Sue Karran, National Communications Officer, talks to National President Miriam Murphy Wood.

What motivated you to join the Soroptimists?

I was invited to join SI Ireland in the early 1990s. At the time, the organisation could be seen as ‘elitist’ as only professionals or businesswomen could join. I’m glad to say the organisation has introduced much-needed change and now welcomes women of all ages and walks of life. Being a member of SI Ireland is a great way to meet like-minded friends and get involved in local, national and international projects which help support women and girls.

The Soroptimist organisation was founded over 100 years ago in California by women of privilege who were very interested in the education and betterment of all women. These women saw the core issue, that so many of their fellow women were disadvantaged; they didn’t have the vote or any standing in society. Today women face different issues, but fundamentally we still experience disadvantages which, as Soroptimists, we are trying to change. We would like to see a levelling of the playing field within government and business with women at the centre of decision making.

You became National President in November 2021 with the theme ‘Stand tall, Stand out’. What does being National President mean to you, and could you expand on your theme?

My initial goal was to get out and meet as many Club members as I could. We’d been in lockdown, which limited my expectations, but thankfully, we’ve come through this now, and I’m attending as many face-to-face meetings and events as possible. Including the recent Girls Public Speak Competition which I was delighted to attend.

In regard to my theme ‘Stand tall, Stand out’- As a relatively small organisation in Ireland (300 members), my thoughts were that we need to have our voice heard and show the people of Ireland that the Soroptimists are relevant and can have an impact in improving the lives of women. We have a wonderful organisation, but we must stand out, stand tall and improve our profile across all aspects of society. We stand for women, we stand for equality, we stand for improving the lives of women and girls, and it’s vital that more people in Ireland understand that we are here and what we stand for.

The organisation has many initiatives, how do you think SI Ireland has a positive impact on the wider community/environment?

The 15 Soroptimists Clubs we have in Ireland significantly impact their local communities and at national and international levels. We have national projects we work on collectively, and these have included initiatives from tree planting to highlighting the safety of women and girls in the community. Each Club works with local charities to raise funds, and we have been actively involved in the Ukrainian Appeal. In addition to this, we engage with various UN projects, including UNiTE to End Violence against Women, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence and International Women’s Day, a global event celebrated annually on 8th March to commemorate the cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievements of women. We also encourage each Club to reach out the hand of friendship to all in the community.

An exciting initiative I have introduced is a National Poetry Competition open to members and schools. The aim of the competition is to give a creative outlet and reconnect our members after the pandemic. If successful, the poems will be published and proceeds distributed to a selection of Charities.

Why should women should join Soroptimists Ireland?

Most women spend their lives focused on others, and I think joining the Soroptimists gives women a chance to create a little bit of time for themselves and spend that time with like-minded women who are caring and supportive. It also offers an opportunity to improve the quality of your life and an appreciation of the world outside of your family and work commitments. We are an organisation based on friendship, and by being a member, women are given the opportunity to make friends worldwide. We have many wonderful events, from local lunches to national and international congresses, all facilitating and inspiring women to use their skills for the betterment of women and become more fulfilled themselves. I’ve met some of my best friends through being a Soroptimist, and the support and kindness they have given me over the years has been wonderful. My life has been enriched, and I’m confident many of our members feel the same.

Finally, what other interests do you have?

Unfortunately, I had an accident last September, and this has curtailed my activities a little, but I’m a keen golfer, I also have a great interest in classical music, and I am a patron of the Wexford Opera Festival and the Bantry Chamber Music Festival. I like to travel with my husband Denis, especially in Europe as we both like to explore the wine regions and enjoy a glass or two along the way!