By JOSEPHINE IGBINOVIA

Recently, Prof.(Mrs.)Pat Black,President, Soroptimist International of Great Britain & Ireland- SIGBI, paid a one-week to Nigeria. Soroptimist International is a worldwide organization for women in management and the professions, serving as a global voice for women and girls. SIGBI oversees all Soroptimists clubs in Common-wealth countries, including Nigeria.

After a tour of the various Soroptimist clubs in the different parts Nigeria in six days, Pat Black visited the University of Lagos on the day of her departure, in company of various Lagos-based clubs, to inspect a Braille Centre built by the Soroptimist International of Eko in 2010. Vista Woman was also at the Braille Centre, and we had a session with Prof.Pat Black. Enjoy!

What inspired this visit to Nigeria?

As the international president, I have the care of all the clubs in Nigeria, and there are fourteen of them. So, I have come to see their projects and the works that they’re doing. Soroptimist International seeks to make a difference in the lives of women and girls everywhere in the world, and Nigeria too has been very effective in helping to execute education and health projects for women and girls. I aim to help one million girls and women in my one year as president.

In what ways can this be achieved?

This will be done in various ways; providing education, building schools, providing opportunities like the Braille Centre built by the Soroptimist International of Eko at the University of Lagos, which enhances the acquisition of higher education by the physically-challenged students; educating community leaders; helping people to understand health issues, etc.

We also have projects where we provide medical facilities for mothers in hospitals, like in one of the areas  I visited in Abuja, in the course of my one-week visit. In other countries, we’re training mid-wives, birth assistants, doctors to help women who have serious medical complications during child birth, etc. So, it’s a whole range.

Each president of Soroptimist International comes with a theme for her tenure, what’s yours?

My theme is Vision to Action. We have a Soroptimist International vision which is to help every woman and girl achieve her potential, so, I want to see that vision turned into action.

For how long have you been a member of Soroptimist International?

I joined 20 years ago as a very humble member. The first project that I got involved in was in Sierra-Leone, which was an education project. We worked to make available educational materials and to build schools in Sierra-Leone. I live in the United Kingdom, but at that time, I was working in Sierra-Leone as an educationist.

My background is in education, so, I’m always very passionate about education. From there, I progressed to being club president, national president, board member, and so on. On behalf of Soroptimist International, I will be speaking at the United Nations in a few days’ time, on the work of Soroptimist International.

Tell us about your background..

I started as a primary school teacher, worked in secondary schools, and then became a Director of Education of a very large local government area in the UK. I went on to become a university professor and worked to encourage the work of women and girls, particularly women who are trying to reach top levels in management.

Back to your aim of turning the vision of Soroptimist into action, how do you hope to pull together every Soroptimist so as to achieve that?

All over the globe, Soroptimists are working with the same vision to ensure the empowerment of women and girls towards fulfilling their potentials. So, every country will have similar projects  in the areas of education and health. We work to educate, empower and enable, and every project has to meet that focus. That’s the strategy that brings the whole together.

For how long have you been in Nigeria?

I’ve been here for one week and I’m going back tonight. In the past six days, I’ve been to many places in Nigeria. I’ve been to several Soroptimists clubs in Lagos, have been to Abuja, Enugu, the coal city, Nnewi, Asaba and back to Lagos where I’m seeing more projects today.

Having visited all these clubs in different parts of Nigeria, how would you score the performance of Soroptimist in Nigeria?

Very good! I’ve been very pleased to see the works going on. Each club is working with the focus, working with the theme, and they are making a difference in the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of women and girls. To every Soroptimist club in Nigeria, I’ll therefore say: keep working, keep focusing!

What would you miss about Nigeria?

I’ll miss the colours, friendships, vibrancy, food, and all. I’ve really enjoyed Nigerian delicacies. Each area I’ve been to, have their different foods. However, my favourite that I found in every place is fried ripe plantain. I’ve enjoyed it very much!

What do you think your various clubs in Nigeria could do more?

There isn’t a lot more to do because they have already identified the needs in their various local communities. They’re doing several projects in their local communities, and I’ll say that they need help with fund-raising. More resources are needed for them to be able to continually make a difference. The Braille Centre built by the Soroptimist Club of Eko for example, I was told by the current club president, Cordelia Barber, is being financed by the family of one Late Chief Ayo Rosiji.

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