous identities, culture and dignity. Food security is becoming a serious problem as indigenous peoples are coerced into becoming employees of the international food industry . You can watch this video on Indigenous Peoples and Food Security here.
Cambodia - Representatives of the Chong ethnic minority in Cambodia’s Areng Valley recently filed petitions requesting official recognition. Ten villagers representing more than 200 families in the remote Koh Kong province area near the Cardamom Mountains filed the petition to the Ministry of Rural Development, the prime minister’s cabinet and the United Nations.
“Our Chong ancestors have been living here in Areng for a very long time. We have traditions, culture, costumes and ways of living in a community,” the petition reads. “We have faith in spirits and [practise] slash-and-burn planting following our ancestral traditions.”
Australia - In Australia Indigenous peoples celebrate NAIDOC week, which was just held in July, this years theme “Because of Her we Can”, celebrates the essential role that women have played - and continue to play - as active and significant role models at the community, local, state and national levels.” For at least 65,000 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have carried the dreaming stories, songlines, languages and knowledge that has kept their culture strong and enriched Aboriginal peoples as the oldest continuing culture on the planet.
America – Did you know that there are 4 states and 57 cities which now celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day instead of honouring Christopher Columbus, in recognition of their Native Americans.
Highlighting Soroptimists Indigenous Projects - International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples
SI Torrens, Australia - Regional Hospital Projects
SI Torrens in South Australia has just completed the latest stage in a 10 year relationship with indigenous people in Port Augusta.
The Step Down Unit at the regional hospital provides short term accommodation, based on a motel style, for people coming in by the Royal Flying Doctor Service from remote stations and camps and who need to stay for outpatient treatment or travel back home. Many arrive in what they were wearing and lack any money or access to basic requirements. In conjunction with the indigenous staff SI Torrens organise toilet packs for their care and often provide warm clothing or blankets for their return. This ensures that treatments are completed and that the patients return home in good health. During the recent NAIDOC WEEK, which celebrates indigenous culture and achievements the club was special guest and it's 10 year contribution was also noted.
SI Torrens also work with the Anangu Bibi Birthing project at the regional hospital. This state programme addresses the poor prenatal care of young indigenous girls and the low birth rate of their babies. SI Torrens worked with the Aboriginal Maternal Infant Care (AMIC) workers to develop gift packs to celebrate this moment for the young mothers who often lack any family support, are from remote areas and whose self esteem is very low. The AMIC workers identify appropriate recipients and SI Torrens provide a gift basket that includes both personal care goods, baby items and a personal gift. Recently SI Torrens compiled 30 toiletry packs and 18 gift baskets and drove 400 kms to deliver them.
SI Gippsland, Australia - Koorie Homework Class
Koorie Homework Class held at Liddiard Road Primary School, Traralgon. After a recent visit to the school, Judy van Beek from SI Gippsland found the room a hive of activity.
Activity sheets are given to students as reinforcement of class work, with the students given work they can achieve, with some assistance. The students apply themselves diligently; they are clearly happy to take home their finished achievements. Crafts sessions which all have inherent Koorie values, are also held, so the children are working in their own culture.Students made Koorie flags and did rock art.
Richard Price, who is the Leading Teacher of Wellbeing for all students at Liddiard Road Primary School, and always assists at the homework class, says the homework class provides invaluable socialisation; it engenders good work expectations and leads to the cultural wellbeing of the Koorie students who attend. The pupils are expected to attend regularly and Richard says the positive Monday class sets up the students for a positive week at school.
In February this year SI Gippsland presented vouchers to the value of $500 for stationery, sports equipment to Vera Harrold, the Koorie Educational Support Officer (KESO) responsible for co-ordinating this homework class.
This is the third year of SI Gippsland supporting the homework class, which Vera says could not go ahead as it is,
SI Gippsland members have also made a commitment to attend some homework sessions to help with the tutoring.without the support of our Soroptimist group. In Vera's words: " you Soroptimist ladies are awesome - a big hug and thank you from all of us. I know all our Koorie kids appreciate the support you give us".
SI Region of South Queensland, Australia - Bursary Award for indigenous women attending university.
Clubs of SISQ equally donate to National council of Women of Queensland to have a Soroptimist Bursary for $1000.00 for an indigenous women attending university.
Myora Kruger the SISQ recipient is a traditional descendant of Gold Coast and Moreton Island indigenous communities and is a third-year medical student at Bond University. She was inspired to become an Ear Nose and Throat Specialist, by a female surgeon who treated her when she was in Year 7. Myora is aware that other indigenous girls see her as a role model, and wants to help improve the health care for their people. She is also an accomplished singer, having received a Certificate of Performance in Classical Voice and performed with Opera Queensland and Opera Australia.
Myora's words - "I am currently a third year medical student at Bond University, as an Indigenous female, I recognise the importance of this role I have taken on.
I understand that others watch and follow what I do, therefore I aim to be inspiring. Whilst I study medicine, I also pursue my passion for singing. I have obtained my Certificate of Performance through AMEB in Classical Voice and pursue my love of performance by performing with Opera QLD and Opera Aus.
As a Kombumerri (Gold Coast) and Ngughi (Moreton Island) traditional descendant, I recognise that being a role model to younger Indigenous girls is critically important. As a participant in and teacher of vocal students in the Yugambeh Youth Choir, I recognise that I am a role model for younger girls and I discuss schooling and education during singing lessons.
The fact that I am training to become a Doctor is held in high regard and community members are very proud of my achievements thus far.
I therefore utilise my academic and cultural achievements to inspire other Indigenous girls to higher levels in education and to pursue their passions.
Through choir and as a third year medical student I now recognise Indigenous children with ENT health issues. It is therefore my community responsibility to see myself as that inspiring ENT surgeon when I think to my future and the future of others. This bursary will assist with university costs”
International Youth Day
“The hopes of the world rest on young people. Peace, economic dynamism, social justice, tolerance — all this and more, today and tomorrow, depends on tapping into the power of youth.” — UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
There are currently 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 in the world. This is the largest youth population ever. But 1 in 10 of the world’s children live in conflict zones and 24 million of them are out of school.
Exploring the role of safe spaces in achieving freedom of expression, mutual respect, and constructive dialogue, International Youth Day 2018 aims to promote youth engagement and empowerment. The readiness and convenience of physical and virtual safe spaces can enhance young people’s potential by creating a common platform and opportunities for creativity. This years theme “Safe Spaces 4 Youth:” challenges you to think about your community and the availability of Safe Spaces, while there are many types of spaces, safe spaces ensure the dignity and safety of youth.
What can you as a Soroptimist do? - Organise events which seek to support SDG 17
Host an event where you can engage in discussions about the importance of why youth need safe spaces, or utilize your monthly club meeting, taking the opportunity to educate friends or family members on the various forms of safe spaces. You can highlight the importance of the accessibility and availability of safe spaces for youth.
Form a committee and work on discovering where safe spaces exist and identify where they are lacking in your local community. Explore different ways to make spaces safe for all youth including those from diverse backgrounds such as youth with disabilities, diverse gender identities, young women and girls, migrants and refugees etc. Youth from different backgrounds may prefer one form of space over the other; this will be an opportunity to hear their views and suggestions, engage with your local council or equivalent.
Highlighting Soroptimists Youth Projects - International Youth Day
SI Jakarta, Indonesia - Tangsel Scholarship-Mentoring Program
Soroptimist International of Jakarta (SIJ) has partnered with Titian Foundation to run Tangsel Scholarship-Mentoring Program since August 2017. The overall objective is to mentor students to build characters and capacities so that they can make informed decisions about taking higher education or joining the workforce. In charge of the mentoring program SI Jakarta provides scholarship for 2 girls and Titian Foundation has provided funding for most of the scholarships. There are 15 students benefiting from experiential learning and art to facilitate the students to acquire personal power, increase self-esteem, improve self discipline and responsibility, as well as improve communication, teamwork and social skills. Group coaching has been used to help the students to be accountable for taking steps in achieving their goals,integrating their learning into real life.
Students, wrote, directed and performed a play in March 2018 to inspire high school students to develop personal integrity. We believe messages created and delivered by peers have a significantly greater chance of being heard and making an impact on young audience. Students also organized their own event to celebrate International Women’s Day in March 2018. The event was conducted in English so that they could practice their English. They also participated in English writing competition about women’s role in communities.
SI Jakarta gave them the opportunity to raise funds through a garage sale that took place in June 2018. The funds are for the upcoming program to prevent risky behaviors among teenagers through art program in collaboration with KPAI (Indonesian Commission for Children Protection).
SI Eastern Districts of Adelaide, Australia - PK Mentoring Camps
Eastern Districts of Adelaide club is supporting Second Chances Teen camps. Second Chances is an organisation based in South Australia, which assists the children of prisoners to break the generational cycle of crime.
Helen Glanville, the Chief Executive of Second Chances has spoken at our club meetings about organising camps for teen girls, which through outdoor activities and positive role models teach the girls new skills and values.
The camps are custom designed with one mentor allocated to each camper.
Activities are provided to promote life values such as respect, trust and responsibility in a safe environment.
Our club has been working with Helen and raising funds for the camps since 2013. The Camp Director, Helen Rance has attended meetings with one of the mentors to provide insight about how the girls benefit from the camps. It is rewarding now for the club to hear from one of the girls who seven years ago attended her first camp and is now attending University and is a leader to whom the junior campers look up to and admire.
SI Eastern Districts of Adelaide has another visit from Helen and mentor Montana scheduled and is preparing to fund another camp in October this year.
SI Dusit, Thailand - Scholarship Program
Soroptimist International Dusit Scholarship program began in 1995 and has sponsored 2,256 girls from various upcountry provinces so far.
For the past four years SI Dusit (SID) have been giving scholarships to students in Sra Kaeo province with the cooperation of the Foundation for Education Along the Border. The foundation, chaired by General Phitsanu Urailert has been helping the Club in selecting less fortunate girl students in remote schools along the Thailand border adjacent to Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.
Sra Kaeo, a province close to the Cambodian border was chosen as a location as the parents and families of this province are members of the, ”Affected Village”.
There were times in the past when there was fighting between ethnic factions along the border, many died and many were injured. From the available statistics of 45 families of this province,
the annual income is as low as Baht 70000 per annum, while some families cannot state their annual income since its not regular. SID began with 20 Scholarships in 2015, and have increased it to 30 in 2016, 40 in 2017 and this year there are 60 students.
Most of these less fortunate students stay with their grandparents because their parents are divorced. These students have been chosen not just because they are in need, but because they are enthusiastic, motivated, hard working and have secured on an average grades of 2.5.
Each year SI Dusit visit the Burapha Task Force where we present scholarships to the students. On July 18th 2018, President June Khazi along with six SID members handed over scholarships to 60 students together with gifts. Gifts were also presented to the rest of the group of 80 students. SID appreciates the support from the Foundation for Education along the Border. One of the students who represented the group, thanked SI Dusit for the support and promised to study well and to be useful to the family and society.
SI Lae - School Competition Program
SI Lae partnered with Barata PNG to host a week long event for Students which finished off with a Youth Summit. Soroptimist International of Lae sponsors the Trophies and medals for Spelling Bee, Public Speaking and Debate.
In it’s second year running, the ‘SUMATIN by Barata’ program for Lae Schools was a great success.
Held in June 2018, the event saw participation from 9 schools across the city.
The Spelling Bee Competition between Primary Schools focusses on vocabulary lists derived from topics such as sex education, agriculture, social media and renewable energy.
The Debate Competition between Secondary Schools, Lae Secondary School and Lae International School, debate on the topics ‘That social media has created a culture of vanity in young people’ and ‘That plastic bags should have a government tax’. These topics saw great arguments and discussions, with Lae International School standing out as the winners for a second year in a row.
The competition also allowed for students to participate in public speaking, with two students basing their very informative talks around social media usage among teenagers.
Adjudicator and member of Soroptomist International Lae, Miss Jane Kenni, said that she was pleased with the competitions from the schools and encouraged students to continue spelling and debating to enhance their speaking skills.
The event also saw the introduction of the first Lae Youth Summit, which took place on the 29th June. The summit drew a crowd of over 200 young people, who listened to 6 youth speakers share their experiences and motivations. Among the speakers were Co Founder of Tru Warrior Fitness, Tala Kami, Owner of CleanTek Chiller, Ruth Bihoro, Lasallian Youth Minister, Dagia Aka, AFLPNG Flames Coach, Jonathan Ila, Student Youth and Climate Change Activist.