News from the 4th SIFAF conference

Photo: The SIFAF Conference poster

News from 4th SIFAF conference co-authored by Mary Muia, SIFAF President, Task Force Chair,  and member of SI Karen Blixen Club of Nairobi Kenya, and Wanda Peters, SI Public Relations 2017-2019.

With 1788 members in 27 countries on the African continent, SIFAF, the Soroptimist International Future African Federation, is growing steadily and working hard towards chartership so that it may become SIAF, the Soroptimist International African Federation by the end of 2020. The 4th SIFAF conference in Marrakech registered 245 participants, including over 200 Soroptimists from 14 African countries for the 3-day programme. Chair of the conference was Nneka Chris-Asoluka of SI Nigeria.

Photo: L to R SI President Mariet Verhoef-Cohen, SIFAF Task Force Chair Mary Muia, and Nneka Chris-Asoluka.

Also present were SI President Mariet Verhoef-Cohen, SIE President Renata Trottman, SIE President Elect Anna Wszelaczynska, SIGBI Immediate Past President Ann Hodgson, SIGBI Vice President Isobel Smith, SIE Vice President Advocacy Elizabeth Nyandwe, SIE Vice President Carolien Demey, and many supporting Soroptimists from across the world. High on the agenda, delegates deliberated on the milestones achieved, and those yet to be achieved, on the SI Africa Federation Charter roadmap.

SI President, Mariet Verhoef-Cohen said in her speech: “In my opinion, an African Federation is long overdue. SIGBI and SIE have done a wonderful job in creating, together with you all, Soroptimist clubs, Unions, and Regions within Africa, but the ‘baby’ has grown into a young adult and that young adult needs to spread her wings. As women, we realise this all the better, as our children also leave their nests and we must let go.”

SIFAF – history and present status
The idea of an African Federation of Soroptimist International was born in 1987 and since 1993, regional meetings and general conferences have been held every year, rotationally hosted by different African cities. In 2006, Boards were set up for four sub-regions of Africa and in 2012, A SIFAF Task Force (TF) was mandated to coordinate efforts towards the formation of the African Federation. Presently, there are 104 Soroptimist clubs within Africa.

Photo: Participants of SIFAF 4th Conference at the Hotel El Andalous Lounge and Spa, Marrakech, Morocco, April 20-22, 2018

SIFAF Task Force
At the conference, delegates conducted elections and a strong Task Force of Soroptimists mandated to steer SIFAF towards obtaining a Charter in 2020 was installed. The newly elected SIFAF President Mary Muia is the SIFAF Task Force Chair for the biennium 2018 to 2020. In her inaugural speech, Mary stated: “The time for an African Federation is now”. She reiterated that much was achieved over the last two years and said: “Our goal is to deliver a strong African Federation. We need to move with precision and urgency towards the achievement of the remaining milestones”. With determination and commitment, she proposed the 2018-2020 Biennium Theme as ‘Inspire, Lead and Transform’.  “It is my hope, belief, and prayer”, she continued, “that this theme will compel all African Soroptimists to conduct business unusual at Task Force, country, club and individual levels. Teamwork, efficiency, determination and professionalism will be our guiding principles towards the achievement of an SI Africa Federation”.

Photo: Incoming Task Force (TF) members L to R: Finance Director, Olufumulayo Saheloa Odunsi, Nigeria, Vice President Eastern Region, Judith Apondo,Kenya, Vice President Southern Region, Lissette Genseberger, South Africa, TF Chairperson, Mary Muia, Kenya, Vice Chair Western and Central Region, Oludewa Thorpe,Nigeria and Vice President Northern Region, Fatima El Baz, Morocco (not in the photo: Programme Action Director, Vivian Namayi, Kenya).

Together we can
The conference theme was ‘Together we can’ and together they did! During the three days of presentations and workshops, the focus was on the three most important issues  be achieved before SIFAF can apply for Federation status:

  • Recruiting more members to achieve the minimum membership requirement, which requires the commitment of every member to help recruit new members
  • Setting up an administration, possibly with one part-time member of staff and a very good IT set-up
  • Establishing regular communication with all clubs, all over the continent to ensure that regular e-briefings go out and that the SI Global Voice is regularly forwarded

Photo: Hard at work at the 4th SIFAF conference

SIFAF Projects
The SIFAF Conference included a visit to a wonderful project started and funded by SI Marrakech. The construction and running of a secondary school with boarding facilities for young girls. The programme also included the presentation of the SIFAF Best Practice Awards in the 5 categories: 

  • Health – SI Bulawayo, Zimbabwe for their Mobile Dental Clinic
  • Economic Empowerment – SI Lira Uganda for their Sanitary pads project in the women’s prison
  • Education – SI Grahamstown, South Africa for their Hobbiton project
  • Environmental Sustainability – SI Masaka, Uganda for their Recycled Bags project
  • Violence against women – SI Grand Casablanca, Marocco, for their information centre for improving women’s awareness and knowledge of their rights

Global Friendships
Of course, the days in beautiful Marrakech were spent not only on hard work but also on strengthening the bonds of friendship between Soroptimists through wonderful social events, as well as a visit to an SI project.
Read the blog SIE Assistant Programme Director Inge Withof wrote on her visit to the conference here.

Next SI(F)AF conference
SIFAF TF Chair Mary Muia called upon all members to stand by the stated resolutions in order for African Soroptimists to achieve the dream and celebrate the uneventful birthing of SI Africa Federation-SIAF, in April 2020 in Ivory Coast. Welcome all Soroptimists!

The finale of a spectacular fireworks display at the end of the gala dinner

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