August 2022

Dear FIWAL Friends,

I do hope that you have survived the heatwaves that have hit Britain and Europe this last month. I have lived in London for 43 years and I do not ever remember the temperatures reaching close to 40c! It does make you realise how important it is for everyone to seriously consider the warnings about climate change. For those of you that attended our @HOME with FIWAL Zoom in 2021 with Julia Hailes on “My Green Life”, I trust that you have been putting into practise some of her tips – every little bit helps!

With the summer holidays started, everyone seems to be experiencing an assortment of travel issues from cancelled or delayed flights, lost luggage, traffic queues, etc. I have certainly experienced my share of travel woes as I have been on the move from Malaysia to France and back again this last month. I do hope that all your travel plans are going as well as possible and you can enjoy a lovely holiday somewhere with your family and friends. With travel in mind, I am sure you will all be fascinated to hear about ‘Nellie Bly‘ who traveled around the world in 72 days in 1888. FIWAL are delighted that Rosemary J. Brown will be talking to us about how she recreated this journey herself. This talk and a light luncheon will follow the FIWAL Board meeting on the same day. Save the Date 20th September – more details to follow.

Congratulations to FIWAL member association, Commonwealth Girls Education Fund (CGEF) on their 55th Anniversary! What an amazing achievement and all the best for many more years of excellent work. To commemorate this historic occasion, CGEF have published their Commonwealth Cookbook which is on sale at Amazon and it looks excellent – I am definitely ordering my copy and look forward to trying the recipes on my return to London! All funds go to such a worthy cause too. 

Pat Yaxley, the Chairman of The Women’s Council has recently retired after many years leading this exceptional organisation. Pat was always a friendly and welcoming face at FIWAL events and we shall all miss her. I would like to take this opportunity to thank her on behalf of FIWAL for all her wonderful work and commitment to TWC and her support of FIWAL.  A big welcome to TWC’s new Chairman, Rajni Rijal who will be the perfect person to continue Pat’s great work. I am looking forward to getting to know Rajni better and working with her in the future. 

Wherever you are this August, swimming in the sea, climbing hills, walking through forests or just enjoying a relaxing time at home, all of us at FIWAL wish you well and look forward to seeing you in September.

Thank You! Warm wishes,


Zehan Albakri
President of FIWAL

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President’s Message July 2022

Dear FIWAL Friends,

I cannot believe that a year has passed since I took on the role of President of FIWAL in June 2021!

I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know all the different FIWAL member clubs as well as the FIWAL Executive Committee who have been hugely supportive. It has been a rewarding experience but also quite challenging as we moved out of the pandemic. It was difficult to predict how people would respond to “face to face” events again but the FIWAL community has shown its strength and determination to keep up the connections and have been wonderful at getting involved again.

The FIWAL events over the last year, have all been special but the Platinum Jubilee Tea was an amazing occasion and a spectacular way to end the FIWAL year! Everyone made an enormous effort with the Jubilee theme and the sea of red, white and blue outfits looked stunning in the beautiful setting of Ironmongers‘ Hall. I am sure the Queen would have approved of our celebrations in her honour!  Our speakers, the Mistress of the Ironmongers’, Clare Wauchope and Aldermen Professor Emma Edhem both made impressive speeches and enlightened us on the history of the City of London and its Livery Companies.  Both encouraged more women to get involved in the City and the Livery so I do hope that some of you will take up this suggestion. 

Our AGM took place on the same day and it was good to see so many FIWAL Member reps there after a gap of three years. I am delighted to announce that our newest member club was voted in, the Japanese Women’s Association in Great Britain (JWA). They were established in 1956. Their general aim is to educate and acclimate Japanese women living in the UK by hosting social events to network and fundraising events. 

Unfortunately, I was not able to attend any FIWAL member club events this month as I took the opportunity to visit my mother in Malaysia which was wonderful as over the last two years it has been very difficult to plan trips. I am certain there are many of you with international families in a similar position so it must be such a relief that travel is easier again. On the subject of travel, we have a fascinating talk planned for after the next FIWAL Board meeting on 20th September  – Rosemary J. Brown will talk about her recent book “Following Nellie Bly : Her record-breaking race around the world”. We will be sending out full details soon so do look out for it.

One of the events that I sadly missed was the Farewell reception for the Kuwait Ambassador H.E. Mr Khaled Al Duwaisan and his wife Mrs Dalal Al Duwaisan who is a long standing supporter of FIWAL and the international community of women in London. Hulya Kolcu, our Diplomatic Liaison Officer represented FIWAL at the reception. We will all miss her but hopefully she will still do lots of trips to London!

Congratulations are also in order for one of FIWAL’s executive committee, Susan Jahanshahi who has just been appointed Vice – President of KCWC, a FIWAL Member club. We wish her well in this new role and are delighted she will continue as the Dateline Editor!

Wishing everyone in the FIWAL community a wonderful summer and enjoyable holidays wherever you are! 

Special Eid al – Adha greetings to all who celebrate. 

Warm wishes,
Zehan Albakri
President of FIWAL

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President’s Message June 2022

Dear FIWAL Friends,

With the weather improving, it is good to see more people out and about and an increase in events as we head towards the Platinum Jubilee Celebrations this week. There is lots planned so I do hope that you will all get the chance to celebrate the Queen’s 70 years on the throne. A great and historic achievement! Our own Jubilee celebration on 7th June is now sold out. Thank you to everyone for supporting this event and I look forward to seeing you there in red, white or blue or all three colours!

I have had a busy month attending a range of wonderful events around the arts, food and music. The month started with an invitation for a private FIWAL group tour to “Weaving Hope: Tenun Pahang”, a special textile exhibition organised by the Queen of Malaysia. About 16 years ago, she started an initiative to revive the weaving industry in her own state of Pahang by training prison inmates in the ancient weaving techniques. As I am originally from Malaysia, I was very proud to see the success of such a worthwhile project and see some of the stunning woven textiles. It was made even more special to have the Queen herself explain the project to all of us!

Food is one of the common interests that link all FIWAL Members and so I was delighted to be invited to attend the launch of two cookbooks at the Tunisian and Turkish Embassies. Both quite similar cuisines but also with some distinct differences. The books focussed on the healthy aspects of their traditional diets: 
– “The Tunisia Cookbook: A Celebration of the Red Cuisine of Tunisia” by Hafida Latta
– “Turkish Cuisine with Timeless Recipes” by First Lady Mine Erdoğan

Music is another excellent way to bring different cultures together and the Royal Thai Embassy hosted a wonderful A Cappella evening with The Yale Spizzwinks. I was joined at this event by FIWAL member Barcarolle Choir’s Chair, Antonella Harrison.

Lastly as the sun shone brightly on Friday, I joined FIWAL Member PAWA’s Discovery Walk around Royal Kensington which ended with a delicious Jubilee tea. PAWA are holding a series of these walks around London plus one virtual one to commemorate the Queen’s Jubilee so do check them out in Dateline.

Looking ahead, please “Save the Date” for our next Board Meeting on 20th September – full details to be sent out in July. In the meantime, enjoy the bank holiday weekend celebrations!

Warm wishes,
Zehan Albakri
President of FIWAL

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President’s Message May 2022

I do hope that you have had a wonderful and enlightening Easter break.

With Ramadan, Passover and Easter all falling during the same month, it has been a
month for deep reflection, devotion, and worship. It is also a time where friends and family gather to eat, pray, and be together in community. This is even more important while the world seems to be in a state of flux, especially with the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

The FIWAL Executive has been keeping itself busy, planning and organising our own community gathering on 7th June – a Platinum Jubilee High Tea at the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers’ Hall. This will be a very special event to mark the Queen’s Jubilee as well as FIWAL’s 36th AGM. We have lots planned – music, poetry, a delicious English afternoon tea, a special Jubilee raffle. We will also have the privilege of welcoming Alderman Emma Edhem as the Guest of Honour, only the 5th woman to be elected an Alderman in its history reaching back to the 12th century. As an Alderman, she will also have the opportunity to be elected Lord Mayor. What is an Alderman? What is a Worshipful Company? How is the Lord Mayor elected? You will get all these questions answered and more. Emma will speak to us about these ancient traditions of the City of London, also known as “The Square Mile”, the oldest part of London. She will also give us an insight into her role as part of the oldest governing body in the UK (its origin pre-dates Parliament!)

We launched this event on the 19th April with an Early bird offer, so do not delay and booksoon, as the offer ends on 9th May!

Just click here for more details.

Please do encourage your fellow members and guests to attend as it will be our biggest event in over two years so a wonderful opportunity to meet and find out more about all FIWAL’s members associations. It will be a chance to celebrate, dress up in the theme of “red, blue and white” with or without a hat and toast the Queen!

As our activities increase and we leave the pandemic behind, I am looking ahead to 2023 and the return of the FIWAL Biennial conference after 5 years! Our last one was in 2018, Women’s Voices Heard. If you have ideas or are interested in getting involved with FIWAL then please do email me at: president@fiwal.org.uk.

Wishing everyone a very joyful Eid Mubarak!

Zehan Albakri 
President of FIWAL

president@fiwal.org.uk
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President’s Message April 2022

Dear FIWAL Friends

I hope you have all been enjoying the early warm Spring weather, perfectly timed for all the Spring celebrations of Holi, Nowruz, Passover and of course Easter this month. Over the years, March has developed into a month of events around International Women’s Day (IWD) so I have had a very full and inspiring month! 

FIWAL started off the IWD celebrations with an uplifting concert – “A Celebration of Women in Music” – with wonderful performances by the Barcarolle Choir and Alla Sirenko. FIWAL was delighted to play a role in raising awareness of the situation in Ukraine with coverage of Alla Sirenko, UCA-UK and the concert on Channel 4 news. We raised £2220 on the night including a £522 donation from FIWAL for humanitarian aid in Ukraine. The donations were very well utilised with funds going directly to Lviv for the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate Monastery who hosted refugees from the East of Ukraine. One of the Sisters is a doctor in a local hospital; much needed medicine and medical equipment was sent there. UCA-UK will continue to work with volunteers to send food and medical supplies directly to Ukraine.

On IWD itself, the Australian Women’s Club hosted a most enjoyable and interesting event at Australia House.  We were treated not only to their delicious cakes but also toexcellent talks by the Deputy High Commissioner, Julie Heckscher and business leader, Samantha Barber. Eachgave us insights into their experience in male dominated work environments. That week I was also invited to join two international Zoom events by WOW Founder, Jude Kelly and a book launch hosted by Malala Yousafzai for the book,“Empowered”, by Vee Kativhu. I would highly recommend this book for young women everywhere. With Zoom allowing input from across the world, it was a truly global experience.

The 17th March was a busy day which started with the FIWAL Member reps Zoom where the topic discussed was Events – these sessions have proved to be very valuable as they encourage a useful exchange of ideas and concerns that can be shared and discussed between the Member reps and FIWAL. Looking forward to many more!

This was immediately followed by a most uplifting and inspiring IWD event by ASAHCA on “Breaking the Bias” at the Ghanian High Commission – all three speakers were exceptional women from the fields of medicine, civil service and corporates. We were also treated to a delicious lunch of African delicacies. Congratulations to ASAHCA President, Tina Owusu-Ankomah on organising a very special afternoon. 

Finally, PAWA had their IWD event at The Nehru Centre, on “Fabulous Foodpreneurs” – a discussion by threeenterprising Asian women in the F&B industry. It was enlightening to hear that despite the obstacles they faced and the bias they experienced, they had all achieved success within that industry.

After all these events, I certainly feel that women are “Breaking the Bias” across all fields and I feel very positive about the future for women. Nevertheless, we must not forget the women in conflict zones across the world in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and many more who are struggling to survive each day. Every little bit does help,so as well as fundraising, all our efforts to raise awareness by giving women a voice will make a huge difference to our place in the world as well as future generations of girls.

Looking ahead we have some exciting plans to commemorate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee so keep the 7th of June free!

Wishing everyone a very special Easter!

Zehan Albakri 
President of FIWAL

president@fiwal.org.uk
fiwal.org.uk 

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President’s Message March 2022

Dear FIWAL Friends

It is with a heavy heart that I write this message with the news of an on going war in Ukraine. I never thought I would ever have to write about a war in Europe. Like everyone, I have followed the news from Ukraine with shock, incredulity and concern.

FIWAL was founded 36 years ago this month in 1986 from the strong belief that if women of different races, religions and cultures from national associations could meet in a strictly non-political but structured and relaxed manner, they would find common ground through shared interests which would benefit their organisations and individual membership. FIWAL’s members grow in understanding and from that understanding, mutual support and strength flourish.

The Ukrainian community needs our support and friendship more than ever now – especially FIWAL’s own member, the Ukrainian Cultural Association (UCA-UK). The FIWAL concert “A Celebration of Women in Music” this Friday 4th March is to mark International Women’s Day but with the participation of the UCA-UK and its talented President Alla Sirenko, it is a wonderful opportunity to highlight the importance of shared interests such as music and friendship during these worrying and stressful times. There will be a collection that evening in support of humanitarian aid for Ukraine. The concert is open to all, including men, and it includes a drinks reception with international nibbles, some kindly donated by the Indonesian Embassy. If you have not booked your tickets for this concert, than please do support it by going to: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-celebration-of-women-in-music-tickets-223023227477

This year the UN theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) is, Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”.  We need to recognise the contribution of women and girls around the world who are leading the charge on climate change adaptation, mitigation, and response in order to build a more sustainable future for all. #BreakTheBias

Imagine a gender equal world.

A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.

A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

A world where difference is valued and celebrated.

Together we can forge women’s equality.

Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.

All our member associations will be marking IWD in their own special ways but I was very interested to see KCWC’s IWD event celebrating Women Textile Designers with a Zoom talk by specialist Ashley Gray of Gray M.C.A.  This is a fascinating look at women’s role in this field. Details have been sent out in our e-newsletter to Member Representatives.

We must not forget the ever popular Australian Women’s Club, IWD event on March 8th which after missing a year is back again at Australia House. With all Covid restrictions lifted in England, I do hope we will all be able to see more of each other in the months ahead.

Wishing all of you a Happy International Women’s Day.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Ukraine.

Warm wishes
Zehan Albakri 
President of FIWAL

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President’s Message February 2022

Dear FIWAL Friends,

I trust that you have had a good start to 2022. With Covid restrictions lifted, we can now plan, organize and attend events again.  

Hopefully, Dateline will again fill up with exciting events for 2022. Lynn Assadi, who heads the FIWAL Events team, has been hard at work rescheduling FIWAL’s event for this coming year. We have had to adjust some dates to accommodate these changes. The FIWAL concert, “A Celebration of Women in Music”, is now scheduled for 4thMarch 2022 to mark International Women’s Day. This will be such a special occasion and we are thrilled to be working with FIWAL members, the Ukrainian Cultural Association and the Barcarolle Choir.  This event is open to all FIWAL Member associations and their guests so do bring your family and friends as it will be a fun evening with plenty to celebrate.

We have also decided to combine the FIWAL Spring Lunch with our AGM which is on 7thJune 2022.  This will allow us, finally, to have a ‘face to face’ AGM after two years and give us the chance to socialize as well.  As usual, the AGM will be for invited FIWAL Member reps but the lunch will be open to all FIWAL Member associations.  We are anticipating a good turnout, so do Save the Date!

It was wonderful to see so many at our last Member rep Zoom get together.  Thanks to our Membership officer, Mary Jane Eckert, these sessions have been a great success and it is very useful to have your feedback and input.  We are learning so much more about each other’s associations and how we can support and help each other. Meanwhile, I am looking forward to seeing you again at the FIWAL Board meeting on 8thFebruary.

The good news is that travel is slowly getting easier which hopefully will mean that more of us can make long awaited journeys across the world to see loved ones.  I was delighted to read about the achievement of nineteen year old Zara Rutherford who became the youngest woman to fly solo around the world.  One of her main aims was to ensure greater visibility for women in aviation as only 5.1% of airline pilots are women.  She was also raising funds for ‘Girls who Code’ and ‘Dreams Soar’ – two charities that help girls enter computer and STEM fields. What a wonderful role model for young girls everywhere!

Gong XI Fa Cai to everyone that celebrates the Lunar New Year – wishing you and your family good fortune and health in the Year of the Tiger!

Warm wishes,
Zehan Albakri
President of FIWAL

president@fiwal.org.uk
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President’s Message January 2022

Dear FIWAL Friends

As another historic year ends, I hope that you have had some quality time with your family this Festive season as well as a restful and relaxing break. Hopefully you have managed to dodge the Omicron variant but if not and your symptoms are mild than the old remedies for colds seem to work well – lots of lemon and honey drinks, rest, fresh air and stay warm. Of course, if you have any serious concerns then do seek medical advice.

I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for your support of FIWAL these past twelve months. It has been another tough year and I realise how challenging it has been for all our Member Associations and their communities. However, do take a moment to reflect on everything that you have achieved this last year; in these difficult circumstances, it is easy to dwell on the negatives so do think about all the positives and how you have made a real difference in 2021. 

This last month, I had the honour of attending the Royal Thai Embassy’s National Day celebrations on the 9th December with FIWAL Honorary Secretary, Ameeta. It was such a treat to spend time with the Thai Ambassador and his charming wife, Mrs Thipayasuda Suvanajata who has always been a big supporter of FIWAL. She organised the wonderful Thai Suanplu Choir concert at St Luke’s Chelsea in 2019 and raised funds for FIWAL, PAWA and the Women’s Council. It was lovely to see Rajni Rijal and Lady Butterworth from The Women’s Council there, too.

Looking forward to 2022, we need to stay optimistic that the pandemic is just making us stronger and more resilient, and helping us focus on what really matters like the importance of friendship and support networks. This was so clearly demonstrated at FIWAL’s Festive Tea where women from most of FIWAL’s member associations were represented. We were from all across the world yet we were united by an amazing spirit of understanding, compassion and celebration. I, personally thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you “face to face” and I look forward to more of these special occasions. A big thank you to our gracious and generous host, Mina Alhaidary who organised an excellent afternoon of festivities and raised £1925 for FIWAL and PAWA (Pan Asian Women’s Association) whose main aim is to support teenage girls education in Asia. The funds raised were in honour of Mina’s mother, Nabila Ahmad who passed away last month. Education is a cause close to Mina’s heart as her mother started the Alreshad School in Baghdad that educated children from all levels of society regardless of religion.

Unfortunately our next event, a FIWAL concert, jointly organised with the Barcarolle Choir and the Ukrainian Cultural Association, planned for the 28th January, will now be postponed due to the increase in Covid cases. Such a pity but do look out for the new date which we will announce soon. In the meantime, please join us on Zoom for the Member reps meeting and our next Board meeting on 8th February 2022.

Wishing you and your loved ones peace and joy and a wonderful start to 2022!

Warm wishes,
Zehan Albakri 
President of FIWAL

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President’s Message November 2021

Dear FIWAL Friends,

It has been a busy active month for FIWAL as more activities are starting up again, meanwhile, I’m hoping I do hope that this recent rise in cases will not stop this progress. I feel we all have to do our bit to be that little bit more vigilant about wearing masks and taking lateral flow tests when needed. We really do not want to have to face another lockdown this winter!

With travel restrictions easing, quite a few members of FIWAL’s Executive are taking this opportunity to travel but fortunately with Zoom we are able to continue to our work despite being in several continents!  It was good to see some of you on our Zoom FIWAL Board Meeting on 5th October – hopefully our next Board meeting in February might be a (real) live one or at least a hybrid one. I had the good fortune of meeting up with some FIWAL Member associations in October. 

I attended a KCWC “Foodies” evening on 5th October hosted by Maria Puleio – a lovely Champagne evening with food supplied from Green Caviar and Brik Chocolate, plus guest speakers Queena Wong and Simon Stockton. I thoroughly enjoyed all the treats but most of all getting to know more members of KCWC.

The Chair of Barcarolle Choir, Antonella Harrison, invited me to their weekly session at St Cuthbert’s and I met their members plus their Musical director, Samuel Evans. I enjoyed hearing them sing in such an inspiring venue. I would highly recommend joining them for some excellent musical music therapy! It was also good to see that the Embassy Induction Seminar, organised by Elizabeth Stewart from Embassy Magazine, was able to hold their annual event to bring together members of the diplomatic community in London on 15th October. Unfortunately, I was away but Immediate Past President, Siobhan was able to do the powerpoint presentation that had been prepared by Jennie Parish. FIWAL Diplomatic Liaison Officer, Hulya Kolcu and Susan Jahanshahi representing KCWC were also able to attend. This was a great opportunity for FIWAL to highlight our role at connecting women and women’s groups and helping to build friendship and understanding amongst the International community.

I am looking forward to all the wonderful festive events organised by our member associations in the next few months. Diwali, the festival of lights, is just around the corner so special wishes to all who that celebrate this. The name is derived from the Sanskrit term ‘dipavali’, meaning ‘row of lights’. The festival generally symbolizes the spiritual ‘victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance’ and is widely associated with Lakshmi, goddess of prosperity. 

To avoid a clash of events in December, FIWAL has decided to hold our festive event in late January to welcome in 2022 – do look out for full details. Until then, do keep well and enjoy this special time,


Warm wishes 
Zehan Albakri
President of FIWAL

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President’s Message August 2021


Dear FIWAL Friends,

With the high success rate of the vaccination programme in the UK and as restrictions lift, it is good to hear that Member Clubs are starting to plan some live physical events. One of the first, live events was held on the 2nd July by the Ukrainian Cultural Association UK. It was a concert at St.John’s Notting Hill Church in London. UCA-UK President, Alla Sirenko performed with the Ukrainian vocal ensemble Vivo and violinist, Orpheus Leander (see photo below) All in aid of Ukrainian orphans. It was a great success and memorable evening for both the performers and audience to finally perform live! You can find out more from their website : www.ucauk.com

Lovely to also hear from FIWAL Past President, Caroline Muir, of the success of The Women’s Council online events. On 14th July, they held another of their regular Zoom drop-in coffee and quiz events. Jenny Habib produced yet another masterpiece of a Fine Arts Quiz, aided by the wonderful photographs show-cased by Rajni Rijal’s tech expertise. A very successful morning, where attendees enjoyed testing their knowledge and adding to it.

The pandemic has highlighted to us the pros and cons of online virtual events and meetings. Most of FIWAL’s MemberClubs have embraced online technology and have been very successful at engaging their membership during this difficult time. Although it has meant that meetings are easier to organise and it has allowed more involvement from all over UK and the world, we have missed meeting ‘face to face” and the advantages of personal connections. Do you plan to continue to do online events?  Looking to the future, the FIWAL executive will be considering how we can combine both online and real events into our schedule. If you do have any thoughts on this, please do email me at : president@fiwal.org.uk.

We are very excited to be organising FIWAL’s first live physical event in nearly 18 months, the Autumn Lunch on 21st September 2021 hosted kindly by Mrs Maha Ben Khedher spouse of the Ambassador of the Republic of Tunisia and President of the Association of the Spouses of African High Commissioners and Ambassadors in UK (ASAHCA-UK). It will be an afternoon of Tunisian delights – food, music and crafts. Full booking details will be sent out soon so do book early as places are limited.

Until we can meet again in September, I am sure you will be enjoying the rest of the summer with your family and friends, lots of travel and visits to museums, galleries and theatres !

Warm wishes from all of us at FIWAL,

Zehan Albakri
President 

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