Soroptimists from Southern England on tour in South Africa

On 15 November a group of 11 Soroptimists from SI Southern England, accompanied by one Soroptimister started an extensive tour of South Africa, visiting all eight clubs in the country. Read more about their experience and learn about Soroptimist projects by following their blog at
We wish them a wonderful, safe and productive time in our beautiful country.

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Our Projects Have Impact

Letter from PumzaPumza
Dear Soroptimist members,
I am Pumza Mdlatu and I am one of the girls you sponsored with a high school bursary at St James (RC) secondary school in Schauderville. I am currently studying at Nelson MandelaMetropolitan University (George campus) doing my 2nd year BCom accounting and my aim is to become a Chartered Accountant. I know it is not the science route I always thought I would go since I did Math and Science at school, but I later realised that science is not my thing and now I am in love with accounting.
I wrote this email to thank you all for everything that you have done for me. The opportunity for the education that I received at high school is the foundation of where I am right now. You have made those years very easy for me as I had only my studies to worry about and not school fees and any other financial matters towards school because you took care of it. My parents and I are very grateful for all of that.
I wish you all many more successful years with helping young girls like me.
It is much appreciated.
Kind regards,
Pumza Mdlatu

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Human dignity and gender-based violence

The early months of 2013 were marked by an appalling escalation of violence, rape, abuse and brutality. South Africans were shocked out of complacency due to the increasing severity of these crimes, as well as the fact that many of the perpetrators were known to their victims.

In order to understand the social processes and fragmentation that have contributed to the present conjuncture; how such an aberration can take place in a society where the dignity, corporal integrity, and equality of all are upheld in the Bill of Rights enshrined in the Constitution, and hopefully provide an indication of the kind of interventions required to arrest this pattern of violence and to restore human dignity and security to all, the SA Catholic Bishops’ Conference Parliamentary produced a briefing paper on this issue. They believe the complexity of violence as a social phenomenon with its many ramifications needs to be studied in order to be effectively countered.  Read more. Human dignity and gender-based violence

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October is Breast Cancer Month

Breast cancer incidence in South Africa

Cancer in South Africa is an emerging health problem, with breast cancer being one of the leading cancers in women. This does follow similar worldwide statistics.

 Lifetime risks of developing breast cancer vary from a low of one in 81 in African women (similar to Japan) to a high of one in 13 among white women, similar to rates in Western countries. Age and stage at diagnosis vary considerably between the different races and populations (urban v rural) living in South Africa.

There are many different determinants (socioeconomic, cultural, geographic and accessibility) to medical centres with oncology services.

Availability of traditional healers affects patients with breast cancer (mainly rural black women) in their decisions to obtain early medical help as well as to refrain from the proposed therapeutic methods (surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy)

Reference: Sandton Oncology Centre, University of the Witwatersrand.

CANSA (Cancer Association of South Africa) is proud to be associated with the NCR (National Cancer Registry) and is waiting for the decision to be gazetted soon from the Department of Health which will compel all health care facilities and laboratories to provide the NCR with information. This is especially important when decisions’ relating to screening, prevention as well as treatments is made.

Many Medical Aids in South Africa pay for a yearly Mammogram and Pap smear but this is of course only accessible to those with medical insurance.

Would it not be an idea to challenge those who can afford Medical Aid to sponsor one person to undergo a mammogram? This could be your domestic worker, your Au Pair or your Personal Assistant.

Most of the state hospitals in South Africa have long waiting lists and many of our population do not receive medical treatment for cancers in time.

The top five cancers among South African women are:

  1. Breast
  2. Cervical
  3. Origin unknown
  4. Colorectal
  5. Kaposi Sarcoma( AIDS related)

Have you had your mammogram this year?

Are you a breast cancer survivor and willing to share this experience with your fellow club members?

Are you willing to sponsor one mammogram?

Delegates at our National Conference in Durban, all dressed with a touch of pink.

Delegates at our National Conference in Durban, all dressed with a touch of pink.

Lisette Genseberger, SISA President-elect

PA Officer

October 2013

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In memory of Joan Goudswaard

It was with such sadness that Soroptimist South Africa members learnt of Joan Goudswaard’s passing. Just a few weeks ago we conferenced and partied together in Durban. How wonderful, and in such character, that she decided to spend time with South African Soroptimists even though she was recovering from ‘flu and not feeling her best.

She was a woman of integrity who touched many, many lives……not least, the hundreds of Soroptimists in South Africa whom she had interacted over the years of her membership. 

Joan, left, received an Honorary Life membership from her Club in April. With her are Pam van Rhyn and Maureen Maguire.

Joan, left, received an Honorary Life membership from her Club in April. With her are Pam van Rhyn and Maureen Maguire.

Soroptimists in South Africa are remembering with love a truly remarkable woman.

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Maternal health not guaranteed

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), maternal health refers to “the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. While motherhood is often a positive and fulfilling experience, for too many women it is associated with suffering, ill‐health and even death. The major direct causes of maternal morbidity and mortality include haemorrhage, infection, high blood pressure, unsafe abortion, and obstructed labour”. Maternal health is by no means guaranteed. Research conducted by the WHO indicates that this perilous state of affairs, particularly in sub‐Saharan Africa, is a consequence of limited access to both skilled routine and emergency care. There is a paucity of primary health services and very little in the way of crisis intervention and treatment in the public health sector. This lack compromises the health and well‐being of both mothers and their children. Read more about this in an article written by Lois Law, Researcher at the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference Parliamentary Liaison Office (CPLO). Maternal_health_may_2013

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Soroptimists devastated by Bangladesh Building Collapse

Soroptimists, whose work improves the lives of women and girls, are devastated by the news of the building collapse in Bangladesh killing female garment workers and their children who were in the creche at the factory. Please sign the petition on ( that has been started by the National Garment Workers’ Federation of Bangladesh.
The petition is asking that Primark, Matalan and Mango take responsibility for what has happened in this factory producing clothing for them to sell in the West, ensuring justice for the workers and taking action to ensure a disaster like this never happens again.

The petition is being supported by the charity “War on Want” who have a campaign “Love Fashion, Hate Sweatshops”. Other organisations that Soroptimists are involved with have also spoken out including Fairtrade and the Trade Justice Movement.

We (Soroptimist International Great Britain & Ireland) have members in Bangladesh and have sent condolences to Arifa Rahman, President of the Soroptimist Club in Dhaka. This is Arifa’s reply:

“Thank you for your message of sympathy on behalf of President and Management Board of SIGBI on account of the greatest tragedy that has befallen Bangladesh in recent times, affecting thousands of female garments workers. The whole nation is in shock.”
When the picture is clearer we will establish how we can help our fellow Soroptimists and the families of those affected in practical ways.

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Make International Women’s Day count

With International Women’s Day being marked this Friday, 8 March, it is fitting for South Africans, reeling under the burden of a shameful reputation for gender-based violence, to engage with the reports issued by the UN Secretary General as well as the discussions taking place at the current Commission on the Status of Women in New York.

Without diminishing the value of such forums and their impact on laws and government policies, why is it that millions of women remain disempowered, disregarded and abused  –  denied their human rights? What aren’t we doing to radically improve the lived experience of women and girls? It is, after all, nearly 30 years since the Third International Conference on Women in Nairobi where the issue of violence against women and girls as a violation of human rights was first widely accepted and drawn from the private to the public sphere.

With the groundswell of abhorrence against the violence perpetrated against females of all ages, from girl babies to old grandmothers, which is palpable in South Africa at present, there is an opportunity to turn the tide.

Already over the last few weeks South Africans have expressed themselves through: wearing black, dancing, protesting, petitioning, media-driven awareness campaigns, mass signing of an anti-rape pledge by school children and general outrage expressed through the media.

Accompanying these actions there is also talk about and signs of sustaining and expanding the ‘work’ to accomplish deep changes in behaviour amongst men. This is a long-term project requiring deep commitment.

Understanding this, the National Development Plan proposes a range of measures to advance women’s equality and deals in some detail with the safety of women and girls. It suggests that resources must be made available to realize the stated objectives and the 2013 National Budget has made allocations to assist Sexual Violence Services.

Furthermore, there is a Ministry dedicated to Women, Children and the Disabled which has established a National Council Against Gender-Based Violence. It has published  the ‘Women Empowerment and Gender Equity Bill’ (2012) for comment.

Acknowledging the contribution that Government is making in the legal and policy domain it remains true that civil society formations, such as the Shukumisa Campaign with its 28 affiliated organizations, are the main players who ‘stir and shake up’ public and political will and implement on-the-ground programmes. They point out, however, that for their 22 member organizations only R5,7 million was allocated in 2012 and ask: ‘Are statements condemning violence against women being translated into rands and sense?’

An organization deserving of mention as a meaningful contributor in the fight against violence against women and girls is Soroptimist International (SI). It is the largest women’s organization of its kind, with over 90 000 members working in over 3000 communities. Its General Consultative Status with ECOSOC and other bodies within the United Nations give it accreditation for forty SI representatives who are presently at the UN attending sessions, lobbying, sharing information about the experience and work of SI, presenting workshops as well as recommendations which they believe will help to effect change.

Of this body of membership, there are 160 Soroptimists in South Africa who quietly get on with the work that needs to be done both towards the elimination and prevention of gender-based violence and supporting services to victims.

The questions, however, remain: Do we understand why SA experiences such extreme and cruel violence by men against women? Why aren’t the perpetrators listening? What interventions will be instrumental in turning the tide? What is going to be the tipping point? How can our Government, its services and Civil Society, over a sustained period, and at scale achieve safety for women and girls?

The voice of gender activists is escalating in South Africa, and, the global community is focused for the next two weeks on the Elimination and Prevention of Violence Against Women. It is essential that the Council, the global policy making body, produces Agreed Conclusions which contain an analysis of the issues as well as a set of concrete recommendations for governments and non-governmental organisations to be implemented at international, national, regional and local levels.

Citizens the world over, however, are not delaying their action. This Friday, 8th March, there will be both men and women, girls and boys, who will be standing on bridges, picketing, petitioning, lobbying, building a groundswell of awareness as well as pressure in a collective effort to eliminate and prevent violence against women and girls.

They will be visible on the 8th and continue, day after day, to work to change behaviours on the ground.  We need to acknowledge and commend them all, recruit more to the mission and intensify action with greater resources.

The time is now!

 Sally Currin

President: Soroptimist International of South Africa

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Soroptimist International South Africa

SI_Logo_portrait (2)  What is a Soroptimist?

   She is a woman who:

  • Wants to give women and girls better access to learning opportunities
  •   Really cares about women’s rights in every corner of the world
  •   Wants to help other women have better health care and security

Why be a Soroptimist?

Joining a Soroptimist Club gives a woman the opportunity to develop as a person and have fun, with the support of friends and at the same time make a difference to the lives of more than half a million women and girls in the world every year. You can be part of a global organization of:

‘Women inspiring action, transforming lives’

 What is Soroptimist International (SI)?


SI is a vibrant, dynamic global organization for today’s women. It is the world’s leading women’s voluntary organization with close to 90,000 members in more than 3,000 local clubs in over 100 countries.


SI is committed to a world where women and girls together achieve their individual and collective potential, realize aspirations and have equal voice in creating strong, peaceful communities worldwide.

 Its MISSION is to inspire action and create opportunities to transform the lives of women and girls through a global network of members and international partnerships.

SI has consultative status at the UNITED NATIONS and is a recognized Non-Governmental Organization representing women from all over the world.

SI is a democratic organization with office bearers regularly elected by its membership.

It is divided into four Federations: SI of the Americas, SI of Great Britain and Ireland SIGBI), SI of Europe (SIE), SI of SW Pacific. Clubs are allocated to Federations. Within Federations there are National or Regional groupings.

How does SI work?

 Soroptimists use their global voice, calling for better access to education and leadership opportunities for women and girls. They are active in international policy setting through their links with the United Nations and other global networks.

‘Educate to Lead’ is the overarching programme of SI’s work.

This Programme of Action focuses on transforming the lives of women and girls, locally, nationally and globally, through EDUCATION, EMPOWERMENT and ENABLING initiatives across the following five areas:

1.            Access to learning opportunities

2.            Economic empowerment and employment

3.            Ending violence and participation in conflict resolution

4.            Ensuring food security and access to healthcare

5.            Environmental sustainability

Soroptimists implement projects at club, national, regional or global levels. They are involved either directly as implementers or work with partners who have the access and capacity to deliver quality programmes at scale.

Soroptimists are partners in the attainment of the Millenium Development Goals.


 In South Africa there are eight SI clubs:

  • Cape of Good Hope
  • Durban
  • Grahamstown
  • Johannesburg
  • Mafikeng
  • Port Elizabeth
  • Pretoria
  • Tshwane

Read more about our clubs and their activities elsewhere on this site.

 Every Soroptimist member belongs to a Club, allowing her to take part in the work of the organisation which varies from advocacy and hands-on project work to fund raising and sponsorships. Soroptimists include women either working or retired, artists, doctors, managers, farmers, scientists, accountants – women from all walks of life, all ages and cultures.

 We have one thing in common  –    A commitment to:

Inspire action and, where needed, transform the lives of women and girls both in our local communities and those around the world.


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