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Empowerment of Women

Women as Ambassadors for Peace in the Community

Five years ago, the Watford Bridge of Peace was initiated to bring together women from the Christian and Muslim communities. Last year we celebrated our fourth anniversary by welcoming our sisters from the Afro-Caribbean community in an attempt to heal the hurts of the past on the occasion of the commemoration of the abolition of the slave trade [in 1807]. On March 30, 2008, the fifth anniversary was celebrated at the Multi-Cultural Community Center in Watford, a town 34 kilometers northwest of London.

This year for our fifth anniversary, we decided to welcome women from all communities in Watford but mostly women from the Orient. For this reason, we invited the “Sakura Club,” a Japanese choir which our sister Chikako Raineri is part of. From the start, the grace of the Japanese sisters wearing their colourful kimonos created an atmosphere of peace and beauty, and their songs moved the hearts of those present.

Around 50 women came from the various communities, all colours of the human family: white, black, yellow, and brown. Louise Rawlence, our emcee for the afternoon, introduced the various speakers. Françoise Murphy gave a PowerPoint presentation on the history of the Watford Bridge of Peace and an annual report. Every month, the women of the Bridge of Peace were involved in an event: fundraising for various charities, Eid and Christmas fairs, forums on various topics, a festival of cultures and faiths, a visit to the mosque and to St Albans Cathedral, and more. This year, through the Watford Borough Council and on the advice of the Watford mayor, we received a grant from the Home Office for six months to develop our organization.

Following the PowerPoint presentation, Mrs. Gillian Heath from St. Michael All Angels church next door to the community Centre; Mrs. Sharifa Chaudry, chair of the Multi Cultural Community Centre and the Watford Muslim Women Organisation; and Councillor Janet Baddeley gave their testimonies on their experiences with the Bridge of Peace and on how it had enriched their life. Our main guest speaker Mrs. Mitty Tohma, president of the Women's Federation for World Peace-UK, spoke on the topic: ”Women as Ambassadors for Peace in the Family and in the Community.” Mitty explained that the family is the school of love where we learn to develop our character based on the principle of “living for the sake of others.” On that foundation of character, peace is cultivated in the family and extends to the community.

Afterwards, Louise Rawlence sang the theme song of the Bridge of Peace “Love Can Build a Bridge,” and everyone joined in. The women were then invited to cross the Bridge of Peace. Lined up on one side were those who had attended the Bridge of Peace ceremony before and on the other side were those who were new to it. It was beautiful to see the bright smiling faces of the women crossing the bridge: thirteen couples from all combinations of ethnic backgrounds. Mayor Dorothy Thornhill congratulated the women and cut the anniversary cake. She said that basically we are all mothers trying to do our best for our family. We want to be “good-enough mothers.” Family is important, mums and dads together are best, and we have to encourage the dads to play their role in the family! She added that it is not easy to balance public and family life.

The afternoon concluded with another song by the Sakura Club and some final remarks and announcements. Many stayed on talking with each other and enjoying the refreshments.

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