SI Australia – Advocacy in Action

Soroptimist International Australia is active in Advocacy, Action and Awareness at all levels from local clubs, through to region level, to state or territory level and nationally. Our advocacy activities vary from awareness raising, education campaigns, front line services and events to formalised advocacy to federal government and representatives. All of our clubs and regions are encouraged to undertake advocacy in their community, region or state. On a national level we also have an advocacy committee that addresses national issues.

Some of our recent Advocacy in Action include:

“Walk the Talk” Campaign

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The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the United Nations 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence are commemorated every year around the world to raise awareness and trigger action on this pervasive human rights violation. According to UN Women statistics, between 15 and 76 percent of women are targeted for physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime with most of this violence taking place within intimate relationships. Many women (ranging from 9 to 70 percent) report their husbands or partners as the perpetrator.

According to Soroptimist South West Pacific Federation President Carolyn Hudson, violence against women and girls is a global epidemic. “Women and girls suffer sexually, economically, physically and at times pay the ultimate – death. Women and girls are denied equality and security. Violence against women and girls is not confined to a single country or social group of people, violence occurs in all fabrics of society across the globe,” Ms Hudson said.

As part of our federation project, between 25 November and 10 December 2015 Soroptimist International members from around the South West Pacific (SISWP) (including Australia) campaigned for zero tolerance to gender violence as part of Walk The Talk. Now the project is an annual effort, using the United Nations 16 days of Activism to ‘Walk the Talk’, with many events planned across the Federation to raise awareness.

Birthing in the Pacific

The world is 10 years into a 15 year action plan known as the Millennium Development Goals and Birthing in the Pacific (BIP) focuses on Goal 5 – Improve Maternal Health. This project is run out of Australia and has been supported by the Federation since 2010 to address avoidable maternal and infant mortality in Papua New Guinea and have been working to reduce maternal and infant deaths. In Papua New Guinea, women die during or after child birth at the rate of 733 per 100,000 births, one of the highest rates in the Pacific Region. Further, the World Bank and PNG Demographic health Survey data put the lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy in PNG as one in 28.

One of the biggest killers of children under five is the failure of neonatal care, partly due to the lack of skilled birth attendants and appropriate maternal advice. This is why the focus of the BIP project is the up-skilling and professional development of midwives as a way of reducing the very high rate of infant and maternal mortality in PNG. 

Since 2011, the project has raised USD $478,231, surpassing their original projected goal of $300,000. As of September 2013, 300 midwives were entered in the Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) Midwives Society registry to help keep a record of those midwives who are working in the country. Also, 39 village birth attendants (VBA) completed a skills training course. Since completing that training, they have helped more than 106 mothers. Management of this project is ongoing – the National Reproductive Health Training Unit (RTHU), formalized in June 2014, has had much-needed time to get established and can progress with the desperately needed training.