Brussels Women's Club

Passport January 2024


 PASSPORT – January 2024 

Committee Update – January 2024 

By Carmel Delaney 

We hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful holiday season surrounded by friends and family. We are looking forward to a wonderful year ahead at the BWC with you! 

Your Committee, 

Alka, Carmel, Carol, Gillian and Lilian 

Membership renewal 

Over 50% of our Members have already renewed their memberships online for 2024. Thank you to those who have already renewed! If you have not yet renewed, you will receive a follow-up email in the coming days. Please check your email for a letter with all the details on how to renew. If you need any help renewing online, Alka and Carmel are available to help via email. 

Clubhouse news 

Following up on the Clubhouse survey (results published in December Passport ), we are forming a small sub-committee to begin investigating the costs associated with the various items of interest that members identified. We look forward to sharing more information once we have done some initial research over the next month or two. 

Weekly News 

Starting in January, you will receive your weekly news via an email from, instead of via an email from your AC. This will mean the weekly news will get to everyone at the same time and the Area Coordinators will not have to take the time to receive and send it on to their mailing list. Please add to your address book as a contact to be sure that it does not land in your junk mailbox. 2 

A few notes on events in January 

The Clubhouse will re-open on 08 January. Please check the online calendar for the starting dates for all regularly occurring activities. 

Opera House guided tour- The Workshops – there are only a few tickets left for this guided tour on Saturday, 20 January. Please check the website and sign up soon if you are interested so you don’t miss out. 

Monthly Clubhouse Coffee on Tuesday, 23 January – Join us for the first clubhouse coffee of the New Year and catch up with friends. Our Clubhouse coffees are growing every month- come and join the fun. 


Feminism in Belgium 

By Ann Englander 

And about time too! The fight for women’s rights in Belgium 

When I arrived in Belgium in the 1970s and wanted to open a bank account, I was told that in order for this to happen, I needed my husband’s signature. After making a scene and screaming at the bank manager, they reluctantly agreed to overlook this rule as I was “foreign”. The other incredible law at the time was that a woman could only prove that her husband had committed adultery if he was caught in flagrante and with photographic proof to back it up. Private detectives armed with cameras made a fortune during this period. This did not, of course, apply to the wife where proof of this nature was not required. ‘Was this, the capital of Europe, supposed to be an advanced country?’ I asked myself. 

Scroll on a few years and Belgium seems to have been completely transformed when it comes to women’s rights. A recent study from the World Bank ranks Belgium amongst the best countries for equal economic rights for both men and women. This is good news but equal rights, and the vote for women, came to Belgium surprisingly very late in the day. 

Let’s go back to 1888. Marie Popelin, a law graduate from the Free University of Brussels, was refused access to the Brussels Bar Association simply because she was a woman. This discrimination triggered a support movement which resulted in the creation of the Ligue Belge du Droit des Femmes in 1892. But Belgian women still did not have the right to vote. And education for women and girls had yet to be generally accepted. 3 

You may have come across a street in Uccle named after Isabelle Laure Gatti de Gamond who was an educationalist, feminist and politician (see her portrait photo in Passport). In 1862 she launched the Journal L’Education de la Femme which championed the cause of schooling for girls. 

In 1864, she introduced the first systematic courses of secondary female education. Exceptionally for Belgium at the time, this venture was entirely independent of the Church and provided the very first organised secular education for women in Belgium. 

The Catholic press opposed her work, but the school was a success. Charles Buls, who was the mayor of Brussels at the time, was a staunch supporter and assisted in the creation of an advanced, pre-university section in 1891. 

Gatti retired from educational work in 1899 and entered politics as an activist for the Belgian Labour party. Her work was thwarted by the party’s leadership, who suspended support for women’s rights to vote in 1901. They expected women to vote for the Catholic Party. 

After World War II, full women’s suffrage had become inevitable. Under the law of March 27, 1948, women were allowed to vote and were also allowed to stand for parliamentary elections. A few months later, this followed for provincial council elections. On June 26, 1949, all women could participate in parliamentary elections for the first time. 

As in some other countries, it is now proposed to lower the voting age from 18 to 16. The present government plans to introduce voting rights for 16 and 17-year-olds in the European Parliament elections. In our modern age, this appears to be much less controversial than the battles that had to be fought for women to obtain their right to vote. 

BWC Charities for 2024 

By Carol Humphrey 

Another year of fundraising and the total raised this year for our two charities Mala India and Raise the Roof is over 10.000 euros, not bad for a year without Charity Coordinators for most of the time. As always BWC members rose to the challenge and ensured that fundraising continued. Many thanks to those members and guests who participated in Charity walks and all the other events. 4 

In December 2023 Club members voted for two new Charities. Scale Dogs won first place in the Belgian-based category with 67.3% of votes and Mbedza Malawi won first place in the Developing Country category with 34.7% of votes. 

Mbedza (The Songani Centre) 

This Charity was nominated by Club member Sue Bird, who is an associate director of Mbedza with special responsibility for the Songani Hope and Wellness Centre. The Songani Centre aims to provide “hope” for the population it serves by continuing its main role of testing and counselling for HIV, both at the Centre itself and increasingly in the field if people find it difficult to get to the Centre. 

The Centre addresses not just HIV but health and well-being more broadly. That is why it offers a sanitary project, where young women come to the Centre to make washable sanitary wear so they can continue their schooling during their period. Another project is a youth club – the Hope Ambassadors – who are being trained to lead discussions with their peers about the dangers of HIV. The Centre also has a textiles project which aims to empower women by teaching them sewing skills and giving them the opportunity of earning money. 

In addition to the services it offers, the Centre provides information, awareness raising and education on HIV, through talks and discussion groups as well as offering people the opportunity to address their issues one-on-one. And let’s not forget the education offers – through a well-used library, computer lessons especially for girls, and a kid’s corner that provides games which contribute to learning for the smaller children. 

The work of the Songani Centre is vital to the community and Sue stresses that the needs are still enormous, especially after Cyclone Freddy earlier in 2023. They can never do enough. But they do what they can. 

Scale Dogs 

Antonia Wright nominated Scale Dogs where she is a volunteer/famille d’accueil’. 

Founded in 1990, Scale Dogs is a non-profit organization that aims to improve the mobility, safety, and independence of people with visual disability by providing highly trained guide dogs free of charge. 

The principal activity of Scale Dogs is to train dogs to guide their blind or visually impaired owners, safely and smoothly, not only through traffic and past obstacles, but also to perform searches and even refuse a command that may lead to danger. No other means of mobility offers those with visual impairment so much independence and freedom to participate in daily life without being reliant on others. 

The purchase, care (food and veterinary fees), and education of a guide dog is a major investment. Due to the commitment in terms of hours of training each dog 5 

(including supporting the puppy raising families), as well as the prospective recipient of the guide dog, one trainer will typically train 2 to 3 dogs a year. 

As a volunteer/famille d’accueil, Antonia is very much part of this process and regularly welcomes a puppy or young dog for a variable time period and helps with basic education before they move on to their guide dog training at 14/15 months. 

Scale Dogs is very attentive to the well-being of the dogs and ensures they are a good fit for their role. Dogs that may not be suitable for guidance work have the opportunity of an alternative ‘career’. Some become an assistance dog for an autistic child helping to calm and build the child’s confidence in stressful situations. Others may find a role as an institution dog or a buddy dog. 

Scale Dogs additionally organizes workshops for parents of children on the Autism Spectrum in collaboration with Dyadis vzw and PAWS, a training and guidance program for parents who want to learn how a specially trained pet dog can help their child. 

These are two very worthwhile charities that make an enormous difference to the people they serve, and we hope that BWC members will once again get involved and raise much-needed funding for our 2024 charities. 

Link to Photos 

BWC Charities – Calling any Aspiring Brussels 20K Walkers 

By Gill Best 

Brussels 20k – Why do it? 

This is the second time I’ve participated in the Brussels 20Km and, you know, it doesn’t get any easier! Actually, that is not strictly true, I shaved 10 mins off last years’ time! ‘Why do it’ a sane person might ask? Well, let me explain what it is like on the day. 

From the time I left home to the time I arrived back in the afternoon I was surrounded by thousands of people in various forms of workout gear all participating in the 20K and I was one of them! That sense of being part of something that big was quite a thrill. 

When I got off the tram at Montgomery the crowds got bigger with everyone marching to Cinquantenaire to the start of the race. We were accompanied by the March of the Hebrew Slaves blasting out of the speakers which is enough to stir anyone to do great things. 6 

Finding the team was a challenge; eventually we all found each other and off we went to look for box Nbr 6 where all the walkers were corralled. And we were corralled, which for those of a claustrophobic disposition was quite disconcerting but eventually, we got going. 

You could tell this year had 42,000 participants, 10 thousand more than last year. Whereas last year the groups seemed to thin out along the route quite quickly, this year that didn’t happen, which made it more fun somehow; I think that was because the ‘we are all in together’ feeling was strengthened by the crowd. The weather was beautiful with plenty of shade so we (my walking buddy Boff Muir and I) were quite comfortable all the way around, which given the forecast was a huge relief. 

The atmosphere was terrific, with participants from all walks of life and ages. There was a lot going on along the route and the support teams were fantastic. Would I do it again? Definitely! There is something special about 42,000 people deciding to get out on a Sunday and run or walk 20km, mostly for charity; it makes you feel pretty good to be part of it. 

Join us in 2024? 

1. It is not as hard as you think 

2. There is loads of time between now and Sunday 26 May to get fit and train for the event. All it takes is putting one foot in front of the other. You’d be surprised how far you can go and how quickly you can build up strength and distance. 

3. Just think how much fitter you will be – walking is one of the best exercises there is. 

4. We will train with you, at your pace so you are not on your own. 

5. Can you imagine how wonderful you will feel achieving something you never thought you could do. 

6. It is fun! Yes honest! 

If you are interested in joining the BWC team, and raising money for the Club’s Charities, please contact Carol Humphrey on 0477552096 or 7 

Golf – Lady Captain’s Report for December 

The cold, wet weather continued into December, wreaking havoc on the golf courses and they remained resolutely closed. So it was a surprise to see it was ‘Course Open’ on the morning of 8 December and four intrepid ladies took the opportunity to get out. With woolly hats on and bags hoisted onto our backs, we headed to the first tee box, where Lynette gave out steaming cups of hot chocolate with lashings of Amaretto to warm us up. Playing in teams of two, it was a fun 4BBB. What was less fun, was having to hit every shot off a little mat. Sadly, these mats were not magic carpets and our balls did not fly on them but got rather plugged in the soggy ground. Hilariously, on a few occasions, the mat flew further than the ball! But we soon forgot about all that with more boozy hot chocolate in hand at the end of the round and delicious hot soup in the restaurant. 

Our final round of golf for 2023 was, alas, cancelled. But the Xmas lunch was definitely still on! Twenty of us dressed in our festive glad rags, complete with antlers, hats, other headgears and tinsels, descended on Sept Fontaines, causing quite a stir and providing a lot of amusement for their members. 

Actually, it was nineteen of us – one managed to get ‘waylaid’ following her GPS and inadvertently ended up in a large hole (not quite the Hole-in-One we golfers hope for)! Thankfully though, with the help of the caddy master, she was soon rescued and both she and her car escaped unscathed. So, all’s well that ends well! And, as if that was not enough excitement for one afternoon, the charity raffle was drawn and if you were lucky enough to win a prize, it will be winging its way to you soon. 

The Committee is busy getting the Fixtures Calendar ready for 2024 (f you are thinking of sponsoring a competition, please let Janice, our Competition Secretary) know. Everyone will be able to get a copy at our New Year lunch, scheduled to be on Tuesday 9 January, in the Clubhouse. Hope to see you there. 

Link to: Photos 


Art Gallery 

“Minimal” – An exhibition by Viewfinders, the photography club of Brussels 

By Kathy Whalley 

The exhibition opens with a vernissage on Sunday 14 January 2024, from 15:00 to 19:00 – and runs until 09 February 2024. All Club Members, and their guests, are welcome. 8 

“Minimal photography”, like painting and music from the shared artistic movement of the 1950s and 60s, seeks to show essential subjects, principles or processes by removing unnecessary distraction from the message to let that one primary motif shine through. 

Even while the photographic frame is a very limited fragment of the world, we can limit it even further by deliberately choosing to show less. When it is less, when it is nothing more than that one subject or notion, then the message of the photograph can be crystal clear. No distractions, no confusions, no other elements that might distort the message – just one notion, presented there as a constant feature for us to contemplate and enjoy. Alun Foster 


New books 

An Italian Girl in Brooklyn by Santa Montefiore 

No Plan B by Lee Child 

Love Untold by Ruth Jones 

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. 

Bournville by Jonathan Coe 

If you have read Jonathan Coe before, then you will love this one. If you haven’t, then you are in for a treat. 

Bournville is a suburb of Birmingham, built by Cadbury for their workers. 

We follow Mary and her family for the next 75 years of social change and seven milestone. Broadcasts including many royal events and the world football cup final in 1966. “Highly recommended.” 

Death in Fine Condition by Andrew Cartmel 

A brief prologue introduces Cordelia Stanmer with a dead man at her feet, a scene straight out of James M. Cain and the first of the many noir fiction references with which her story is packed. Just a few weeks earlier, she’s indulging her passion for paperbacks, which she can resell at an astronomical price after forging the author’s name inside. Cordelia’s not above indulging in burglary to feed her paperback habit. Edwin, her laid-back landlord, helps her stay afloat with the occasional loan and with weed. Cordelia’s elder brother Stuart pops in unannounced from time to time to complicate her life further. What she covets most are a series of vintage crime novels under the Sleuth Hound imprint. When Cordelia spots a collection of them in a photograph, she devises a daring and totally illegal plan to obtain them. But the 9 

biggest score of all is the cache of Sleuth Hound books she spots in a bag held by mild-mannered Colin Cutterham. Fortunately for her, the man is not only a voracious collector of Sleuth Hound titles, but also a creature of habit. Cordelia undertakes a serious surveillance mission in anticipation of a big score. What could possibly go wrong? 

Christmas Shopping in Aachen 

By Kathryn Paisley-Manthey 

What a lovely day in Aachen! Sunshine, beautiful surroundings and atmosphere, delicious food -and gluhwein, great company, a comfortable coach … and a wonderful driver, Andy, who knew ‘alternative routes‘ (when the main roads were blocked due to a train strike), to get us there and back on time. Christmas time has well and truly arrived! 

Link to Photos: 

BWC Christmas Fair 2023 

By Gillian Scott 

We held our Fair (the Club’s major fundraising event of the year) on Saturday 2 December and, for the first time since 2019, we were able to have the whole event on the ground floor. Although, the Fair itself only lasts one day – a lot of planning goes into it beforehand – as many of you know. 

All our stalls and activities were staffed by Members, and many of you also donated items and goods. Most of all though, Members donated their time: from distributing leaflets around the local area, making wreaths and craft items, baking cakes, setting up the stalls on Friday morning (in readiness for the pre-sale to members unable to be there on the Saturday), to running the stalls and café on Saturday and then clearing away afterwards. A quick summary of our stalls and activities: 

Christmas Crackers/Decorations/Cards 

Wreaths/Table Decorations (both handmade) and international food specialties 

Bottle Tombola 



Jewellery –2 separate Stalls with donated pieces & hand-made pieces 

Christmas Cakes/Mince Pies/Award Winning Jams & Chutneys/luxury Truffles 

Gift Hampers raffle + a 50/50 cash prize raffle 

Non-Stop Café 10 

Our main room looked very Christmassy when we promptly opened the doors at 10:00 and welcomed members and locals – some of whom are regulars at our sales. One couple even come up from Mons especially! There was a really good atmosphere throughout the day and all our customers enjoyed themselves, as you can see from the photos. 

Can I once again thank all those members who contributed in some way to the success of the Fair, you did a great job! 

Link to: Photos 

Fond Farewell to Claudia 

By Patricia Vandenplas 

By the time you read this our little Spanish group will already have said a sad but fond farewell to our teacher, Claudia Zapata, Claudia having been offered a full-time position doing something completely different, has found it impossible to continue giving us lessons and we are going to miss her. 

Some of you may not be aware of the existence of our group, but it has been going for many years with different teachers and various Club Members. 

Claudia became our teacher an incredible ten years ago when our previous teacher left to work at one of the European Schools. We were all a bit lost for a while, not having a class to go to as well as feeling in danger of losing all we had learned. Therefore, because no-one else had the time, I set about trying to find a replacement. I had many replies, none of them satisfactory until we met Claudia. She was young, energetic and had her own way of teaching and her lessons were fun, with role playing, singing in Spanish, looking up poetry, reading out loud and trying to make us remember our grammar. 

This is a small tribute in appreciation of Claudia’s efforts to make us more knowledgeable and fluent in the romance language that Spanish is. 

Link to Photos 11 


Remembering Friends 

The sad news of the death of Dorothy Mauperon on 5 January 2024 has just been received. She was one of the early members of The British and Commonwealth Women’s Club of Brussels … and she was a crack bridge playerI 

Link to Photo 


Carrot and Courgette Soup 

(As contributed by Katherine Gilmour and published in the Club Cook Book 2005) 


450 g (1 lb) carrots 

450 g (1lb) courgettes 

2 bay leaves 

1.2 litres (2pints) chicken stock 

2 tbsp tomato puree 


  1. Peel carrots and wash courgettes 
  2. Chop them into chunks 
  3. Put all of the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to the boil 
  4. Lower the heat and simmer for 40 minutes 
  5. Remove bay leaves and liquidize for 2 seconds* 
  6. Gently re-heat if necessary 

*2 minutes ? (editor’s query) 

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