Soroptimist International South Africa’s April Road Trip

By Lisette Genseberger, SI South Africa President 2014-2016, FECC Councillor South Africa

My trip began with a 75-minute internal flight from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth on 14 April.  I was there as a guest of the Port Elizabeth club which was organising an Art Auction that evening at the Old Tramways building.  I arrived as members were setting up art easels, food tables and issuing last minute instructions.  The event itself was a great success. Almost all the art on display was ably and efficiently auctioned off by the 2 Sisters Auctioneers in Port Elizabeth. Only one sister was present that evening but her knowledge, flair and experience in one so young was truly impressive to behold!

The next part of my journey started the next day together with our Soroptimist International South Africa(SISA) President-elect Laurel Becker and Elna Maree, our National Secretary. Our journey that day would take us to Mthatha in the Eastern Cape and home to our youngest club, King Sabata Dalindyebo (KSD) which was chartered two years ago.  This club is situated 480 km from Port Elizabeth and 425 km from Durban, both cities where the nearest clubs are situated.

The reason for our visit was to run a Workshop on Membership and Club Management.  The visit was made possible by a SIGBI Membership and Organisational Grant for which we were very thankful.

It is vital to communicate with such a young club, especially in the first couple of years.  In South Africa many clubs are situated more than 1000 km apart and our Annual AGM is often the only time we can meet on a more personal level.

The journey was long but the scenery was breath-taking as we passed through many villages and small towns.  The national road was excellent but the potholes in the towns were dreadful and especially frightening as we entered Mthatha early evening in the dark and were at first unable to find our Bed and Breakfast as we wound our way around barely visible potholes.  We were subsequently warmly received by a few members of KSD with fruit and cake and then headed to bed for a much needed early night.

Our workshop was held in the laboratory of member Irene Kolosa as the air-conditioning was not working in her boardroom.  In Africa, we do not fuss, we make a plan and gently relocated a few microscopes to allow space for our notes.  The weather outside was at least 35 degrees, so cool air was much appreciated.  We started our morning by inducting SI KSD’s new president, Irene Kolosa and it was indeed fitting to do so in her own laboratory.  Irene has worked tirelessly during the past five years in order for KSD to be chartered two years ago.  Project work is her passion and drive within her community and the club was well represented with 13 members attending the workshop.

We covered topics such as Club Role Specifications, Management of Meetings, Finance (Capitation fees, Budget) Sustainable Development Goals, On-line Database, Fundraising, SIGBI Website and how to access information and the role of Friendship Links.  SI KSD proudly showed us the certificate of their new link SI Hamilton in Scotland South.  I reiterated to the club members that all the information we used could be found on the SIGBI website.

After a late lunch we visited Bethany Home for abused and abandoned babies and children up to the age of six years.  This is one of the club’s main projects and clearly a home where love and caring is abundant but also much in need for general renovations within the home.

We ended the day with a visit to the home of President Irene Kolosa where she proudly showed us the fairly large piece of land she shares with various family members. There is also a small spaza shop run by Jamal from Pakistan and her old family rondavel (home) that she lived in as a child with her parents.  There is land for the cattle and vegetable gardens and we were all treated to a white mielie and took home a huge butternut from her garden!

The warmth and hospitality we all received from our Soroptimist sisters in Mthatha will remain in our memory for a long time and I have been told that the club really appreciated the time we took to travel to visit them and to share our expertise in Soroptimist matters. We thank SIGBI for giving us this opportunity to spread our wings, take a trip together and share our Soroptimist journey with our Soroptimist sisters worldwide.

Photos: Top: Visit to Bethany Home. Bottom from left: Newly inducted SI KSD president Irene Kolosa with SISA president Lisette Genseberger; Visit to Irene Kolosa’s home; Members of SI KSD attending the workshop.


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Letter from the SISA President

January 2016

I would like to start by wishing all the South African Soroptimists a productive, happy and fun-filled year. I am now in my second term of office and am still energised and driven to help make a difference in the lives of women and girls in our country. We are living in difficult and turbulent times but this only makes us stronger and more determined to help where we can.

I once again had the privilege to attend the SIGBI conference, this time in Glasgow last November and one of the highlights for me was that I was invited to meet HRH Princess Anne who spoke on her “Save the Children Fund”. Networking, speaking to a Resolution we submitted and accepting the Environmental Sustainability award on behalf of my club, SI Cape of Good Hope were other highlights of this conference.

We voted to support The Meru Women’s Garden project in Kenya as the new SIGBI project for 2016-2019. Yvonne Simpson, SI President also gave us some background on her President’s appeal 2015-2017 – Educate to Lead: Nepal. She thanked all those clubs and members who had already generously supported SI Kathmandu in Nepal to help rebuild their lives after the devastating earthquakes last year. The aim of the appeal is to raise 320 000 pounds which, as SI President Yvonne said, is the equivalent of a coffee and cake for each Soroptimist member throughout the world.

Margaret Emsley was inducted as our new SIGBI president and her theme for the following year is “Engineering the Future” partially motivated by her own career. Margaret also intends to embrace the wider topic of STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The aim is to raise awareness of career opportunities in STEM for young girls. My challenge for you this year is to share those project successes which embrace the above ideals.

SIGBI has also launched a Membership campaign which will focus on different topics during the following five months. The ‘Ask me why I am a Soroptimist” slogan will be used to facilitate and engage prospective members to join this incredible organisation. Please share your stories and events on your club Facebook pages, websites and of course the SIGBI Magazine.

On a local level SI Port Elizabeth is busy preparing for the SI South Africa Art Auction on the 14th April 2016. We are encouraged to submit art works which will help make this a successful event.

Our National Executive will continue to help and monitor clubs in South Africa that need our help and a Membership Workshop is planned for the 16th April 2016, in Mthatha for the members of SI KSD.

I look forward to your continued support this year.

You are all one of a kind!

Lisette Genseberger

SISA President


Left to right are Laurel Becker, Pamela James, Lisette Genseberger, Ann Garvie and Yatisha Ramdarie.

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SISA celebrates its 50th anniversary

2015 has seen the 50th anniversary of the formation of the South African body of Soroptimist International.  The occasion was celebrated during SISA’s annual conference and 50th AGM, held in Port Elizabeth in September 2015.  The SI club of Port Elizabeth is South Africa’s oldest club (chartered 56 years ago) and was the host of this year’s conference.  SISA President Lisette Genseberger presented long service certificates to a number of South African Soroptimists, some of whom have been members for 30 years and longer!

For more information and photos visit the News and Events page.

Back:  SISA President Elect Laurel Becker & SISA Vice President Gail Charalambous;  front:  SISA President Lisette Genseberger with conference guest speaker Professor Denise Zinn of the Nelson Mandela Metro University.

Back: SISA President Elect Laurel Becker & SISA Vice President Gail Charalambous; front: SISA President Lisette Genseberger with conference guest speaker Professor Denise Zinn of the Nelson Mandela Metro University.

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Change is Inevitable, Embrace It

Lisette Genseberger H&SI have always spoken about my Soroptimist work as one long journey, filled with energy, challenges, life long friendships and the incredible opportunities of meeting like minded, strong and committed women who all wish to make a difference to the lives of the women and children that our organisation supports.

2014 is a year in which I celebrate 30 years of being a member of this incredible organisation as well as being inducted as National president of South Africa.

I was a member of SI False Bay (1985), SI Zwolle (Netherlands) and on my return to South Africa in 2005 I joined SI Cape of Good Hope. I can honestly say that my work and Soroptimist life have helped make me the person I am today.

I have been privileged to visit all the South African clubs during the past 2 years and am always in awe of what our members are managing to do under very difficult circumstances. It is good to see that some long standing projects are now in the phase of equipping and empowering those women to stand on their own two feet so that they are able to manage their own business.

As far as positive change is concerned, I will continue to encourage our members to embrace what social media has to offer via club websites, Facebook, Twitter and most importantly, recording our wonderful projects on the Soroptimist International Programme Action on–line database.

I am also encouraged that most of our clubs will be adopting the Dignity Dreams project, which provides reusable sanitary ware to girls and young women in disadvantaged and rural areas. This project aligns itself closely with SISAN’s( Soroptimist International Southern African Network) Girl Child project which strives to keep the girl child at school.

I am also very proud to have been part of the journey of chartering a new club in Mthatha (Eastern Cape) in November this year. I wish to thank Sally Currin, Bev Ramstead and Makkie Setshedi for assisting in this process. The official Charter Ceremony of SI King Sabata Dalindyebo will take place on 22 November 2014 and I wish to invite you all to attend.

Yours in friendship,

Lisette Genseberger

SISA President

September 2014.


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Welcome to the SISA National AGM 2014

ST JamesI would like to welcome you all to our National AGM which is taking place at The Riverside Estates, Hout Bay from 5 to 7 September 2014. The organising committee is working hard to ensure that you will enjoy the weekend in one of the most beautiful cities in South Africa.

On the Friday afternoon delegates and observers are encouraged to participate in the Membership SWOT analysis under the guidance of our Vice-President, Laurel Becker.

Representatives and guests will be informally welcomed at a cocktail party in the evening.

On Saturday Sally Currin, National President, will together with her team, be responsible for the day’s programme.

The Saturday evening formal dinner will feature our guest speaker, Chaeli Mycroft from the Chaeli campaign.

Sunday morning is all about Programme Action (our projects) This will include Jill Hayes from the Tbag designs in Hout Bay, Dignity Dreams, feedback from our two Trust Fund recipients, namely the Tateni Home Carers project in Mamelodi, Johannesburg and a presentation on the Lourier Primary school Library in Retreat, Cape Town.

We are also excited to share the news that we will be chartering a new club in Mthatha on 22 November, 2014.

If you still need to register for our Conference, please contact Kathy Gentz via email at

I hope many of you will join us. See you soon.

Lisette Genseberger


Programme Action Officer

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Abduction of Nigerian school girls

SISA President Sally Currin on the abduction of 200 Nigerian school girls:
We watch in absolute disbelief at what has happened and how the days and weeks are passing without finding the girls. This is a REAL NIGHTMARE and, of course, a huge step back for the progress that has been made in the education of girls in Nigeria. We condemn it in the strongest possible terms and stand in solidarity with Soroptimists in Nigeria as they protest and fight for the fundamental human rights of women and girls.
In this week’s address, US First Lady Michelle Obama honoured all mothers on Mother’s Day and offered her thoughts, prayers and support in the wake of the unconscionable terrorist kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls. I urge you to find the time to watch this address on YouTube. Just cut and paste this link onto your URL web browser bar:

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Eliminate Female Genital Mutilation

Clitoraid helps FGM victims obtain restorative surgery to reverse FGM effects

NAIROBI, Kenya, April 23, 2014/ — Following the tragic death of a 13-year old Kenyan girl who underwent female genital mutilation (FGM) last Monday, an organization that helps FGM victims obtain restorative surgery to reverse FGM effects, is urging Kenyan Health Secretary James Macharia to open Kenya’s first clitoral repair hospital.

“FGM reversal surgery, which restores clitoral functioning, is a powerful deterrent to the barbaric, cruel and dangerous practice of female genital mutilation,” said Clitoraid ( Communications Director Nadine Gary. “Why do something so unpleasant and painful when the results can easily be undone?”

Clitoraid, which is in the final stages of opening a state-of-the-art clitoral repair clinic in Burkina Faso, also organized a humanitarian mission in Bobo Dioulasso last month in which 38 FGM patients recovered clitoral function.

“Four American volunteer doctors traveled to Burkina Faso to do those surgeries, and thanks to them, those 38 patients will now enjoy their lives as complete women,” Gary said. “The same humanitarian mission must be organized in Kenya without delay. Countless FGM victims have written to us from Kenya, and they’re begging us to provide the service in Kenya. They need our help to regain their sense of dignity and their capacity for physical pleasure.”

Gary said her organization has written to James Macharia offering to come and train a Kenyan surgeon to do the clitoral repair procedure free of charge if he or she is willing to learn the technique.

A pan-African FGM conference organized by Burkina Faso’s First Lady, Chantal Compaore, was held April 24-26 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. “No time should be wasted, since we must act at once to save lives!” said Gary

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Future Africa Federation Conference in Pretoria

DSC_3475DSC_3469DSC_3472DSC_3471The Soroptimist International Southern Africa Network (SISAN), in partnership with the task force of the Proposed SI African Federation is hosting the Soroptimist International Future Africa Federation (SIFAF) Conference in Pretoria, Greater Metropolitan City of Tshwane, Gauteng, South Africa from Thursday 20 March to Saturday 22 March, 2014. Members of SI South Africa (SISA) form the organising committee. The aim of the Conference is to lay the foundation for the Future Africa Federation.

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SISA supports Dignity Dreams

Dear Sisters
Please see the project below. This such a perfect project for us…and a national collaboration would make it so much more powerful in every way.
Sally Currin
President: SISA

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dignity dreams new pads.5DIGNITY is the birth right of every girl and woman – and it starts with education
Can we really afford to let young girls miss 60 school days EVERY year?

Why we need your support
Every time you donate money, sewing machines, over lockers or polycotton material you are helping us achieve our two goals:
• To distribute 1 000 packs per month to girls and women.
Our market research indicates that young girls have the greatest need for our Dignity Dreams packs – it is them who miss up to 60 school days per year; marry too young and have their own children at an age when they should be experiencing the joys of youth.
• To create sustainable employment by giving previously unemployed women and men the opportunity to acquire a skill and earn a decent wage.
Every Dignity Dreams pack purchased means that the previously unskilled, unemployed women and men we employ, will earn a decent wage and be able to support and educate their families! Dignity Dreams packs are proudly made and produced in South Africa.
Our approach to doing business
1) Partnerships – Start conversations between girls, women, community and church leaders, social workers, volunteers about taboos, gender and human rights and misinformation regarding their bodies. By strengthening our partnerships we will have a measurable impact on communities and societies;
2) Transfer skills to previously unemployed women and men and set up protective workshops;
3) Ensure that our environment is not polluted by sanitary wear.

For more information and banking details contact:
Sandra Millar
Melodie Heyns
Tel 012 430 2630 or 082 555 4905

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Controversial rape section in Moroccan penal code could be scrapped

Morocco aims to repeal part of its penal code allowing rapists who marry their victims to go free, according to lawmakers.
Article 475 of the Moroccan penal code is a controversial holdover from the North African kingdom’s colonial era that has in recent years resulted in some rape victims committing suicide.
The Commission of Justice, Legislation and Human Rights, part of the Moroccan parliament’s lower house met on Wednesday, 8 January and voted unanimously to repeal the provision of Article 475 that allows a man who rapes a minor to go free if the victim marries the assailant.
Moroccan civil society has aimed to cancel the controversial law for decades, but it was the death of Amina Filali, a 16-year-old who killed herself by drinking rat poison, that forced lawmakers to address the issue, after a public outcry drove Moroccans into the streets.
Click below to join thousands who are demanding reform of this rape law:

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