Soroptimist International Convention 2015 Turkey, Istanbul
In the wee hours of the morning of 8th July, 2015 five Soroptimist International members of Bombay Chembur, India along with a young teenage girl embarked upon their journey to Turkey, Istanbul to attend the Soroptimist International Convention 2015. The team comprised of Founder President SI Bombay Chembur, Dr. Daphne Pillai, members Seeta Desai, Lata Krishnan, Celina Joy, Yvette Lee and young Aishwarya Krishnan.
The objective of the trip was not only to participate in the SI Convention but also witness the Panel Discussion on ‘Education: The Power of a Second Chance’ for which Dr. Daphne Pillai, Co-Founder, Pillai Group of Institutions and Chairperson Management Board, Mahatma Education Society, Mumbai, India was cordially invited. It was indeed a matter of great pride for all of us to join Dr. Daphne Pillai in the SI Convention and witness the panel discussion.
The SI Convention is held once in four years and is much more than a conference. It is a place where women from all over the world come together to give, to share, to learn from each other, to be together in friendship. The Soroptimistanbul 20th International Global ‘Educate to Lead’ Convention from 9th – 12th July, 2015 in Turkey, Istanbul wasa remarkable event and gave us this opportunity in the true sense.
The Opening Ceremony on 9th July, 2015 saw around 1,500 members from all over the globe entering the Convention Centre of Hilton Hotel. They walked in with gleaming eyes and an excitement and expectation that radiated across the hall. The air was filled with sounds of Turkish drummers welcoming the Soroptimists, flashing cameras, ipads and phones grabbing pictures and the hustle and bustle of members networking and negotiating their way to a good seat. The roll call was taken for Countries from A to Z and the members from various Countries sprung up enthusiastically expressing their presence and joy in participating in an event so magnificent.
The young,vivacious and articulate host Ms. Erdem, a second generation Soroptimist, (daughter of SI Convention Chair Ermine Perviz Erdem), welcomed the speakers to the stage. She was the face of the convention and the representative of the new generation Soroptimist. The SI Convention Committee comprising Convention Chair Emine Perviz Erdem, SI President Anne Gravie, Executive Programme Director Anne Simon along with incoming SI President Yvonne Simpson from New Zealand and other committee members joined the city top brass and administrators in addressing the gathering.
In her address the SI President Anne Gravie said, “Until gender equality, justice, respect and global peace is achieved, No Soroptimist can rest. The 20th International Convention will re-energize you to champion ‘A Global Voice for Women’, cherish your international membership and deliver the vision through education and leadership.”
She further elaborated, “The Convention is a collective journey. Smile as it costs nothing and is a sign of friendship. It is nature’s best antidote to trouble. Set out as chariots of fire mirroring the vision of Soroptimism and ensure its delivery and sustenance.”
Each speaker welcomed us with a special message. President Ulla Madsen of SI Europe asked us to treasure what you have done in the past and envisage a definite roadmap for the future.
While thanking everyone Emine Perviz Erdem, SI Convention Chair exclaimed,
“It is a privilege to host you for our International Convention in Istanbul – ancient city of civilization, progress and globalization. I welcome wholeheartedly each of the 1400 Soroptimists from over the world, whose presence and contribution will be instrumental in achieving our objective of addressing collaboratively the challenges confronting women in the 21st century. I sincerely hope that our friendship and solidarity will champion the cause of SI into a bright future.”
As the event moved on, the Marketing Manager of L’Oreal (our main sponsor)shared with us how they have worked across the world helping women enable their beauty to shine through and their partnership with Soroptimist reaffirms this commitment. Each of us were gifted aL’Oreal goodie bag.
The cultural event unfolded with a traditional story and music from Anatolia (Asia Minor). We were enthralled by its magic and mystery. We were emboldened to dream our dreams, turn them into visions and never rest till they come true.It reminded us of how modern day Turkey being geographically linked to Asia and Europe connects their history, culture and modern day expectations as well.
The Opening Ceremony seamlessly merged into a grand, glitzy pool side reception dinner where spirits flowed amidst models and showstoppers walking the ramp celebrating womanhood. Shrill sounds of Soroptimists’ camaraderie, fun and frolic filled the air. An evening to remember, we made new friends, took pictures and networked like never before!
The highlight of 10th July, 2015 for us was the speech and participation of Dr. Daphne Pillai in the Panel Discussion called “Education: The Power of a Second Chance”. Dr. Daphne Pillai is the Founder President of SI Bombay Chembur. She is Co-Founder, Pillai Group of Institutions and Chairperson Management Board, Mahatma Education Society, Mumbai, India.
The moderator of the Panel Discussion was the vibrant, spontaneous Anita De Groot, Founder and CEO-Aims Consultancy Group, Netherlands. In her introductory note, Anita reminisced how she herself was an example of a‘second chance’ and believed in its power to change lives. The other speakers in the Panel Discussion were Poco Davis, Drug and Alcohol Counselor, Founder of the Family Homeless Shelter, USA and President Soroptimist International of the Americas, USA; Kate Brady Kean, Psychologist and Senior lecturer, Manukau Institute of Technology, New Zealand; Gonca Telli Yamamoto, Founder- Distance Education Centre, Okan University, Turkey.
There was tremendous energy in the discussion and you had to be there to feel it! Dr. Daphne connected well with the audience. Her talk was interesting and received audience applause and enthusiastic interaction. Her message gave the audience an insight to the issues in India and the way we reach out to them to help them help themselves.
Under the overarching theme of Soroptimist International, “Educate to Lead”, several sessions and workshops were conducted to describe the projects designed and implemented by Soroptimists from all over the globe to support women’s and girls’ access to education.
Though it might not always seem so, overall our world is going in the right direction. More children are going to school now than ever before. In most countries, women have more rights than they did in the past. And yet, gender equality in many areas has still not been achieved and is progressing very slowly. Throughout the Convention, there were discussions and talks from distinguished and renowned speakers from around the world. The speakers were experts in the area of women’s issues. The sessions addressed the needs in the areas of education, economic empowerment, health, elimination of violence against women and sustainable environment. It was particularly thrilling to learn how prominent Turkish women are shaping their economy and their society as a whole.
During the Convention breaks, the Soroptimist Projects Fair helped the participants view and understand first-hand inspiring projects developed by Soroptimists clubs around the world.A large space was dedicated to showcase the wonderful projects of Clubs across the globe.
The Convention was the result of a collaborative effort of the four Federations along with SI Turkey. It celebrated many exemplary accomplishments of Soroptimists across all continents in improving the lives of millions of women and girls over the past 80 years. SI Convention presented a platform to reflect on the past, celebrate the present, and envision the future.
The SI Convention goes to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia in 2019.
We, the Soroptimists, come together to share and develop fresh ideas for empowering women. We were engulfed with emotions and thoughts, struck by the sheer magnitude and reach of this convention so perfectly conceived, professionally organized and delivered.