SOROPTIMISTS International held their 78th annual conference recently in Northern Ireland with Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson hosting a visit for the delegates and their guests to Parliament Buildings, Stormont.
The theme of their annual conference was ‘Facing the Future Together.’
Commenting after the event Mrs Dobson said, “Soroptimists International is an organisation which is dedicated to inspiring action and creating opportunities for women and girls throughout the world to transform their lives.
“It is an honour for Northern Ireland and Belfast that they have chosen to come here for their annual conference and I had great pleasure in hosting their visit to Stormont.”
During her speech the Ulster Unionist MLA paid tribute to the work of Soroptimists International in taking action to combat human trafficking.
She said, “Whilst I am aware that many of the delegates travelled from across the globe to attend the Conference, we are all acutely aware that, through the scourge of Human Trafficking, many people in Northern Ireland are here not by their own choice, but against their will.
“I pay tribute to the work of the organisation in highlighting the plight of women who are trafficked for reasons of exploitation.
“The sickening fact is that Human Trafficking on the rise in Northern Ireland has recently been highlighted in our local media.
“The Northern Ireland Assembly All Party Group on Human Trafficking is raising this issue and my Party colleague Jim Nicholson MEP at the European Parliament is pressing for tougher sentences of the perpetrators and increased cooperation between border controls.
“There are few local convictions, but we are fighting back and as public knowledge grows, the hiding places shrink.
“Important local organisations like Craigavon ACT are making a very real difference to people’s lives. “Mel Wiggins and Laura Wylie have co-ordinated a committed team of volunteers who are dedicated to positive community-led action against human trafficking.
“Their local action, alongside the global initiatives of Soroptimists can and is delivering real change.
“Through their global network of members and international partnerships Soroptimists ensure that women have an equal voice in areas which can all too often be a male dominated chorus.
“It was a very great pleasure to welcome the delegates to Northern Ireland and to host their visit to Stormont.”
Maureen Maguire, Federation President said: “We are delighted to have been given the opportunity to raise the profile of the 78th Federation conference. Meeting with MLAs has allowed us to raise the issues directly impacting upon women at the highest level of Government within Northern Ireland.”