Day One Early Morning Schedule
Welcome by Puan Sri Siew Yong Gnanalingam, International Convention Chair | Flag Ceremony | Roll Call of Soroptimist International Countries & Territories | Opening Speech by Mariet Verhoef-Cohen, SI International President | Speech by Her Majesty, KDYMM Seri Paduka Baginda Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah Binti Al-Marhum Al-Mutawakkil Alallah Sultan Iskandar Al-Haj.
Following announcements by Joanne Yeoh, Convention Co-Chair Operations & Protocol, an invited Emcee welcomed Her Majesty, Queen of Malaysia into the Plenary Hall at the KL Convention Centre, followed by a glittering Flag Ceremony and Roll Call of Soroptimist International Countries & Territories.
Puan Sri Siew Yong took to the stage to welcome Her Majesty and Soroptimists, and an opening address was given by SI President Mariet Verhoef-Cohen. Mariet welcomed Soroptimists from all over the world, giving special thanks to the SI Convention Committee, presenting on the achievements of the biennium 2017-2019 so far. President Mariet looked forward to 2020, when the world’s eyes will turn to the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (Beijing+25) and asked the question, has the world progressed for women and girls?
Although progress is tangible, Mariet’s presentation showed how restrictive labour policies, the pay gap, and structural inequalities still persist, and create obstacles to equality, so badly needed if global progress is to be made. Mariet said: “Soroptimists know this, understand this, and continue to take the steps to achieve this”. Speaking of the five key SI focus areas: Global Advocacy, Global Communications, SI Convention, Strategic Leadership, and the Soroptimist International President’s Appeal, Mariet described her primary future-focused objectives which were set out by the board in Rotterdam at the launch of her 2017-2019 biennium, which included: Increasing and expanding the impact of Global Advocacy work; the establishment and implementation of the ‘Women, Water & Leadership’ Appeal; advancing opportunities for SI digital Global Connections; the SI Convention; and the steps taken towards the Soroptimist International Future African Federation.
SI President Mariet Verhoef-Cohen’s address was followed by a surprising and highly engaging speech by Her Majesty, KDYMM Seri Paduka Baginda Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah Binti Al-Marhum Al-Mutawakkil Alallah Sultan Iskandar Al-Haj, Queen of Malaysia. Following the protocols required of the audience, it may be said that there was a little nervous energy abound, and yet, Her Majesty instantly relaxed the Soroptimist crowd, delivering a speech that underlined her understanding of global challenges faced by women and girls, whilst describing her interesting and relevant background within the women’s rights arena, not least her 50 year commitment to Girl Guides Malaysia. With many laughs along the way, Her Majesty’s speech welcomed Soroptimists to Malaysia and concluded with a drumming session (Her Majesty ignoring the direction given to keep her drumming succinct, much to the delight of the crowd), and was joined by SI President Mariet Verhoef-Cohen, SI Immediate Past President Yvonne Simpson, and Puan Sri Siew Yong, Convention Chair. Truly a memorable experience for all those who witnessed it!
Passing the drumsticks to the wonderful troupe ‘Hands Percussion’, the audience was thrilled with a high energy performance – and the 21st Soroptimist International Convention was officially declared open!
Day One Late Morning Schedule
Welcome by Dato Anusha Santhirasthipam, President of the host Federation, Soroptimist International of South West Pacific | Opening Speech by SI Immediate Past President Yvonne Simpson | Keynote Speaker, Christina Lamb OBE | Facilitator Dato Anusha Santhirasthipam, President Soroptimist International of South West Pacific.
Following tea and coffee, a rousing welcome full of joy and love was given by Dato Anusha Santhirasthipam, President of the host Federation, Soroptimist International of South West Pacific.
Invited to the stage, SI Immediate Past President Yvonne Simpson looked back over the many wonderful accomplishments throughout her biennium, 2015-2017.
Immediate Past President Yvonne spoke of the much loved SI President’s Appeal – ‘Educate to Lead: Nepal’ 2015-2017, which developed from her own experiences in 2012, when an earthquake struck 100km west of her home town Christchurch, New Zealand. Yvonne shared the many inspiring and ongoing Appeal projects – more than 20, which focused on educating, empowering and enabling women and girls in disaster torn Nepal. Following her speech, Keynote Speaker, Christina Lamb OBE, Author and Chief Foreign Correspondent of the Sunday Times, London, UK, was invited to take the floor.
Christina Lamb spoke of the inspirational people she has met on her travel to dark and frightening places throughout her career as a war correspondent, a traditionally male dominated arena. Telling her own story – her rise to the position of a foreign correspondent – Christina spoke of the challenges she faced as a woman in the industry. Her travels over three decades included the City of Joy where she met with survivors of rape, who showed such strength as they danced and smiled; Zimbabwe, 2017; and suicide bombings in Peshawar, Pakistan. Christina looks behind the bombs to see warfare through the eyes of a woman, and is passionate about the horrific use of rape as a weapon of war; as a weapon of mass destruction. She spoke of the Yazidis, thousands of women abducted with a “light gone from their eyes”; real life stories, lived experiences, of women forced to marry fighters, victimised over and over again. Author of eight books including The Africa House and I Am Malala, Christina shared her experience of women behind the lines, of the true spoils of war; dark and traumatic scenes, interjected with hope and a powerful representation of the strength, resilience and survival of the many women caught up in conflict.