Soroptimist International of Europe (SIE) has a focus of five programme areas to improve the lives of women and girls. On a yearly basis more than 30,000 members in SIE carry out around 4,000 projects in: Women’s Empowerment, Elimination of Violence Against Women, Health and Food Security, Sustainability, and the programme/focus area, Education.
Scholarships and grants are at the core, and for the International Day of Education, SIE highlights 2 projects that appear in the SIE Best Practice Awards, and winners of the 2022 edition. The diversity of projects in SIE is a key strength, and the trend is to embrace an educational element in every project, strengthening and highlighting the importance of the motto Educate, Empower, and Enable.
Leadership Academies and Mentoring Projects go hand in hand to empower young professional women and advance careers, promoting both female leadership and entrepreneurship. SIE is considered a role model; coordinating the week-long Leadership Academy, with one or more Unions.
The outbreak of the war in Ukraine put Education firmly in the spotlight. Women and children have been fleeing, with men remaining in country. One country receiving many refugees is Poland, and in May 2022, around 3.5 million refugees arrived in the country. With pressure on the school systems, civil society, including Soroptimists, have played a major and important role – running language courses and printing books, throughout the country. In addition to this dedicated action, other efforts have included supplying emergency kits, supporting women at hospitals, and signposting opportunities to meet psychologists. For every euro donated, SIE attempts to initiate the multiplicator effect by local Soroptimist. Together we are stronger and reaching more people, gaining visibility as an organisation, we become more recognised and supported.
Winner of the ‘CLUB BEST PROJECT’ AWARD 2022 – EDUCATION
Club of Almere – THE NETHERLANDS
Autonomy through education for women in shelters
It is well-known that women often return to their abusive partners due to economic dependence. Education reduces the chances of that, especially when it is chosen with a future job or career in mind. It also gives women more self-confidence and sets a good example for their children.
Knowing this, the Soroptimists of Almere stepped up with their own project to help women in women’s shelters become more autonomous and economically independent through education.
To do so they started by formulating admission criteria and contracts and organising selection interviews to determine educational needs and competencies. Once the selection process was complete, the next step was to choose targeted and realistic education programmes, together with each candidate. This was all carried out in the context of the women’s shelter, involving management and social workers (as they generate requests for education funding). As part of the project, laptops and software were purchased and installed for the women to use. The women received support and follow-up from members of the Education Committee while participating in the programme.
SI Almere secured visibility and support for their project through a variety of means. They held two media events attended by the press, and local television and radio. An article was also published by Rabobank for their members. The club itself was active on social media (Facebook and Instagram), and on the Union website. Finally, they launched a special Almere edition of Monopoly, which showed the Soroptimist logo and story on the game’s box.
The result was that the club raised €33,000, which was used to support two women living in a shelter in their studies. One woman has nearly completed a demanding course, the second woman has a good job having successfully completed her education. The club already plans to support more women through this education programme.
An additional benefit of this project is that it can be easily replicated by other Soroptimist clubs and Unions all over the world, as SI Almere developed a:
- Format for fundraising and creating a personalised Monopoly game.
- Model agreement for legal and practical matters related to the education fund.
The club generated a lot of attention and support across the city. They found that companies, the municipality, province and citizens like to work with Soroptimist International and support what we stand for.
|Project achieved by:
· Working with a local women’s shelter to identify candidates for their educational programme,
· Providing the women selected with support to choose and complete their studies to gain future independence,
· Raising awareness of the importance of education as a means to independence and to break the cycle of abuse.
|Women & girls reached: Two women (with more planned for the future)
Funds raised by the Club: €33,000
Funds raised by partner(s): N/A
Partner(s): The Municipal of Almere, the Mayor and Council, Identity Games
WINNER OF THE ‘UNION BEST PROJECT’ AWARD 2022
Union of Italy
Financial Education – Women matter
The gender pay gap is real. In 2020, it was recorded that, in Italy, on average, men earned approximately 11.5% more than women. While this is slowly reducing, there is still a lot of work to be done, with the pay gap varying wildly between sectors and regions.
The Union of Italy decided to carry out an educational project to foster economic empowerment and independence, while promoting female employees and working towards closing the gender gap in economic and financial matters. The project targeted women in vulnerable situations, such as immigrants, victims of violence and widows, and aimed to teach them to manage their own money well. Good financial management extends into other Soroptimist objectives, such as the elimination of violence against women, because it improves economic independence, personal well-being, and gives a future to vulnerable women and their children.
Soroptimist International of Italy launched the project ‘Financial Education – Women Matter’ and partnered with Banca d’Italia. Together with the Banca d’Italia and the National Committee for financial education, they developed the topics and programme for a practical financial course for women. The goal was to promote and finance initiatives aimed to raise women’s financial, insurance and social security knowledge and competencies.
In October 2020, some 300 Soroptimist members, (one to two for each of the 161 Italian Clubs), attended an online training course for financial literacy educators, held by the Banca d’Italia. Everyone taking part had been selected to become a future financial educator, destined to teach a vulnerable female population in their region. Clubs approached potential partners and contacted non-profit associations to identify women in vulnerable situations and offer them a financial literacy course. They worked with the municipal institutions, banks, libraries, schools, and universities to find suitable places for their classes, which were also held online (considering the COVID-19 emergency).
In total, 42 courses were held to improve financial literacy. The project was a big success with 3’000 women learning about finance, including female migrants, victims of violence, victims of trafficking, elderly, and jobless women.
|Project achieved by:
· Partnering with key institutions with expertise in finance and financial education,
· Large-scale training of Soroptimist members, who would in turn train vulnerable women,
· Working together with local organisations to identify vulnerable women and secure locations in which to carry out the courses.
|Women & girls reached: 3,000
Funds raised by the Club: €10,000
Funds raised by partner(s): N/A
Partner(s): Banca d’Italia