International Women’s Club (IWC) Appoints New President

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Afrah, how did you come to be living in Moscow and become the president of the IWC?

I’m married to the Ambassador of Kuwait and he was posted to Russia. When I knew I was going to be coming here I looked up online and found out as much information as I could about Moscow and about things I could be involved in here. I like to stay busy although I already have a busy life, being the wife of the Ambassador, and a mother of three. I quickly heard about the IWC, and after I arrived I gave them a call to see if I could become a member.

I loved the special, fantastic atmosphere at the IWC, and I think that all the ladies who are part of the club feel the same way. After I joined I discovered that here in Moscow, there are a large number of embassies, and that some of the ambassadors’ wives, although they are all honorary IWC members, don’t know each other. I was talking to Izabella the then president about this and I said ‘Why don’t we try to arrange meetings just for the ambassadors wives?’ Immediately I got a lot of support for this idea. Some people said that they had been thinking about the same idea for a long time but nobody had taken the actual step. So I was really happy to make it happen and to create a regular meeting especially for ambassadors’ wives. After Izabella saw how active I had been in organising this, she asked me if I’d like to be active for the whole of the IWC, and she offered me the presidency.

Will you have time for everything, because you’re also a mother of three and the wife of an ambassador?

I see myself as a kind of book and I want to make the pages as interesting as possible. I want to fill it up with challenges. Each country I go to is another page in that book but at the same time I know that I have tremendous responsibilities as a mother, so it is not always easy. At first, I was not sure that I could handle everything. When I agree to do something, whatever it is, I have to make sure that I can do it very well. Otherwise it is better for me not to do it at all. So I said to Izabella that I’d like to think about it. I wanted to meet the ladies of the Steering Committee, because without their support I wouldn’t be up to do anything. When I first met the team I saw how they work and how professional and intelligent they are and I realised that with their support, this new responsibility and role would definitely be possible.

Is there any particular direction that you want to take the IWC in or is everything perfect at the moment?

Afrah: Nothing is ever perfect, everything can be improved.
Sonia: Afrah said that she wanted to raise the bar. She has already started doing that with some new ideas such as how to involve the ambassadors’ wives much more in order to improve further our fundraising activities. The idea of getting more active support from the embassies, more support than we already have been getting over the years is, I think, a brilliant idea. The active support of the ambassadors’ wives generates a higher level of involvement of the community around them. This means more participating members for the IWC. It is a virtual circle.

You have come at a very interesting time. We see this with the magazine. We try to be non-political but that is quite difficult.

Afrah: It’s very clear that there are two sides to things, there is the political side, and there is a social side and we are definitely interested in the social side. There is so much to do! I’m thinking about the charity work in particular. Basically we want to help people in need. The IWC doesn’t have any identity or any nationality, we are just human beings.

Let’s move on to you personally in Russia and your family. Do you like it here?

Afrah: I like it a lot in Moscow, but I also know that some people are not quite so comfortable here. Sometimes you don’t have the choice of whether to come to a place or not. So you have to somehow find out how you can enjoy yourself. This is the same in any country. I find Moscow is a really interesting place that I can learn a lot from. This country has deep connections with many aspects of human activities and in particular with the arts.

Izabella, how do you feel about leaving?

Izabella: Working as the president of the IWC and also being the wife of an ambassador was a really wonderful time for me in my life. I was busy with the IWC every day, it was like a second life. From the beginning I felt that this work was very important and at the same time very useful for people. I felt that we have to do this work in the best possible way because our activities and our devotion can help other people. It is up to us to choose how to spend time, and we choose to spend our time in this way, building friendships, enjoying the international atmosphere and contributing to a great project. I set myself a goal last year; which I talked about in my interview with you and that goal was to ‘unify but not standardise.’ I believe that we did that.

Sonia: Under Izabella we have reached new records in fundraising; the embassy dinner and ball was sold out, something that hasn’t happened in years. This was only possible because we had a president who really wanted to make a difference. This is where her engagement with people really showed results and the international community responded very positively. It has been a very rewarding year for all the Steering Committee members of the IWC and we are extremely happy that we were able to support our charity projects accordingly.

How do you feel about passing the presidency on?

Izabella: I have two older children and one small child. When I think about my daughter I worry, because I have some problems with her. But when I think about my son in Hong Kong I am not worried at all. I have absolutely no worries when I think about the new president of the IWC. When I saw Afrah working with the group of ambassador’s wives, I knew immediately that she is the right person for the job. After a series of meetings with various people in our organization we all came to the agreement that she should take over. I’m very happy about it!