Here you will find Soroptimist International’s stance on various issues that affect the lives of women and girls.
Soroptimist International is committed to end all forms of violence which affect women and girls disproportionately. Gender-based violence occurs in the family, in the general community, and through actions perpetrated or condoned by the State. Whatever form it takes, gender-based violence is deeply rooted in historical inequalities, power imbalances, and gender based discrimination. Gender based violence is a violation of human rights and affects the ability of women and girls to reach their full potential and participate in society.
Soroptimist International calls immediate attention to the growing population of older women and denounces the tendency for women beyond reproductive age to be invisible, not just from policies and programmes, but from society as a whole. Women have often experienced a lifetime of discrimination which culminates in a multitude of challenges faced in the post-reproductive years, including a lack of security, protection, access to resources, access to education, and access to health care. Soroptimist International champions a life-course approach of educating, empowering, and enabling opportunities for women at all ages, including the specific needs of older women.
Criminal Justice Systems
Soroptimist International calls attention to the fact that, despite reports dating back two decades calling for reform, women are still mistreated in criminal justice systems worldwide. Women are susceptible to criminal activities given their lower socio-economic positions, less access to financial and social capital, and subjection to numerous forms of stigma and discrimination. They are often guilty of petty, minor, and non-violent crimes. Yet, despite these mitigating factors, the percentage of female prisoners is increasing more rapidly than that of males.
Women’s Economic Empowerment
Soroptimist International recognises that resources, both historically and in the present, are not distributed equally between men and women. Women remain disproportionately affected by poverty and are over-represented in the informal economy. Economic empowerment, budgeting, and distribution of resources are critical to the advancement of women, the achievement of gender equality, and the realisation of women’s human rights. Although SI recognises the flawed nature of the world’s dependence on GDP figures, investing in women and empowering them economically does have a positive ripple effect on national and international economies.
Soroptimist International is committed to the empowerment of women as leaders and decision makers, yet recognises that women are consistently under-represented in positions of leadership. Structural barriers as well as differences in access to resources and capacities render women less likely to achieve leadership positions than their male counterparts. Women’s participation in decision-making, at local, national, and international levels is a fundamental prerequisite for the realisation of equality, sustainable development, and peace. Not only does the inclusion of women’s voices and a gendered perspective improve their status, but works to improve society as a whole. All women and girls, regardless of their educational attainment, are entitled to have their voices heard and to take on leadership roles in their families, communities, and beyond.
Access to Education
Soroptimist International recognises that access to education for girls and women at all ages is a fundamental human right and is vital for development, economic growth, and poverty reduction. Much progress has been made in improving girls’ enrolment in primary schools. However, we still live in a world where many girls and young women face insurmountable barriers in completing their education, where educational outcomes for girls and young women are often lacking, and where many mature women lack basic skills in reading and writing or access to continuing education opportunities. Discrimination, gender stereotypes, economic and time poverty, and violence at schools, amongst others, all create environments which keep girls and women from achieving their fullest potential.
Sexual and Reproductive Health
Soroptimist International is committed to ending discrimination against women based on their role in reproduction. Soroptimist International adopts the definition of sexual and reproductive health set out in the Beijing Platform for Action: “reproductive health care is defined as the constellation of methods, techniques, and services that contribute to reproductive health and well-being by preventing and solving reproductive health problems. It also includes sexual health, the purpose of which is the enhancement of life and personal relations, and not merely counselling and care related to reproduction and sexually transmitted diseases.” Sexual and reproductive health is essential to women’s abilities to access educational, social, and economic opportunities.
Soroptimist International recognizes that human trafficking and modern day slavery violates and impairs the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms and continues to pose a serious challenge to humanity. Human trafficking is defined by the UN as “the recruitment, transport, transfer, harboring or receipt of a person by such means as threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud or deception for the purpose of exploitation.” Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to trafficking, and complex circumstances also mean that a disproportionate number of perpetrators are women.