During a celebrating meeting on 29 July 2017 at Rotterdam, Mariet Verhoef-Cohen was inaugurated with overwhelming support as President of Soroptimist International (SI) for the 2017 – 2019 biennium; the first Dutch President in the organisation’s almost 100 years of existence. Mariet Verhoef-Cohen succeeds New Zealand’s Yvonne Simpson as International President of the worldwide organisation whose membership includes some 75,000 women in over 130 countries.
Dutch Royal Distinction for Zwolle resident and women’s rights champion
During her inauguration as SI President, Mariet Verhoef-Cohen received a Royal distinction from the hands of Acting Mayor of Zwolle, Mr René de Heer. Mariet was awarded the Royal distinction of Officer in the Order of Orange Nassau in recognition of her – literally – ground breaking voluntary work for Soroptimist International and Women for Water Partnership, her dedication to social issues and social engagement on an international level, and her tireless devotion to women’s rights and gender equality worldwide.
The focus of Soroptimist International continues to be ‘Educate to Lead’ which Mariet fully supports, additionally, Mariet underscores the importance of good communication, both within and outside the organisation, in that context she favours the use of today’s most common and practical communication tools. The anticipated membership of SI Future African Federation (SIFAF) will also receive her attention. On a practical level, the scheduled organisational restructures and relocation of its headquarters during Mariet’s tenure will demand her attention as will the management of the organisations’ archives.
Mariet is a trained professional translator and owner/ director of Bacolet Translations. As a Soroptimist she was closely involved with a number of international projects. In her role as President SI Europe (2007 – 2009) she introduced the two-year running theme ‘Soroptimists go for Water’, which saw countless clubs developing both individual and joint projects aimed at providing access to clean water for women. As President of the Women for Water partnership (WfWP) she galvanised worldwide attention for the ‘Clean Water for Women’ theme, coupled with the promotion of gender responsive sanitary provisions. As its President since 2014, she has been a driving force behind the WfWP international network which has tasked itself with providing women with safe access to clean drinking water. Today, WfWP includes 26 women’s organisations in 100 countries across South America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and Europe. Mariet was recently re-elected as WfWP president until the year 2020.
During the Women Economic Forum in The Hague on 27 January 2017 she was presented with the ‘Women of the Decade Creating a Better World for All’ award.
Women and Gender Equality
Mariet has personally met with many Soroptimists in almost sixty countries. Those contacts have inspired her to embrace women’s empowerment, support women in all countries of the world, and to be a champion for change by providing training and leadership. Not only to improve the lives of women and girls, but to advance the community at large. A change of this nature begins at grassroots level, by organising practical issues and providing for basic needs. Water being the most important and basic of those. She has shown herself as a centrifugal force in promoting the interests of her African members, displaying boundless energy in assisting with project development and fund raising on site, steadfastly building the footings for the start-up of a future African Federation.
Every SI President proposes a ‘President’s Appeal’: a project to which Soroptimists worldwide are called to raise funds during the President’s two-year tenure. For the period 2017 – 2019 the President’s appeal is the project Women, Water & Leadership. At least five projects will be supported in five continents with a view to enabling women to become active leaders in water management. More specifically, these projects will connect to Sustainable Development Goals 4 – Quality Education, 5 – Gender Equality and 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation, for all purposes.
Yvonne Simpson (President 2015 – 2017 Soroptimist International)
“Mariet Verhoef – Cohen is a dedicated, passionate, resourceful, and articulate advocate for gender equality. Her personal commitment in time, energy and resources is exemplary and humbling. Mariet works at the grassroots and the international levels. She believes in the effectiveness of working in co-operation to ensure that a strong and unified voice goes forward. She acts on her values – and has brought together different NGOs to share events and contribute to those writing effective statements. She is a role model advocating for co-operation and collaboration”.
Asha W. Abdulrahman (Past President SI Kenya Union)
“Mariet is all the time looking for ways to empower women and communities not only enabling access to water for all used, but also to improve the lives of women and girls, and the whole community. She tries to position women and their organisations as active contributors to social and economic development through pursuing Integrated Water Resources Management and universal access to water for all uses. In Africa, Mariet is our hero, she never fails us in any way”.