Comment By Zoran Panović

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Eun Hai Kim, President Of The International Women’s Club, Belgrade

Empowerment Is The Creation Of Self

Women’s empowerment can be interpreted in many ways, such as through economic independence, political participation, overcoming gender stereotypes and roles, but the most important form of empowerment is the creation of self

As a registered non-profit voluntary organisation, the International Women’s Club actively engages in empowering women both within and beyond the club. By giving women leadership roles, they are empowered to make social contributions to Serbian Society.

Our members come from 40 different countries, from the diplomatic community, expatriates and Serbian ladies who have lived abroad and returned to Serbia. IWC is a space that empowers women from the very start of their membership and continues to propel them forward as members of the club.

When our members first arrive in Belgrade, it is common for them to experience the difficulty of adapting and assimilating to a new environment. IWC serves as an opportunity for them to be part of a nurturing environment that gives members the grace to conquer this challenge. Even though we come from all over the place, we are still able to connect through vulnerability and respect, to eventually feel comfortable in the new environment.

IWC hosts monthly coffee mornings that encourage new members to introduce themselves and find out about the club’s various activities. We are able to introduce them to the support group that IWC is renowned for and empower our members through social connections.

To help Serbia feel like home, IWC promotes a better understanding of Serbia and the relationships between the members’ international backgrounds and our host country of Serbia. As IWC members, we have access to many comprehensive programmes, classes, community services and cultural activities that build up our intellectual development and social connections. We offer a diverse range of activities to accommodate the diversity of our members. These activities range from museum and gallery visits, participating in our book club, and even exercising as part of our walking and pilates group. The diversity of activities is intentional, as we want to offer our members the opportunity to learn new skills, strengthen old ones, or help other members try new activities.

IWC is continuously working within our community to empower women in the broader Serbian community. For the first time this year, IWC hosted a Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign at the White Palace, with the support of HRH Princess Katherine and Dr Jasmina from BelMedic. October is International Breast Cancer Awareness month, so IWC joined the worldwide effort to empower women to prioritise their health. We discussed the importance of early detection, as well as the symptoms of breast cancer, to encourage women to get mammograms on a regular basis. We were so privileged to have Serbian Health Minister Dr Danica Grujičić as our guest of honour and to wear pink as a physical symbol of breast cancer awareness. We understand that women have busy lives as mothers, daughters, teachers etc., and how easy it is to prioritise themselves the least, but we want to empower women to know that it is important to be proactive from the beginning, and that women should be putting themselves first.

IWC also celebrated the diversity of our members through the IWC Cultural Fashion Day, this year hosted by the Ethnology Fest and the Give Back Credit Project. Members donned their countries’ traditional apparel and it was an amazing opportunity to see the wide variety of countries represented. It also felt like a unifying moment to have all these countries support cultural heritage all over the world.

Our main fundraising event is the IWC Annual Charity Bazaar. After a hiatus lasting two years, in October we were able to host the Bazaar again, this time in the Crystal Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Many embassies supported the multicultural IWC Charity Bazaar. There were 24 beautifully decorated embassy booths displaying and selling packaged food, gifts, artistic and craft items and other products unique to their cultures.

Part of the Bazaar was the Cultural Programme featuring music that included children’s choirs and traditional dances from the participating embassies. Our generous private supporters, embassies and international representative offices donated more than 210 valuable raffle prizes. We tried not only to organise a fundraising bazaar event, but also to offer Belgrade residents and visitors a day to enjoy international entertainment, and to learn about all these countries through their authentic products. The funds raised at this charity bazaar will go to support Serbian communities that have been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. IWC’s experienced charity coordinators are currently working to select the projects to receive IWC Charity funds.

Currently, IWC has created SWAG (Social Work Activity Group) to focus on volunteer work to support local charity organisations. The first project is Pack a Christmas Parcel for Children in need. Members are using the beautiful motto of “something to wash, something to eat, something to feel and to play with, something to be warm and to learn” to create their gift boxes.

As IWC President, I am very proud to represent such an important and powerful group of women. Every day I am able to see the strength of our members and their talent to work together to provide solutions. Even as president, I am learning how to be a better role model for our members, my family, and my community. I am so lucky to be part of an amazing organisation that will continue to empower women.