SEE Region in Malta, November 10th - 12th 2016

I was proud and delighted that 52 members of the South East Region attended the conference.
The conference theme was Engineering the Future. The aim was to promote the STEM subjects, science, technology, engineering and maths. It was professionally organised and run, the speakers were excellent and inspiring. I always enjoy seeing and being part of the bigger picture. Full details are on the sigbi website.
Some of the key messages that I took away were;
Women have been involved in the STEM subjects for longer than we might realise - Emily Roebling took over the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1872 when her husband died. Mary Anderson (born 1866) invented the windscreen wiper. It didn't become standard on cars until 1916, until then it was thought that it would distract drivers. Hedy Lamarr, Australian actress was a pioneer in the field of wireless communications.
In the UK only 10% of the workforce in engineering are women. Spain, Italy, Bulgaria are better at getting girls and young women to study science and physics.
We heard about a movement to build awareness of women's rights in Nepal, which is being led by a TV journalist. She is using her position to raise awareness, little by little she is aiming to create a bigger change.
Looking to the future we were encouraged to teach young people skills not tools. Skills like creative thinking, analytical thinking, teaching the tools for example use of hardware and software is not enough, we were encouraged to be curious, keep asking questions.
I hope you will be encouraged to join us at the conference in Cardiff, 26 - 28 October 2017
Step Up, Lead the Way
Carol Infanti
President 2016 - 2017

Experiences of first-time SI Conference Attendees

After having been a Soroptimist for about 6 years, done lots of things including being President of Maidstone Club, I decided that at long last it was time to overcome my 'virgin' status and go to conference.
I was influenced by colleagues returning from Glasgow last year full of enthusiasm about their Conference experience, the programme theme and setting for 2016 and wanting to support Carol Infanti from Maidstone Club who was to become Regional President whilst in Malta.
The whole experience completely exceeded my expectations. The hotel - Westin Dragonara - was fabulous and an atmospheric short walk to the Hilton. I was enchanted by Malta itself, the mild and sunny weather showcased this fascinating and historic island, set in a shimmering sea. Above all the Maltese are lovely, friendly people who have suffered greatly and are proud of their heritage.
And the Conference itself - well, I have nothing to compare it to, but it was quite amazing, it alternately moved and inspired me. From the ceremony when national flags were paraded onto the stage, each one by a Girl Guide alongside a Soroptimist, to the amazing and awe-inspiring presentations on projects which some Clubs are running. These Soroptimist sisters are building schools, developing programmes to help prevent girls being trafficked, providing sessions to enable Alzheimers sufferers to join in music, singing and social activities every week. I could go on. We all felt immensely proud of their innovation and achievements.
The range of keynote speakers was broad, but in different ways all following the theme of Engineering the Future. One which I'll always remember was Steve Arthur, from Wessex Water speaking in support of WaterAid. This was a powerful and thought-provoking address in which he traced the potential arc of a woman's life, from birth, and the impact that water or lack of it had on her and her children's well-being and safely. His demonstration of the level of infant mortality due to lack of clean water was truly sobering.
There were many other highlights, too numerous to mention. On the final evening the delegates from South East Region (an impressive 52 in total) cheered when Carol Infanti went up on the stage to accept the regalia from Susie Forbes, outgoing Regional President. We all then enjoyed a party accompanied by Malta's premier pop group (I never expected to see so many Soroptimists dancing, particularly not to a group who were young enough to be their grandchildren). We had a District dinner in a typical Maltese restaurant.
The fellowship and friendship we experienced was amazing, and I returned home feeling that we were all more aware of the international SI picture, better bonded internationally and at District and Club level. In addition we'd had a great holiday with friends.
Would I go again - yes, of course I would! I'm already looking forward to Cardiff next year.

Elizabeth Astridge
SI Maidstone

My impressions of the SIGBI Conference in Malta 2016
I am new to Soroptimism and therefore have not been to any conferences before the recent one in Malta. The event has helped me to understand a lot more about the organisation and just how vast the area that SIGBI covers really is. The opening ceremony where a flag was carried to represent each country was spectacular as there were so many different colours and nationalities included.
I was privileged to meet Soroptimists from all over the world at the event. I was particularly interested to hear about the variety of good causes which Soroptimists are involved in which include many local projects such as literature competitions, national projects such as the Spoon Project for Kaman Nirvana and international projects such as Water Aid.
The AGM, which I thought might be a bit dull!, was everything but dull with each of the proposals being keenly and thoroughly debated. There was a sense of mutual respect in the room with people for and against each proposal being given equal chance to speak and everyone was listened to. The meeting was very civilised despite people feeling passionately about some of the issues.
The speakers were excellent and inspirational especially 20 year old Sara Ezabe Malliue who has done so much already in her short life to counter discrimination of all kinds especially racism and religious discrimination. Sara explained about how in Malta, she has experienced bus drivers who refuse to pick her up as she is a Muslim and she is now doing much to re-educate her community. Another excellent speaker was Steve Arthur from Wessex Water who was able to explain how a lack of clean water can affect women especially; at each stage of life using real case studies to illustrate this.
To summarise, I was so enthused and energized by attending the conference in Malta that I cannot wait for the next conference in Cardiff next year and I would highly recommend that club members, but particularly new members, attend a SIGBI conference if at all possible as it provides such a great opportunity to learn about Soroptimism on a global scale and has certainly confirmed, for me what a great organisation Soroptimism is to be part of.

Susannah Burden
SI Ashford
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