Leaders in Civil Society

This morning started with a welcome from President Hanne. She noted that a women’s convention is filled with a colorful audience; a distinguishing factor from men in their dark suits. The keynote topic was: Women as Leaders in Civil Society and given by the right honourable Adrienne Clarkson, former Governor of Canada (1999-2005) and who founded the Institute for Canadian Citizenship.

Mdm. Clarkson was adopted as an honorary member to the Kainai Chieftainship during a traditional ceremony held at Red Crow Park, near Standoff, Alberta. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Governor General was adopted into the Blood Tribe with the name of Grandmother of Many Nations, making her the third woman to be inducted since the creation of the chieftainship. It is a title she is extremely proud of.

A society of difference (not similarities) is founded on the principle that love cannot be the binding factor or resolve disputes. A nation or state that is successful is often unlikeable or loathsome. It is principles of the heart, such as generosity and friendship, that are founded in love but not analysis or curiosity. She showcases this in Heart Matters, her recent book

Canada started with French Catholics followed by Anglo-Saxon Protestants and they founded Canada over the first Nations people who were native to the land. The nation began with union through diversity. Even now, the government targets 1% growth in population by immigration per year with the goal of citizenship within 3-5 years; there is 80% uptake. Yet Canada is not a headline in international papers – it is a hidden gem in the world.

The most powerful thing in a family home is the unrealized dreams of the parents – C. Yung. This concept is a powerful drive behind the desire to immigrate.

Room for us all: surprising stories of transformation is Her newest book – it highlights more on people’s story than simply where they come from.

Strength comes when outsiders finally become part of the mainstream. The ability to join without anyone standing in their way and becoming a full member of society is a hallmark of Canada. Helpful and kind people helped her family when they arrived from Hong Kong, particularly they taught her mother to cook as she previously had servants.

Some citizens became enemy-aliens in a country they were born in, but that changed within their lifetime (i.e. Raymond  Moriyama, a Japanese-Canadian was one of the architects who built the new Canadian Museum of War in Ottawa).

The Global Center of Plurality chose Canada to ask the fundamental question – how do we live with difference – and resides in former Museum of War. It was also redesigned by a Japanese-Canadian architect who was born in camps, Bruce Kuwabara.

Values in a civil society are what you make them in the public institutions, and in Canada one of them is education.

She took four questions: Comments on the maid in NY? People are welcoming of refugees but how do you retain their own but also adopt our traditions? Is the immigration experience necessary for creating new societies and making transformations? What role can young women play in Canada in leadership and immigration?

Then, answered all four questions together: Chinese men came to Canada without wives and often married native women out west; people stay in groups when they don’t feel welcome; teachers play an influential role to welcome the children and people want to be part of the mainstream or at least want their children to be; it should be a choice to attend language schools on Saturdays so the children can still speak to their grandparents but forcing them creates other issues; people keep what they choose to keep (she gave a great story of two sisters – the younger wore a traditional headscarf but when asked, it was not because of tradition, but because she wanted to be different); don’t judge others with your bias and preconceived notions; you know you are a friend with someone when you don’t want to change them; immigration introduces new patterns, ideas and ways of doing things. A wealthy white man in power admits to the sexual encounter – media attacks are targeting the maid’s character, not the implication of sexual harassment.

Mdm Clarkson considers herself part of a 2nd wave of feminism who now see equality becoming the norm, as evidenced by enrolment in professional education programs, but not at the senior or executive level in business because these women are balancing home/work; many don’t want just a career but family as well. She concluded with: remember if you choose to be Elizabeth I, there was only one.

2011 Convention – Friendship Evening

Opening Ceremonies began with an emotional role call of flags for all member countries. Cheers went up across the room as members were recognized for their country. At the end, the flag ceremony began with Canada, Quebec and Montreal amongst cheers and whoops. Past-President Margaret Lobo spoke elequently as she welcomed all the delegates and introduced our local guests: Mdm Jocelyn Ann Campbell, Montreal City Councillor and Christine St-Pierre, Minister for Culture & Communication and the Status of Women. She ended her greetings with a reminder that together we can make change happen.

After adjuring, members and guests filed up the escalator where they greeted by two Mounties (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and a fiddler as they entered in to an evening of delectable finger foods and friendship. The decor of sails, a sugar shack, teepees, a old 50’s style deli counter, and snow touched evergreens set the scene of Canada’s diversity in culture and landscape. Samples of Montreal Smoked meat, maple sugar over ice, and smoked salmon were just a taste of what Canada has to offer, but no poutine was on the menu.

Beautiful costumes from India, Malaysia, French Guiana, Sweden, and Rwanda (just to name a few) showcased the variety of nationalities in attendance this year. Of course the ladies from Eastern and Western Canada Regions stood out in their red and white, adorned in glow sticks, cowboy hats and hockey jerseys. The shrieks of joy at seeing old acquaintances and plentiful hugs was a testament to friendships rekindled, as well as the satisfaction from committees conducted by email and phone committee finally meeting in person.

Caricature artists, typically found in the market square of the Viuex-Port, had attendees lined up to have their faces drawn, while those who gathered to watch laughed out loud and snapped photos of the final pictures. Each piece was a great souvenir and an authentic Montreal experience.

Overall, first time attendees felt welcomed, including several male travel companions, and the resounding sentiment was one of joy and anticipation of the days to come. One reunion of a Kenyan and Canadian, after not seeing each other since Glasgow, said she felt this evening was even warmer and friendlier – a wonderful first impression of Canada.

After a fun evening of fellowship, Brooke continued on with SI-Cambridge to tour Old Montreal on a buggy tour with Catriona, the horse:

Convention: Montreal 2011

This year a group of 7 from our club are attending the SI2011 Convention in Montreal.

The Theme for the Convention is Women: Leaders in Civil Society. We have chosen this theme because Civil Society is the buzz word of our time, quite often used, and often misunderstood. Our own organization, Soroptimist International, is accredited to the Commonwealth as a Civil Society Organization. During the course of the Convention, we will explore this theme in depth through various “Sub-Themes” or subsets that will reflect all aspects of our underlying theme of Civil Society.

It is our desire to have Canadian women leaders in their various fields of endeavor come speak to us and not only teach us how to be leaders but to also showcase Canada and Canadian values to the rest of the world. We have chosen various Canadian women leaders that we feel are role models. We believe these women will be able to share some interesting and pertinent insights on global issues and challenges that women face and innovative solutions that could inform and enlighten our membership.

The following are our Sub-Themes:

Women as Catalysts of Change in Human Rights
Women as Role Models in Arts, Entertainment, and Media
Women as Role Models in Commerce and Entrepreneurship
Women as Leaders in Health & Sciences and Sports
Women as Stewards of the Environment
Women as Catalysts of Change in Government

The kickoff is our ECR Conference on Sunday morning, followed by lunch with Western Canada Region. We’ll keep you posted on updates throughout the conference. Here is the program at a glance »

February is Teen Dating Month

According to Soroptimist International, fifty-seven percent of teens know someone who has been verbally, physically, or sexually abusive in a dating relationship; females ages 16 to 24 are more vulnerable to intimate partner violence than any other age group. Educate yourself on how you can impact the life of a teenager (male or female). Download your copy of the Soroptimist White Paper »

Soroptimist International of the Americas, working to improve the lives of women and girls in local communities and throughout the world, examines the issue of teen dating violence. Dating and intimate relationships are a normal part of growing up for many adolescents. Yet teenagers frequently form their first romantic relationship without a clear understanding of what constitutes a healthy versus an unhealthy relationship. As a result, they are particularly vulnerable to becoming targets of dating abuse. Fifty-seven percent of teens know someone who has been verbally, physically, or sexually abusive in a dating relationship.

Although the patterns and signs of teen dating violence tend to mirror those exhibited in adult abusive relationships, there are some unique issues that teens face. This white paper examines those unique issues as they relate to the factors that influence teen dating violence, as well as the consequences thereof.  The paper also addresses the unique obstacles teens face when seeking help and/or deciding to end an abusive relationship.

If you want to get involved, there is a Model Program Kit that you can implement through your club. You can also order Soroptimist Teen Dating Violence bookmarks to distribute. The 2 x 7 inch glossy bookmarks promote healthy dating relationships among teenagers.

TIS Goes Digital

The International Soroptimist (TIS) will no longer be produced as a subscription-based print magazine. Starting in March 2010, the magazine will change to a quarterly electronic publication available online at Soroptimist International. Existing 2009 subscriptions are unaffected, but new subscriptions will not be accepted.

Register for Soroptimist’s 41st biennial convention

41st Biennial Convention

41st Biennial Convention

Registration for Soroptimist’s 41st biennial convention is now open! Click here to get everything you need to plan an incredible trip. Register online now »

Gear up for the experience of a lifetime. Laugh and learn with Soroptimists from around the world. Explore the wondrous “city by the bay,” which is full of rich culture and amazing sights. Check out this video to witness the fun you don’t want to miss!

SIA is also accepting advertisements and/or greetings for the 41st Biennial Convention program. Due to limited space, ads/greetings will be accepted on a first come, first served basis. All ads/greeting order forms must be received, along with payment, at headquarters by March 15, 2010. Contact SIA-HQ for more information on pricing, file sizes, etc.

2010-2012 Board Election Results

Ballots for 2010-2012 Board of Directors members were counted at headquarters on January 8. Congratulations to Masako Sakashita, SI/ Miyazaki, Japan; Euisook Choi, SI/ Ulsan, Korea; Connie Desko, SI/Greater Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Joan Merritt, SI/ Willimantic, Connecticut; and Carene Davis-Stitt, SI/ Eugene, Oregon. These members will assume their new leadership positions on September 1, and will serve in that position through August 31, 2012.

In two electoral areas, no candidate received a majority of the votes cast, and those electoral areas are currently re-balloting. The full results are online »

2010 Sierra Leone Study Tour

You may recall from last year (Feb 2009) when Alison Sutherland, Quadrennial Project Liaison, recounted the memories and experiences of those who recently attended the first project tour »

This morning, our SIA President, Cathy Standiford, is off to Sierra Leone for the next Study Tour. Here is an excerpt from her blog as she contemplates what to expect and how best to pack. We wish her safe travels and a memorable experience and look forward to her stories when she gets back in February (she’s not taking a laptop):

I know that the hotel accommodations will be nice, but spartan by some of our western standards. I’m bringing a hair dryer, but may not be able to use it if the power is out. I’m bringing my bathing suit because all of the hotels we will stay at have a pool, and if the water pressure in the shower or bath is low, the pool may be the best way to wash off some of the dust of the day. I’m bringing (of course) my camera, a small journal, and plenty of pens to write with.
Margaret Cook, the Assistant International Programme Director and one of the other participants on our tour, recently sent us a great video clip that will give you a taste. It was recently filmed by Alastair Humphreys, the son of a Soroptimist from Soroptimist International of Great Britain and Ireland.  Alastair has been on a “round the world bike ride” to benefit Hope and Homes for Children, our partner in Sierra Leone.  This video explains what he saw–and what I am likely to see too. Watch it, then think of me, riding along those dusty roads!

Hope & Homes for Children in Sierra Leone from Alastair Humphreys on Vimeo.

What is a Quadrenniel Project?
Every four years Soroptimist International launches a major international project in partnership with a charity, NGO or United Nations agency. Each project is designed to be self-sustaining by the end of SI’s four-year commitment. Soroptimist members around the world join forces to give active support to the chosen project and in doing so, have improved the lives of many thousands of women and children across the globe.

Each Federation takes it in turns to propose an international project: our current project was initiated by Soroptimist International of Great Britain & Ireland (2007-2011). Project SIerra: a Family and a Future, was launched at Convention in July 2007. The project supports women caring for children in extreme poverty and provides a caring, secure family home for children who are alone or at risk of abandonment. The project location is Sierra Leone, West Africa. Our project partner is Hope and Homes for Children.

You can find more information about our current Quadrenniel Project on the Soroptimist International (SI) website »

Soroptimist on CNN re: Sex Trafficking

For those who were not able to watch the show, below is a link to the Jane Velez-Mitchell “Issues” program that aired on HLN Thursday with SIA President Cathy as a panelist. Jane is the 2010 Ruby Award recipient of Soroptimist International SW Washington and Soroptimist International Vancouver, Washington in the Northwestern Region. This was fabulous publicity for Soroptimist. President Cathy was outstanding and I loved her closing comments.

Click on the link below or copy it into your browser (approx 14 min clip):


This was a “special investigation” show which is placed on CNN and cnn.com/jane (not all shows are uploaded).  As we understand it, CNN and the producers at “Issues” weigh the topic and the number of downloads on deciding future programming on those particular subject matters. The more of us that download and watch that clip the better – so let’s spread the news!!!