Messages from Past Presidents

Message from President Lisette Genseberger (Term of Office: 2014 – 2016)

Change is Inevitable, Embrace It

I 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 (Soroproptimist 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.

President Sally Currin’s Vision and Challenge (Term of Office: 2012 – 2014)

I have a Vision which I am certain is shared by each South African Soroptimist. It is of a strong SISA with committed members who live out our values:

  • Human rights for all
  • Global peace and international goodwill
  • Advancing women’s potential
  • Integrity and democratic decision-making
  • Volunteering, diversity and friendship

And, who strongly identify themselves as Soroptimists.

A Vision which includes: SISA club presence in, at least, all main centres of South Africa (SA); clubs with active and effective Programme Action (PA); involved members; relevant partnerships both in SA and across borders; a national Profile; a strong, contributing partner within the SI Southern Africa Network (SISAN); playing its role in Educating, Empowering and Enabling women and girls to fulfill their potential and be leaders in Southern Africa and beyond.

How can we achieve this Vision?

I have a few suggestions:

By Committing: Do we hold regular Processes of internal reflection and commitment to the values, mission, goals of Soroptimism? Do we really know what these are? Can we as SISA members genuinely say we are Soroptimists? Do we tell people we know and meet that we are Soroptimists and enthuse them?

By Building Soroptimist Identity: Do we identify ourselves and build relationships with Soroptimist Sisters in South Africa, in our Region, on our continent, in our Federation, globally? Do we call on them when we visit and travel? Do we attend conferences? Can  we as SISA do something to enable this?

By Programme Action: Do we have a Programme Action Plan of Action which  includes Awareness, Advocacy, Action (AAA) which focuses on Education, Empowerment and Enablement (EEE) of women and the girl child enabling the realization of their full potential and opportunities to lead?  Are our members meaningfully engaged and seeing and celebrating positive outcomes?

By Partnerships: Have we established links and collaborative partnerships with other respected and effective organisations who have the same or compatible objectives on local, national and global levels. Do we in this way make our organisation known and felt? Do we use the opportunity to strengthen our impact, learn from others in our field of concern and operation and benefit from the exposure?

By Reporting: Do we Report on what we do: on our club’s website; on the SISA and SIGBI websites; do we upload Programme Action on the SI online reporting facility to be included in the Global Impact data;  do we submit articles for publication in the SIGBI PA Magazine; do we have club newsletters; do we use the local media channels?

By Promotion: Do we wear our Soroptimist lapel pins; have t-shirts and other branded wear when we do our PA? Do we make ourselves identifiable in a range of creative ways? Do we put up Soroptimist plaques at our long-term project sites? Do we build our profile…based on who we are, what we stand for and what we do, who our partners are and how we work with them?

By Friendship: Inevitably, through the above we will build and deepen friendship locally and beyond and have fun.

These are the objectives that I have set for my term as president.

I believe that if we succeed in achieving these objectives we will attract members and strengthen our membership numbers.

I intend to monitor my effectiveness as your president by using a set of Indicators which I will use to track our progress:

1. How many clubs have held Days of Reflection?

2.What extension has there been?

3.Has there been increased membership?

4.How many SISA members visit other Soroptimists in SA and in other countries?

4.Has SISA found a way of funding more members to attend Soroptimist conferences both in SA and elsewhere?

5.Are there more members attending Soroptimist conferences?

6.Does our PA focus on women and girls and does it include AAA and EEE for leadership?

7.Are all members involved in PA in some way?

8.What partnerships have we forged on local levels and national levels and global level?

9.How often do clubs report on their work?

10.How do clubs report on their work?

11.How do we identify ourselves as Soroptimists when we are busy with PA and promote the organization?

12.How have clubs enjoyed friendship, fun and celebration of their work and successes? How often?

I am looking forward to working with our new Executive and all members as we work together to strengthen SISA and our impact on the lives of women and girls….and consequently the world around us.

Please keep the communication channels open and free-flowing. Any suggestions and feedback will be welcome!

Message from Makkie Setshedi, SISA President 2010 – 2012

Positive Change 

President Makkie SetshediWhen I took office during the second half of 2010, it was with the theme of ‘Positive Change’. It is a leitmotif that I would like to see echoed not only in the way we as Soroptimists engage with each other or conduct our business, but also in the impact we make in our communities and the lives of those under our care.

In fact, Soroptimist International of South Africa (SISA) – and indeed its international parent – was established to effect positive change. In South Africa, we have much ground to cover. The organisation is founded on sound principles and objectives which have kept the organisation going in this country for more than 50 years. The oldest club, SI Port Elizabeth, was charted on 24 July 1959 while the youngest member of the SISA family, SI Maluti, officially came into being in September of 2008.

We are growing, but not fast enough to optimally respond to the needs created and exacerbated by past and current social ills. Every club I have visited thus far has displayed a passion for its volunteer work. We now need to infect other people – especially younger people – with the same passion.

A critical mass of dedicated, skilled (in whatever way) and caring people working together in areas of need will have one consequence: Positive change!

I would like to encourage my fellow Soroptimists to be even more visible in their communities, invite others to join in projects, partner with other community-based organisations or government agencies – be seen as you make a difference.

Volunteer work, by its very nature, is sacrificial; but the smile on another’s face to receive something as commonplace as a blanket, a child’s excitement at receiving her own book, or a community’s sense of empowerment when a vegetable garden shows a profit, is priceless. Thank you for joining in this journey!

The power of volunteerism

Selina WhiteIn a 2008 address, the then Northern Cape MEC of Social Services and Population Development asked the following questions: “Is there still a place for volunteerism in our day and age? What is the value in the willingness of people to work on behalf of others without the expectation of pay or other tangible gain?”

He continued by saying: “Volunteerism or service to others without the expectation for pay can be characterised as an important value in any community.”

As the current president of Soroptimist International South Africa (SISA), I can only nod my head in wholehearted agreement!

My fellow Soroptimists and I are not alone in believing that volunteerism is much more than a means of filling up a social diary. It is a very important strategy in addressing and alleviating the needs of others, thereby enabling healthier communities. The many service organisations, charities or NGOs, as well as individuals who give tirelessly of themselves, also bear testimony to this.

But what can I do?

This is a question many people ask – most of us tend to look at all the negative media and are often overwhelmed by the needs of others. We think that our little contribution won’t help anyway, so why bother?

Don’t misunderstand me, the members of SISA (and SI worldwide) are a dynamic force, but they do not have vastly superior skills to anyone else. What sets them apart, rather, is a choice they have made: They chose to use whatever skills they have for the betterment of their and other communities – in their own time and at their own pace.

If they are educationists by trade, they get involved in SISA’s many education-focused projects. If they are stay-at-home moms who love pottering in the garden, they get involved in community food garden projects. They may earn a living as a writer and put that skill to use in compiling marketing material for SISA or by reading stories to underprivileged children.

Everyone has a skill or a hobby that can be useful in empowering those less fortunate. Everyone can contribute – but not everyone makes that choice.

I would like to challenge you to get involved in a service organisation. Obviously, I would like you to join SISA! But whatever your choice, get involved; make a difference as well as new friends.

Selina White, SISA President 2008-2010


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