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Presidents at North / South Conference

Mary McKinney, Maria Finnegan, SIGBI President Ann Hodgson and SI President Yvonne Simpson cutting the welcome cake.


Letter from Yvonne Simpson, SI President (International).

It was my pleasure and privilege to attend the 51st Annual Joint North / South Conference for Irish Soroptimists and guests. It was held 19 – 21 May in Derry / Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Last year I attended the event in Mullingar, in the Republic of Ireland, when they celebrated 50 years of the conference and both occasions revealed their special nature: Irish Soroptimists come together in friendship and service. All Soroptimists are welcome – and this was reflected in the attendance of Soroptimists from other countries.

Soroptimists worldwide have the theme “Educate to Lead” and an excellent way of carrying out the theme is to live it, and to encourage young women into leadership. The Annual Joint North / South Conference does both.  The friendship and fun, the joy of being together, and the privilege of the opportunity for leadership were all very much present.

The key ingredients were inspiring speakers, (Baroness May Blood’s story of her Trade Union involvement and dedication to achieving equality for women was exceptional – I will be looking for her book, Watch my Lips, I’m Speaking, to learn more about her), good food, warmth, time for friendship, and the key business of the two regions streamlined into short focused meetings. There was a chance to see the historical city, enjoy a reception with cheerful music, a banquet with formal toasts and motivating speaker, a service of reflection and there was also a collection for the SIGBI Benevolent Fund.

A highlight was the public speaking competition winners – one from the Republic of Ireland and one from Northern Ireland. The high school girls who spoke were awesome: confident, articulate, thought provoking, and delivered clearly … all attributes we want our leaders to have. The competition educates to lead. We learn best by doing. Congratulations on the initiative.

Mary McKinney, Region President, SI Northern Ireland was our host whose theme was “Challenge, Change, Cherish”. Her team did just that. The conference reflected these values. Maria Finnegan, President SI Republic of Ireland, took her theme as “Respect, Rejoice, Recruit” and Maria lived her values. It was a delight and privilege to get to know them better.

I may not be at the next conference, but I encourage others to attend. I will be with you in spirit.

Yvonne Simpson, SI President (International).