Soroptimist International was founded in 1921, and now has around 72,000 members worldwide, in many different countries. The organisation looks to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a guideline for implementing social change on a local level. The Costa del Sol branch began in 2006 and is based in Mijas, explained Daphne Theunissen, one of the founding members and current Vice-President of Soroptimists Costa del Sol. They run various projects for victims of domestic violence, including paying for a few nights in a hostel and coordinating the different groups supporting survivors, such as the police and the Red Cross, to ensure that they receive as much help as possible.
Another important initiative is a scholarship scheme offered to young women, working to empower them through education. "As a group of women you have to support the younger generation, and give them the tools to implement change," said Daphne. Soroptimist Costa del Sol also sponsor a local girls basketball team.
Daphne said that some of the women who have been supported by Soroptimist in the past are now involved in the club's activities, giving back to the community which helped them.
The organisation celebrated International Women's Day on 7 March by installing a tree outside the Mijas town hall, on which messages about women's rights in many different languages will be hung, as a symbolic act of solidarity to women all over the world.
Daphne emphasised the importance of celebrating International Women's Day in the continued fight for gender equality. She believes that women are still not represented enough in government or business, and there are not enough female leaders. "Women need to be heard more," she said, explaining that more women in charge will lead to more decisions which actively support women's rights.
The organisation also supports whole families and helps in the community. At the beginning of the pandemic, they began raising money for the local Mijas food bank, and arranged for a local provider to supplement the food bank donations with fresh produce. The initiative is still in operation now, with continued financial backing from a variety of sources.