CSW62 - Commission On The Status Of Women - Empowering Rural Women and Girls 

Message from President 2014-2016 Theresa Lyford



This year I am delighted to be Attending CSW62 (Commission on the Status of Women) 62nd Session with a team of 12 SWP Members who have taken up the Challenge to be: ”Informed and Inspired” by this amazing event in New York at the United Nations.

This is one of the major forums that run in parallel with the Commission on the Status of Women to provide civil society an opportunity to engage with other member states, NGOs, and UN Agencies to advance the agenda on women at the United Nations.

This year’s Theme is “Achieving Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Rural Women and Girls” under the overarching agenda to ensure that ‘no one is left behind’. Under-Secretary-General of Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka stated that “gender and geographic inequalities mean that rural women and girls are disproportionately affected by poverty, exclusion, effects of environmental and climate change, domestic violence, limited access to social protections and inadequate legal and policy frameworks. The CSW provides a critical opportunity to advocate for greater investment in gender-responsive rural infrastructure and technology, the eradication of poverty, quality education, the achievement of universal health, elimination of harmful practices and the fulfilment of women’s rights to adequate nutrition and land”.


This year Soroptimist International is proud to be able to host a Parallel Event and a Side Event. At the Parallel Event, I will have a few minutes to present SISWP’s perspective on finding solutions to the multilayered issues faced by rural women across our Federation which is so important to raise in this setting.

 The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) released a somewhat worrying document for the event, in which it lists that there are 47 countries who are categorised in the Least Developed Country Category – 33 are in Africa, 1 in the Caribbean and 13 in the Asia and Pacific region. Of those 13 countries – Cambodia, PNG, Solomon Islands sit within our Federation, while Vanuatu and Myanmar are ones that have also been allocated to SISWP.

There is a lot of work to do, but to quote the Bureau Chair, Commission on the Status of Women, H.E. Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, ‘enough of the rhetoric – governments and leaders are long on promises and short on delivery and we have a moral obligation to ensure that we have action oriented policies that make our Governments accountable for complying with the policies that have been in place for many years but are slow (almost glacial) in implementation for women and girls around the world.”

Your SISWP CSW62 Team will keep you posted via Twitter, Facebook and website Blogs, so take the time to follow – myself, Di, Sylvia, Belinda, Christine, Ralda, Mitch, Paula, Catherine, Kath, Cesarina, Deborah and Caylee.


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The Commission on the Status of Women is one of only two United Nations entities that deal  exclusively with the well-being, experiences, expectations and rights of Women.

The other is the Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). CSW is also responsible for reviewing and monitoring progress of the Beijing Platform for Action.


In this, the 62nd session, there will be as usual, a, Priority Theme:

Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls

as well as a Review Theme

Participation in and access to the media and information and communications technologies and their impact on and use as  an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women.

It is 15 years since rural women were last considered and there were no Agreed Conclusions at that event. It is important that the topic is explored thoroughly and some conclusions met. Our federation includes many rural women and we are well aware of their particular problems.

Similarly, in the ten years that have passed since the impact of media was last explored there has been a tsunami like explosion of technology and this has both potential and problems for women.

Amongst the over 8000 women who attended were 13 delegates from Soroptimist International of the South West Pacific(SISWP) for many of whom it was their first experience.

Despite workshops to explain the diversity and extent of the sessions, the scale of the event became obvious when delegates were presented with a booklet with hundreds of choices of events spread out over up to 8 blocks of New York to travel to reach locations for events.

Read the full report by Programme Director 2016-2018 Di Lockwood, and also the reports by the two official SISWP Delegates to CSW62, Belinda Lee a member of SI Auckland, New Zeland and Sylvia Heywood a member of SI North Shore, New Zealand. 

Please read their full reports here;
  pdf Programme Director 2016-2018 Di Lockwood (175 KB)
  pdf Delegate Belinda Lee (1.13 MB)
  pdf Delegate Sylvia Heywood (210 KB)


Every day women and girls in the South West Pacific are being Educated, Enabled and Empowed by projects instigated by women just like yourself, who call themselves Soroptimists.  These women from 13 Countries located in the South West Pacific work on projects focused on education, empowerment,
and the creation of enabling opportunities to improve the lives and status of women and girls.

In 2015 members of Soroptimist International South West Pacific have spent over $929,000 on over 500 projects which have directly benefited 22,000 women and girls.

This action demonstrates the "Think Globally, Act Locally", does make a DIFFERENCE to the lives of women and girls 


International Women’s Day is celebrated by Soroptimists as part of the movement towards women’s rights and its origins can be traced back to 1909.

It was more widely celebrated in communist countries for a number of years but in 1975 the United Nations for the first time celebrated International Women’s Day.

In 1977 the United Nations invited member states to proclaim March 8 each year as the UN Day for Women’s Rights and World Peace.

This year the international theme is # Press for Progress and links to the Sustainable Development Goals commitment to leave no one behind.

While it may be alarming to think that true gender equality is 200 years away, it strengthens resolve to not only celebrate the achievements of many women but also to acknowledge that much remains to be done and that we must continue to press forward not only for ourselves but for the next generations of women.

Around our Federation women and girls will be involved in celebrations at breakfast and lunches, will be listening to inspirational speakers and will be realising all that they can become. They will become aware that, united, women are a powerful force that can bring about change .

Publicise what you are doing, post on Facebook or Twitter using our hashtag, #SWPIWD18 and #Press for Progress and celebrate and publicise our work.


think globally v3Soroptimists seek not only to help the victims of social inequalities and human rights abuses but also to address the social, environmental and economic factors that are root causes. They research, discuss and have carefully considered positions on major issues of global concern. Soroptimist International of the South West Pacific has special consultative status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ESCOC)  has recognised status as a Non-Government Organisation (NGO) with a broad range of expertise and a comprehensive agenda. This allows our collective efforts and opinions to be shared with a wider community and makes us an effective global voice for women.

Awareness Advocacy Action

Soroptimist members are encouraged to raise their own and others' Awareness of issues of global concern affecting women and girls. Soroptimist Advocate for policy commitments and social changes that will improve the status of women and promote sustainable communities.

Soroptimist Programme Action aims to ensure that women and girls will:

  • enjoy equity and equality
  • live in safe and healthy environments
  • have access to education
  • have leadership and practical skills

NGOs like Soroptimist International of the South West Pacific have been influential in shaping the current global policy framework on women’s empowerment and gender equality, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and are effective advocates for the fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They continue to play an important role in holding international and national leaders accountable for the commitments they made in the Platform for Action.

Soroptimist Position on Global Issues

Soroptimist International has developed a series of position statements on issues of global concern. These have been developed with broad consultation of the membership and represent the collective opinion of the membership on issues of major importance. Full copies of these statements are published in a document titled "Where We Stand". Copies of this can be downloaded from Soroptimist International Where We Stand

In developing position statements, Soroptimist International often supports the principles outlined in such international treaties and conventions as:

  • The Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs);
  • The Platform for Action for Women;
  • The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, including the Optional Protocol;
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
  • The Convention of the Rights of the Child;
  • Agenda 21

Soroptimists are encouraged to become aware of the content of such documents and advocate for implementation of policies and legislation which support the principles contained in these documents.

Educate, Empower, Enable

Through Project work, Soroptimists work at their local and national level on projects which meet the 8 objectives of Education, Elimination of violence, Economic empowerment, Food security, Healthcare, Environmental sustainability/water and sanitation, Conflict resolution/peace promotion, Disaster relief, mitigation and resilience, the work achieved through these projects provides opportunities to Educate, Empower and Enable women and girls to plan for their future, allows for their economic growth and opens doors to their dreams. 

CSW61 was the greatest gathering of women’s organisations since the Beijing Platform for Action and the United Nations buildings and their surrounds were a blaze of colour mixed with the formal suits of male employees and a true cacophony of languages. All this occurred against a background of bitter cold, snow caked streets and the noises of traffic and sirens that epitomise a giant city.

Read more ...

educate empower enable

Soroptimists Educate, Enable and Empower women by providing the opportunities for women to fulfil their dreams.
Education prepares women and girls to plan for their future, and allows for their economic growth and opens doors to their dreams. Educate a women and you educate a whole family.

Every year Soroptimists from the South West Pacific provide bursaries and scholarships for women to continue their education. Below you will find links to the many scholarships provided each year, click on the link for further information for each of the scholarships.


New South Wales/ACT

Canberra, ACT - SI ACT & Monaro Grant - A Better World for Women

Grant applications are sought for funding the development and implementation of an Australian based project or activty that meets one or both of SI Goals

For more information and an application form contact SI ACT & Monaro. Closing date for applications 13th May 2018 5pm EST.


Canberra, ACT - Minmahaw Education Foundation, Mae Sot, Thailand

Scholarship to allow women to continue their education. For more information contact SI Canberra. Closing date for applications 30th June.


Central Coast, NSW - SI Brisbane Water Scholarship for TAFE Secondary Students

Students must be attending TAFE in the district. Students will be invited to submit a 1 page essay to be assessed by SI & TAFE. For more information and selection criteria contact SI Brisbane Water


Randwick, NSW - SI Randwick & Eastern Suburbs Rural Midwife Scholarship

To assist a rural midwife to upgrade knowledge and skills. For more information contact SI Randwick & Eastern Suburbs.


Griffith, NSW - Tertiary Scholarship

To provide start up costs to a girl commencing TAFE or University. For more information contact SI Griffith.


Beenleigh, QLD - Stella Rickhoff Award for Emerging Leaders

Award to women in the Beenleigh District who have contributed to their community through volunteering to advance women and girls.

Must be a female and working or contributing to advance the status of women in their work or volunteering role. Award Certificate and $500.00 towards the Charity of their choice.For more information contact SI Beenleigh. Closing date for applications is 30th October.


Redlands, QLD - University Scholarship

Provide scholarship to a girl/women attending university. For more information contact SI Bayside.


Gold Coast, QLD - Beth Taylor Education Scholarship

Provide a scholarship to a mature aged women to assist with the cost of tertiary study. For more information contact SI Gold Coast.


Western Australia


Albany, WA -  South Regional TAFE - Female Student of the Year Award

Recognition of an outstanding female student who has demonstrated herself to be a true all-rounder showing leadership in her community and outstanding results in her field of endeavour - annually in March


Albany, WA - Girl Guides Bursary

Soroptimist International Albany’s bursary of $500 to provide financial help to Girl Guides within the Greater Southern Region. The bursary would be available to Guides within the region and meet the specified criteria:


Perth, Western Australia - SIWA - Stella Giles Award for Achievement

This scholarship is a prize presented to a WA women for her to undertake a project that aligns with the goals and objectives of our organisation. Applications must be made through and supported by a WA Club. To view the criteria please visit www.Soroptimists-wa.org.au - held every two years - next award 2019 


 South Perth, WA - Sports Scholarship

To enable children to attend sporting clubs, camps etc. For more information contact SI South Perth.


Riverside, WA - Primary School Transition Scholarship

For more information contact SI Riverside.


Joondalup, WA - Educational Scholarships East Timor

Scholarships include a living allowance, transport and books, For further more information contact SI Joondalup.


Fremantle, WA - Scholarships of $1000 - SI Fremantle Scholarship to women who are currently enrolled in tertiary education

Further information and application form available from, Maxine Kaempf


Applications must be received before March 31st, 2018. Interviews may form part of the selection process if necessary.


Fremantle, WA - Girl Guides Assistance Scholarship

Assist Girl Guides whose families are experiencing financial hardship. Club will consider paying fees, uniform and camp costs as required. For more information contact SI Fremantle.


Fremantle, WA - Scholarship Awards to Local High Schools and University

Awards are to students to recognise the dedication of students to their studies, shown through sustained effort, attitude or motivation. For more information contact SI Fremantle.



Cobram, VIC - Secondary School Scholarship

For more information contact SI Cobram.

The Dame Margaret Blackwood Soroptimist Scholarship is to assist a post-graduate student of Genetics in plants, animals or viruses. The scholarship was established to honour Dame Margaret Blackwood, after her death in June, 1986. An eminent scholar in the field of genetics and plant cytology, as well as an eminent Soroptimist, Dame Margaret Blackwood became the first female Deputy Chancellor of the University of Melbourne in 1980. It is through this university that the scholarship is offered and administered. The scholarship is awarded by the Council of the University at such intervals and for such periods as it may determine on the recommendation of a selection committee consisting of:
• the Dean of the Faculty of Science or nominee
• the Professor of Genetics or nominee
• a representative of SISWP.
Applications are invited by notices on University and Faculty notice boards and Soroptimist magazines. The first scholarship was awarded in 1991

South Australia

Adelaide, SA - University of Adelaide Gender Studies Award

For more information contact SI Eastern Districts of Adelaide.


Port Pirie, SA - Secondary Schools Scholarship 

At the end of each year Soroptimist International of Port Pirie awards a scholarship of $200 to a senior female student in each of the three secondary schools in Port Pirie. They are given to a student demonstrating leadership skills and academic excellence. For more information contact SI Port Pirie.


New Zealand

Christchurch, NZ - Soroptimist Music Scholarship

Provided to a primary aged school child. For more information contact SI Christchurch.


Christchurch, NZ - Betty Loughhead Soroptimist Scholarship

This scholarship is open to women in New Zealand who are New Zealand Citizens over the age of 25 years on October 1st. Mature applicants are welcome.
Preference will be given to applicants who have a proven record of academic achievement, have commenced a course of study, or are near completion. The training or retraining to be a academic course offered by a recognised educational provider within New Zealand.
The scholarship is available annually. The CLOSING DATE IS OCTOBER 1ST.
For more information contact The Betty Loughhead Trust.


Gore, NZ - SI Gore President's Scholarship

This scholarship is a cash one and can be used for books and/or tuition fees and/or travel. It is only available to young women from the local community leaving the area for further study. For more information contact SI Gore.



Penang, Malaysia - SI Penang Education fund

For more information contact SI Penang.



Jakarta, Indonesia - Goodwill Leadership Scholarship Program

Providing scholarships for under privileged university students. For more information contact SI Jakarta.



Dusit, Thailand - Nursing Degree Assistance

Assistance for women to continue their nursing degree. For more information contact SI Dusit.


Dusit, Thailand - Medical Studies at Khon Kaen University

Assistance for women to continue with their medical studies at Khon Kaen University. For more information contact SI Dusit.


Dusit, Thailand - Janie Scholarship Fund

Assistance for women completing a law degree at Khon Kaen University. For more information contact SI Dusit.


Dusit, Thailand - Scholarship for Hill-Tribe Girls

To assist with their ongoing education. For more information contact SI Dusit.



Lautoka, Fiji - Assistance With Completion of Tertiary Education

For more information contact SI Lautoka.


Lautoka, Fiji - Arya Samaj Primary School

Annual prize giving funciton. For more information contact SI Lautoka.


Ba, Fiji - Education Assistance

Education assistance for text book fees. For more information contact SI Ba.











Soroptimist Projects

Soroptimist members from the South West Pacific volunteer to improve the lives of women and girls through projects identified at the local level (their clubs), these projects work to Educate, Empower and Enable the recipients (women and girls), they lead to social and economic empowerment.