An Interview with Puan Sri Siew Yong Gnanalingam – SI Convention Chair 2019

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia will host the 21st Soroptimist International Convention, 2019. The first Asian city to host the SI Convention, the event will be held at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre from 18 – 21 July 2019. Here we take a little time with Puan Sri Siew Yong Gnanalingam, who is Chairing the 21st SI Convention, to hear how things are progressing, and what Soroptimists should expect of what is promising to be a truly spectacular, informative and inspiring date in the Soroptimist calendar.

Q: What led to your choice of theme for 2019, ‘Soroptimists Enable A Sustainable World – Global Connections, Empowered Women’

The SI Convention 2019 Theme was developed through consultation, guidance and consensus of SI Advocacy committee members, including all SI United Nations Representatives, selected SI officials and local Soroptimist Programme Committee members.

The overall aim is to showcase growth opportunities and niche areas for Soroptimists’ advancement worldwide.  Soroptimist International’s leadership role, global engagement and powerful advocacy initiatives, especially regarding UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be fully explored, via targeted plenary sessions and workshops.

The Convention will be a dynamic showcase of SI’s global connections, providing networking opportunities and attracting partnerships with other leading CSOs and CSR driven corporate sponsors.

Q: For those who have not been to an SI convention, or visited Kuala Lumpur before – what can Soroptimists expect to experience when visiting?

Soroptimists should attend this Convention as we are offering a unique opportunity to be at a venue in Kuala Lumpur, strategically located in the heart of South East Asia, and easily accessible to Soroptimists from 113 cities, serviced by more than 60 airlines. The programme will be exciting and promises to present on stage a number of renowned speakers in their fields of expertise from around the world.

Soroptimists will experience a unique mix of cultural offerings and natural heritage, which Malaysia is famous for. With multi-cultural performances and cuisine, and pre and post Conference tours to different parts of Malaysia, Soroptimists will have the chance to enjoy a diverse mix of beautiful landscapes. Witness the rainforest jungles, and the beautiful beaches off the coasts of Peninsular Malaysia, and the states of Sarawak and Sabah on the exotic island of Borneo, with its flora and fauna from the Rafflesia, the world’s largest flower, and the world-famous proboscis monkey, endemic to the jungles of Borneo.

Q: What ideas do you have for activities being organised for Soroptimists

Besides the two fabulous dinner events on Friendship Night, with the theme ‘Rasa Sayang Eh’ (Friendship of Love) and the Gala Evening, themed a ‘Kaleidoscope of Cultures’, we have planned for optional dinner packages offering food and entertainment in unique locations around Kuala Lumpur, and the Federal Capital, Putrajaya, on the pre-Conference night and second evening of the Conference.

We are planning sisterhood tours to a few cities where we have Soroptimists clubs, such as Penang, Ipoh, Johor Bharu, and possibly even across the Causeway to Singapore, as well as to Kuching in Sarawak and Kota Kinabalu in Sabah. We also have a special partner programme, especially for golfing enthusiasts.

Q: When can Soroptimists book their place at Convention?

We will be opening registration from early July 2018, with an early bird offer for the first few months.

Q: How can Soroptimists help to spread the word and support the Convention?

Facebook is a great way to share news and information amongst Soroptimists. We would like to invite all Soroptimists to Like, Follow and Share the Convention Facebook page at

We are also on Instagram – Soroptimists using Instagram can click on the link to find our profile

Additionally, we are always on the lookout for potential sponsors, and possible workshop speakers covering topics such as Complementary Medicine, Therapies as part of Asian culture and more. If Soroptimists have good ideas or would like to find out more, they can contact the Convention Secretariat at

Q: What are the Plenary Areas for the 2019 Convention and why are these important to the Convention and the SI mission and goals.

The Plenary Areas are:

Water & Food Security

These are high priority areas to alleviate global poverty and hunger and the focus of SI President’s Appeal Women, Water & Leadership. Water and food are major Sustainable Development Goals  (SDGs) for which Soroptimist clubs around the world have carried out education and empowerment programmes and local community projects.

Technology & Innovation

This plenary will emphasise new frontiers for Soroptimist clubs to promote women and girls in STEM careers, and business opportunities in STEM, as well as how technology and innovation can empower and enrich women and overcome gender equality.

Violence, Trafficking & Exploitation

This is a high priority area for Soroptimists in all our member countries. Trafficking and exploitation have become global pandemics, especially with the migrant’s crises in many countries. Emphasis will be on successful programmes, collaborative interventions and latest ground-breaking solutions.

Healthcare, Intergenerational Wellness & Aging Society

These topics are a major SDG focus and of great interest to Soroptimists, especially for women who are primary care-givers. Also, since this is the first SI Convention in Asia, the place of origin of ancient healing therapies, we plan to start each day of the conference with healing arts exercises, example, Tai Chi, Qi Gong or Yoga.

Youth Social Activism

This is a special plenary aimed at attracting young Soroptimists to the Convention. Also, speakers from leading youth organisations, example, One Young World, WAGGGS and locally, AISEC (University student’s organisation). Emphasis will be on social media and innovative methods of social engagement to attract interest and collaboration with youth on Soroptimist programmes.

Climate Action Plan

Climate Change is an overarching and interconnecting SDG. Climate change affects everyone and all life forms on the planet. Women and girls, especially those in rural areas are particularly vulnerable during natural disasters and adverse environmental conditions. The plenary aims to bring speakers that will inspire and empower Soroptimist delegates to share ideas, experiences and actionable recommendations that will enable SI to develop a Climate Action Plan.

Q: How can Soroptimists keep up to date with news, information on speakers and get any advice they might need on travelling to Kuala Lumpur?

The best and most updated information will be provided through the Convention website at Soroptimists may also contact the Convention Secretariat at

Be sure to visit the SI Convention website, Facebook page and keep an eye on the Soroptimist International website, Global Voice newsletter and social media for the latest announcements, and we look forward to welcoming you to the 21st Soroptimist International Convention, 2019″.




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