In the year-long lead-up to its first centenary in October 2021, the women’s volunteering service Soroptimist International (SI) will be commemorating the contributions of 144 exceptional Soroptimists. Each month, the #WhoIsShe? Campaign will showcase twelve remarkable volunteers on the Soroptimist International of Great Britain and Ireland (SIGBI) website.
Soroptimist International is a non-governmental organisation which works to realise the UN Sustainable Development Goals with a focus on gender equality. Whether it be through setting up a vocational training centre for women (as was accomplished by SI Chennai) or hosting seminars for young women on achieving gender parity in the workplace (as was coordinated by SI clubs in Trinidad and Tobago), local SI clubs organise efforts to improve the lives of women and girls.
The women featured in the campaign have all been nominated by one of the 320 SIGBI clubs across 29 countries. They have been selected for their extraordinary efforts in advancing Soroptimist International’s mission to empower women and girls around the world.
Outstanding Soroptimist volunteers featured this September include Anitha Rajarajan and Mildred O’Brien.
In 2009, social worker Anitha Rajarajan founded a Soroptimist International club in Madurai, India. A passionate environmental advocate, she recently led SI Madurai in the establishment of a source separation of waste programme involving 600 local residents as part of the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission. Under her leadership, SI Madurai has created four Sorop Youth Clubs, two community parks (in collaboration with local government) and a forest on the premises of a local school. Today, Anitha is SIGBI’s Planet Assistant Programme Director.
Upon becoming Soroptimist International’s President of the Republic of Ireland in 1981, Mildred O’Brien launched the North/South Public Speaking Competition for Girls, in collaboration with SI’s President of Northern Ireland, Marie Brownlee. In the midst of the Troubles, these two women from opposite sides of the border cooperated to create a public speaking competition for girls aged 15-18, with the aim of encouraging self-confidence and public participation among young women. Since 2011, the winner of the competition has been awarded the Mildred O’Brien Perpetual Trophy. Mildred remained an enthusiastic supporter of the competition until her death in 2013.
Federation President Isobel Smith has said of the #WhoIsShe? Campaign: “It has been both inspiring and humbling to hear the stories of these members, who are leaders and trailblazers of both past and present. It is fitting on this great anniversary for us to celebrate the achievements and commitment of the women who join our organisation to make a difference to the world and to improve the lives and experiences of women and girls.”
All of the twelve women spotlighted this September and their stories can be found here.