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On Friday 7th March, I had the privilege of attending the 2014 International Women’s Day Dinner, organised by the Soroptimistclub in Delft, The Netherlands.  What an amazing evening!

Held at a church function room in a suburb in Delft, the theme was “Gesprek aan Tafel” (Conversations at the Table), with the topic “Wat is je droom ale Professional (What is your dream as a professional)?”.    This event was organised as part of the week-long celebrations for International Women’s Day.

We were treated to a buffet dinner, organised by the club members.  There was a delicious spread of home-made dishes and we sat at tables of six.  A few people knew each other prior to the event, but the majority of us hadn’t met before. At the first table I sat at, I enjoyed talking to ladies originally from Turkey and native Dutch women as well.  It was nice to have the opportunity to talk with women from a wide range of ages, backgrounds and interests, yet it didn’t take us long to find common ground.

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I had heard of the Soroptimist Organisation while living in Australia but didn’t have the chance to connect with them there.  We learnt a little more about this worldwide organisation and their focus on supporting women and girls around the world to overcome obstacles and discrimination.

Members of the club facilitated the next part of the evening which was introduced as a dialogue, with an emphasis on the fact that the purpose was to listen to each other with respect and without judging.  This time, I was at another table – though my Dutch is fairly fluent, as I was tired and in a noisy environment, I took the chance to join the english-speaking group.

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As one of the guidelines of the evening is that the conversations were to stay private, I won’t share much in this post, but I don’t think the ladies will mind me saying that it was a very enlightening experience!  Just at our table, there were women who were originally from Australia (myself), The Netherlands (the facilitator – though she has spent many years living in Thailand), Trinidad, Iran, Ghana and China.  Apart from our nationalities, we had really diverse experiences yet also so much in common.  We were asked questions such as “What is your inspiration to do your current work” and “Do you find it difficult living in The Netherlands” and the stories everyone shared were amazing.  Though it’s always been a core belief of mine that everyone has an interesting story to share and something to teach others, to have this simple yet profound dialogue for an hour with others who begun as strangers was really special.

There were also similar conversations going on at other tables (in Dutch) and at the end of the evening we all agreed it had impacted all of us in a very positive way.  It seems that even with all that diversity, ultimately we all have the same urge to (positively) change, contribute to and improve our world – each in our individual way.  The strength of every woman I talked to, in terms of the challenges they have overcome and continue to, was just remarkable and I was very grateful to be part of the group.

The evening was finished with a beautiful song that I unfortunately only caught the end of on video (click on the link below), but it was lovely!

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Renée