News from the SI Convention Kuala Lumpur 2019

A letter to Soroptimists from Anusha Santhirasthipam, Federation President, Soroptimist International of the South West Pacific

Dear Soroptimist Sisters,

I am delighted to share with you some highlights of our highly eminent and immensely popular Keynote Speakers who all love our Convention Theme ‘Global Connections, Empowered Women – Soroptimists Enable a Sustainable World’.

Photo: SISWP President Anusha Santhirasthipam with Princess Mabel van Oranje

Princess Mabel van Oranje

Let me begin with Princess Mabel van Oranje, Founder and Board Chair of Girls Not Brides who is highly recommended by SI President Mariet Verhoef-Cohen. What a great introduction it turned out to be! I met Princess Mabel recently in Kuala Lumpur when I participated at the Global Meeting of this worldwide partnership to end child marriage. Soroptimist International is a member of this global network. I watched Princess Mabel LIVE in action. She is a natural star – insightful, captivating and fully committed to ending child marriage so that every girl child is able to achieve her full potential. The World Economic Forum counted her as one of the top hundred ‘Global Leaders for Tomorrow’. Princess Mabel is a member of the worldwide Forum of Young Global Leaders, a think tank and lobby group that tackles global issues.


Photo: Photo courtesy of

Helen Pankhurst

Helen Pankhurst is a women’s rights activist and senior advisor to CARE International, based in the UK and in Ethiopia and has also worked for international development charities including WaterAid, Womankind Worldwide and ACORD. She is currently a Trustee of ActionAid and WSUP. Helen is the author of the book released in 2018 “Deeds Not Words, the Story of Women’s Rights, Then and Now“. She is the great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst, leaders of the British suffragette movement. Helen has taken part in re-enactment work for current day awareness raising including at the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, the 2015 film Suffragette and leading the annual March4Women, ahead of International Women’s Day in London.


Photo: SISWP President Anusha Santhirasthipam with Simonetta Di Pippo (right)

Simonetta Di Pippo

Simonetta Di Pippo is a brilliant astrophysicist, passionate in her support and empowerment of women. I was honoured to get to know Ms. Di Pippo in July 2017, when I visited her at the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), where she is Director. She is fully committed to gender mainstreaming through STEM education and advocates for capacity building programmes to ensure women excel and take leadership roles in space technology and innovation careers. She heads the UN ‘Space for Women Project’ a global empowerment programme. Simonetta encourages women to take up careers and run businesses in big data management, as it is an economic growth sector with vast potential for women. Spearheading UNISPACE+50 for the benefit of humankind, she revealed to me that she wishes to create an ‘Open Universe’ global database for scientists, students and public citizens to access user-friendly interface.

Ms. Di Pippo was Founder of Women in Aerospace, Europe and was knighted in 2006 by the President of the Italian Republic for her exemplary work as an astrophysicist and for her successful career in aerospace management spanning more than 30 years.


Mary Robinson

Photo: Mary Robinson Photo courtesy of World Economic Forum, Cologny, Switzerland

Mary Robinson served as President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997, and as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 to 2002. She now leads a foundation devoted to climate justice, the Mary Robinson Foundation: Climate Justice. I had the honour to meet and get to know Mary Robinson at the Rio+20 UN Summit on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janiero in 2012. Her speech resonated so powerfully and she speaks with down-to-Earth common sense. She has a keen interest in the programmes that Soroptimists clubs do at grassroots level. She told me that the ‘global commons’ belongs to everyone and that we must all collectively influence climate action to ensure a sustainable world for all. Mary is now a member of The Elders and the Club of Madrid. She is also a member of the Lead Group of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement. In 2009, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama, and between March 2013 and August 2014, served as the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region of Africa.

I am sure that these Keynote Speakers will inspire all Convention delegates. Fresh perspectives, innovative solutions and sustainable project ideas await you. More stories to be published in the coming months so do watch this space.


Yours in the Spirit of Soroptimist Service,

Anusha Santhirasthipam

International Convention-Local Chair, Programme & Sponsorship, SI Convention 2019 Kuala Lumpur 



Catch up on our new series of ‘Five Minutes With’ interviews with the SI Convention Committee HERE





Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Subscribe to receive the Soroptimist International Newsletter by email.