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Association of Baha'i Women – Scotland
Secretary: Shelagh Gudmundsson
Association News
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A warm hello to you, dear friends, from your executive board members. We are happy to share with you our endeavours over the past few months in Scotland but first...
How are you? Are you well? How many hugs or smiles did you give out today? Did you receive any?
 
We want to get to know you. No need for CV’s or bold statements on your academic achievements, or not, as the case may be. We would like to know the little things about you. What makes you happy? What brings a smile to your face? What warms your heart? What’s happening to women in your area? Please write and let us know – we are longing and waiting to assist you.
Since our last report we have had several meetings. As you may know, with any committee meeting much of the time is taken up with business decisions. However we are a Bahá’í organisation and are fortunate to open every meeting with prayers. Do any of you serve on committees outwith the Faith? Don’t you really miss having the wonderful bounty of saying prayers together before the business starts! We are really blessed to have the tool of loving consultation for our meetings.
Our first agenda item is a continued study on the ‘Women’ compilation. There are five chapters to this publication and, as there are five members, we have each taken a chapter to study as individuals and, in turn, have led a discussion at the meeting. It is wonderful to study, with others, words that have been read many times before, but take on new meaning when studied more deeply. Shelagh at the most recent meeting emphasised just three words ‘Handmaidens of Bahá’u’lláh’ – “that’s us girls!” she said. Well there it is; that’s us – all of the women in Scotland are Handmaidens of Bahá’u’lláh. The tremendous power of those three little words. Have you ever thought about what it means to be a Handmaiden of Bahá’u’lláh? Why you were created a women?
 
The ABWS Questionnaire
We have had some wonderful information and ideas from the Questionnaire sent out last year. Lizbeth gathered all the responses and printed them under their separate headings. This really helped us to see the diversity of our women and also the amazing similarities too. Thank you for responding and please feel free to contact us if you would like to complete one. We can help you if the questions are a bit unclear. These replies are assisting us in forming our Five Year Plan so they are very important to us. In this way we can find out what your needs are. The more information we have the better equipped we will be to serve you.
 
Local ABW Branches Reports
North East and Aberdeen (Mona Helmy: samyandmona@compuserve.com)
This vibrant branch meets every week. Having completed studying the compilation on ‘Women’, they are now studying ‘Women as Peacemakers’, with the Virtues Guide being the next subject. Two separate week-end retreats have been planned. Some of the members are also on the Aberdeen Women’s Festival Committee and we look forward to hearing more from them.
 
Some of the friends attending the Aberdeen Women's Retreat
Weekend retreat
The branch held their first women’s retreat on 17th-18th of November. It was decided that, as it was their first retreat, it would be on a small scale but for the next one in February people from neighbouring communities would be invited to join in.
The retreat was held at the home of Mona Helmy and it was arranged that everyone would bring a light dish for lunch and a cooked meal for supper.
It was planned that there would be a very simple programme of hourly sessions with breaks and meals in between. The chosen topic was the role of “women as peacemakers.”
The program started each day with a devotional session prepared by Nadia Helmy with selections from the writings accompanied by her own lovely type of music. Each woman participant took a session relating to peace. The sessions covered topics such as: finding individual peace in our daily lives, global peace, how different people relate to peace in the home / workplace / prison / through injustice / and using the virtues. Stories of Martha Root and áhirih were also shared.
On each day there was an exceptional tranquillity zone session. The rooms were beautifully arranged to give warmth and love. Candles and music were used to provide a welcoming atmosphere. There were lovely fragrances emanating from flowers and potpourri. At the beginning of each session cards tied with ribbon were given out, with a wonderful quotation on each one. Many such gifts were shared during the weekend to make each handmaiden of Bahá’u’lláh feel cherished and loved. Friends who had been unable to attend the retreat were not forgotten and cards full of love have been sent from all those blessed to be able to participate.
Members of a local Ruhi Study Circle (book 2) were invited to join in with the tranquillity zone sessions because they were interested in offering these as part of their service project.
How about setting up a weekend retreat in your area? It is very simple. Through it’s simplicity great and wonderful feelings are produced and everyone wants to be part of it. A retreat helps bonding, fellowship and a greater love to grow and be nurtured among the friends.
 
Tayside/Arbroath Shelagh Gudmundsson (jshelagh@aol.com)
Harmony Half Hours – These sound very exciting and are planned for this area on a monthly basis. From knowledge gleaned, they will be similar to a Tranquillity Zone, with prayers music and quiet reflection. Look forward to some pictures in next issue.
 
Glasgow Mahrokh Majidi (e-mail via sholeh@ntlworld.com)
The magnificent exhibition in St Mungo’s museum has been a big attraction in Glasgow for visiting friends, so this group has not met for a while. On Wed 19th December at 11am some of the group will meet for coffee in John Lewis’s Coffee Shop (in Buchanan Galleries – not the restaurant). If you are in the vicinity please feel free to join them. As this is very informal it is a good place to take friends. Maybe see you there.
 
Ayrshire Lizbeth Thomson and Mandy Hepburn (hepburnmandy@hotmail.com)
The Ayrshire branch currently meets every three weeks and is studying healing and balancing your inner self – wonderfully relaxing. The benefit of meeting with others and studying together creates such a loving bond. One non-Bahá’í who attends regularly has stated how much the experience of gathering together is a blessing in her life. We all feel the love generated by the group.
I know from experience there are times when I feel tired or can’t really be bothered with anything – making the effort to go to the branch meeting is exactly what I need. It offers something so far removed from the outside world, and gives solace and strength to carry one on.
 
Do you have a branch in your area? Can we help you to set one up? Remember it is not an exclusive club for Bahá’ís. Wherever there are women a branch is a centre where we can focus our energies. It is an aid to assist us to reach our goals, a place where loving bonds with the women in the whole community are realised. Most importantly it is a regular occasion for offering the healing message of Bahá’u’lláh to all around us.
 
Ruhi Study Circles
Have you thought of doing a Ruhi study circle? It is an incredible experience. Find out if one could be started in your area. You could request training to be a teacher! Have you considered setting up a tranquillity zone? Any thoughts about enhancing your 19 Day Feast? Please share your thoughts, actions and inspiration with us.
 
Five Year Plan
We have been busy on your behalf studying the Five Year Plans from the National Spiritual Assembly and the Council so that we can align our plan with theirs. May we ask for your loving prayers for our guidance and protection while we formulate this plan. It is very exciting to be at this incredible stage in the development of the Faith in Scotland. So many wonderful things are happening. On the notable occasion when the National Assembly visited these parts hosted by our Council, the members gave so much love and encouragement to the Scottish community. For those who could not attend this meeting a little aside to say that the blackboard behind the Assembly had the word’s ‘Please remember that your Council loves you’ – a very simple yet touching message. We, too, would like to pass this message on to the women and girls in the community. Please remember that we, too, love you and are here to serve you in whatever capacity we can.
With Loving Greetings from your ABW.
 

A bit of late news...
Barbara Alexander, Lizbeth Thomson and Venus Alae-Carew
at the ABW table in Castle Douglas.
The Association of Bahá’í women was delighted to have a stall at the ‘Calling all women’ conference in Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway. The ABW table was beautifully decorated and was visited by most of the conference participants, many asking questions and taking leaflets. The Dumfries local dance group (Waking Dreams) was invited to take part in the programme. Their performance of the Equality dance was most effective, leaving all those present visibly moved.
Bahá’ís from several communities cooperated to make this a very successful day and we wish, in particular, to send our warm thanks to the members of the ABW (Scotland) for their presence and the beautiful and most effective display they supplied.
 
The maid-servants of God must reach a station wherein they themselves shall comprehend the realities and meanings, to give clear explanations for each word and the fountains of wisdom gush forth from the reality of their hearts like a full flowing stream.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p.94
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“The integrity of the family bond must be constantly considered, and the rights of the individual members must not be transgressed. The rights of the son, the father, the mother--none of them must be transgressed, none of them must be arbitrary. Just as the son has certain obligations to his father, the father, likewise, has certain obligations to his son. The mother, the sister and other members of the household have their certain prerogatives. All these rights and prerogatives must be conserved, yet the unity of the family must be sustained.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p.168)

The ABW is not only concerned with the rights of women. Every member of the family is important. As ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “Note ye how easily, where unity existeth in a given family, the affairs of that family are conducted; what progress the members of that family make, how they prosper in the world. Their concerns are in order, they enjoy comfort and tranquillity, they are secure, their position is assured, they come to be envied by all.” (Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p.279)
 
Scottish Bahá’í Gathering – Cardonald
Photo of ABW stand
The ABWS stand with, l-r, Mandy Hepburn, Marokh Majidi,
and Lizbeth Thomson.
We set up a stall at the gathering which enabled us to show a few of the things the Association is involved in, both locally and world wide. This was done through photograph albums, leaflets and booklets. Flowers and cloth drapes managed to lift a rather dull corner of the college into a pleasant quiet spot for participants to linger and enjoy the information available. Of course the added attraction of sweeties helped just a little. We saw the power of Bahá’u’lláh work as those who chose the quotes on offer were quite often surprised to find how relevant they were to their personal situation. Flowers and perfumed candles added to the serene effect, with a most beautiful photo of a relaxed Rúhíyyih Khánum adding the final touch.
As the time limit for the presentation was very short, we gave a brief introduction and used the rest of the time reading the writings and saying prayers. Our thanks are offered to the women who kindly read for us.
 
Local groups
We would again like to encourage you to meet regularly with other women in your area, if at all possible. Some Groups meet once a month, others more frequently. The wonderful thing about forming your own local group
The ABWS banner with, l-r, Marokh, Shelagh, Mandy, Lizbeth, and Mona.
is that you can arrange it the way that is most suitable for you. Remember every female in Scotland is automatically a member of our Association of Bahá’í Women.

Banner
A beautiful ABW-Scotland banner was presented to Mona and Shelagh at Aberdeen Summer School by Carrie Varjavandi. We are all very grateful to Carrie for using her scarce time to make this for us.
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45th Convention on the status of women
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Reporter: Mona Helmy
City of the Covenant
I travelled to New York at the request of the National Spiritual Assembly to attend the 45th Convention on the status of women at the United Nations. I observed a covenant between the countries of the world and non-governmental organisations from all over the world.
All the people were of a like mind on the advancement and enhancement of the status of women. Specific items on the this years agenda were; gender racism, HIV and AIDS, and looking at the programme for the next five years. Each organisation is very dedicated to their area of concern and challenging how its agenda would be dealt with. Draft statements of the UN were discussed and presented by government representatives and listened to by NGO representatives (like me, as I was under the Bahá'í International Community). To me it was an incredible opportunity to develop and experience such a global meeting where Bahá'ís have such an all encompassing holistic approach. All the people I met were wonderful and very praiseworthy of the Bahá'í communities which they had encountered in their countries. They said that the Bahá'ís were warm, friendly, loving and open people who really believed in the oneness of mankind and were exceptionally wonderful people. My heart was so moved to know and reap the praise dedicated to the Bahá'ís all over the world who are working in their own little bits to touch the hearts of mankind.
I had not been to America before. New York is just as you see it on television. All the buildings are very high and big, the roads are wide and straight, and the interesting thing is that New York is like a grid – the roads going across are streets with sequential numbers and the roads from north to south are called avenues, numerically numbered too. Very few streets have names. It is a huge big melting pot of people from all different nationalities and ethnic backgrounds seeking a better way of life.
Yellow cabs are everywhere and the shops and eating places cater for every need and taste – as I was fasting I was unable to enjoy this as much as I wished too!
I was able to share with women from around the world stories about life in Scotland, and how women are juggling their lives on the mainland, and in the Highlands and islands; how the ABW is trying to see the needs of the Bahá'í women and to empower and encourage women in their different roles as mothers, sisters, friends, workers, grandmothers and daughters. The other role of the ABW – to promote the principle of equality of women and men – was received by the other women present as a positive and hopeful aim for the progress of mankind.
This external affairs trip was an eye-opener that globally, nationally and locally there are so many projects underway that we can help with and join in with other organisations, even start ourselves to bring the healing medicine of Bahá’u’lláh to mankind.

Food for Thought
God's Bounty is for all and gives power for all to progress. When men own the equality of women there will be no need for women to struggle for their rights! One of the principles then of Bahá’u’lláh is the equality of gender.
 
Women must make the greatest effort to acquire spiritual power and to increase in the virtue of wisdom and holiness until their enlightenment and striving succeeds in bringing about the unity of mankind. They must work with a burning enthusiasm to spread the Teaching of Bahá’u’lláh among the peoples, so that the radiant light of the Divine Bounty may envelop the souls of all the nations of the world!
‘Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 163

Are we putting our greatest efforts into acquiring virtues
and spiritual power so that we can TEACH THE FAITH?
 
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The Juggle, and News
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THE JUGGLE
Mona Helmy

We juggled along on different trains from Aberdeen to Leicester and back again – some trains never came, some were late and some didn’t move or broke down – yet we got to the real Juggle Conference in the end.
Six Bahá’ís from Scotland attended – I took Nadia, my daughter, who participated in the conference and Nabil, my son, who took a day off school and had a very special treat spending the whole morning of the conference joining in with the Leicester football team while in training.

Mahrokh Majidi (left) with the author 
There were 160 participants from different organisations from all over Britain at the Conference. Auntie Mahrokh Majidi and I were representing the Scottish Association of Bahá’í Women.
There was a main session in the morning where Baroness Crawley talked about the family and the changing structure of society; the pay gap; an ageing population; increasing scope for consultation in employee/employer relations; women and work and job sharing. Wendi Momen gave an amusing and informative talk about patience and qualities.
The workshops went well and were very much enjoyed. People were eager to share and exchange ideas. Mahrokh said she was impressed by the way all the different women created such a loving and Bahá’í like atmosphere. The Government Minister for Leicester talked about the minority groups in Leicester. The Conference was followed by a Training and awareness session provided by the Convention on 'Elimination of Discrimination against Women.'
The Conference provided an arena for women in varied roles (sometimes done by the same person) to be looked at, acknowledged and encouraged to see how this is juggled on a daily basis. Trying to understand how their roles are changing in today’s society, the pressures it creates and the wonderful opportunities that are generated.
How do you juggle your life? What constructive ways have you adopted to manage? What roles are you juggling that you can share, delegate or pass on to others in your family, workplace or friends?

Reports from local ABW areas
Aberdeen and district — As a woman in a world made of men and women, I have always felt that God created two kinds of beings for a reason. Far be it from me to begin to comprehend the reason of such different qualities, characteristics, traits, workings of the mind and deeper insight of male and female – I always wondered about what qualities and challenges women have, of which I am one. Both have a role to fulfil so I decided to concentrate on being a woman, through reading the writings on women, reading stories, sharing with other women, attending Bahá’í seminars and conferences and trying to enrich the world we live in by nurturing my role as a woman. We have a very well established and deeply rooted women’s gathering in the North East of Scotland that came into existence from the first Accuto conference in Italy five years ago. We are a group of women who meet every three to four weeks in each other’s homes over morning coffee or lunch and learn arts, crafts and hobbies from each other, visit places of interest, learn quotes from Bahá’u’lláh, talk about the heroines of the faith, go on outings and generally enjoy each others’ company. This has developed a wonderful bond between us. It is a joy to be together. We have, at regular intervals, special luncheons where we invite our friends and give them hospitality. A rare and wonderful friendship has grown and blossomed amongst us. Have you thought of setting up a group in your area? Reach out, connect and open your hearts and homes to other women near you. Contact the ABW for ideas of what to do when you host them. There are also short programmes supplied by the European Women’s Task Force on different activities that could be undertaken during your gatherings.
 
Ayrshire — A joint meeting with Glasgow was held in December in Motherwell at the home of Eddie and Margaret Sinclair. All had a wonderful time and the hospitality was very much appreciated.
Lisbeth Thomson and Mandy Hepburn met with Kay Ullrich MSP for West of Scotland and were able to introduce themselves as members of ABW Scotland Executive. They gave her the ABW leaflet, together with the “Who is Writing the Future?” booklet. They plan to meet again once Kay Ullrich has read through the book.
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From The Scottish Baha'i #22, Winter 2000
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The Glasgow and Ayrshire branches of the ABW held a joint meeting in Lanarkshire in October. We were made very welcome in Margaret Bryce's home in Airdrie.
The morning passed very quickly with prayers and study of the Writings. Margaret's husband, Tom, joined us for a lovely home-made lunch. After the meal we designed and created boxes from card in which we put a quote from the Writings. The next session was given over to memorising these quotes.
The photo shows the result of our activities.
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Back row –
Lisbeth Thomson,
Margaret Sinclair,
Barbara Alexander,
with, front row –
Margaret Bryce &
Mandy Hepburn

The Role of Religion in promoting
the advancement of women
"The personal transformation required for true equality will undoubtedly be difficult for men and women alike. Both must relinquish all attachment to guilt and blame and courageously assume responsibility for their own part in transforming the societies in which they live. Men must use their influence, particularly in the civil, political and religious institutions they control, to promote the systematic inclusion of women, not out of condescension or presumed self-sacrifice but out of the belief that the contributions of women are required for society to progress. Women, for their part, must become educated and step forward into all arenas of human activity, contributing their particular qualities, skills and experience to the social, economic and political equation. Women and men together will ensure the establishment of world peace and sustainable development of the planet."
Bahá'í International Community: Written statement to the United Nations Fourth World Conference
on Women, distributed officially to all participants. Beijing, China, 13 September 1995.

Did you know that being a female Bahá'í means you are automatically a member of the
Association of Bahai Women?
AND
Did you also realise that we are representatives of HALF the WORLD'S population?
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From The Scottish Bahá'í No.21, Autumn 2000:
"Equality of the sexes will be established in proportion to the increased opportunities afforded woman in this age, for man and woman are equally the recipients of powers and endowments from God the Creator. God has not ordained distinction between them in His consummate purpose"
'Abdu'l-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p.300
 
New Website
The Association of Bahá’í Women’s rôle is about helping women to take their rightful place beside men. It is not about trying to take over from men, or replace them. Each gender must play an equal, but usually different, part. We now have a web page – an example of the ways we can work together – at:
<http://manvell.org.uk/abw/> and at
<http://members.aol.com/shelaghabwscot/> {hopefully!!}.
 
Meeting of the Glasgow Branch of the ABW
The Glasgow branch of the Association of Baha'i Women together with the Ayrshire branch gathered in Glasgow on 16th August and studied aspects of the faith which affect their lives. The programme and devotional were based on friendship and included a lighthearted activity challenging our preconceptions about the male and female roles.
    After a wonderful lunch provided by our hostess, we were spiritually uplifted by the beautiful slides of the Holy Land. As our narrator took us through the cool marble passageways we were struck by the beauty of the natural daylight in even the lowest levels of the buildings shown. Haifa is a busy, industrial city generating lots of noise. Amazingly when in the gardens the most prominent sound is that of water trickling gently. We were all moved by the slide programme.
    After further lively debate the day came to an end much too quickly and we had to say our farewells not forgetting to make a date for next month in North Lanarkshire (September).
    Do you have a branch of the Association in your area? If you would like more information, please call our Freefone number, 0800 038 1844.
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From The Scottish Bahá'í No.20, Summer 2000:
Our last meeting was in Aberdeen on the 22nd April. We discussed at length how best to accomplish our remit, 'To assist Baha'i women realise their potential.' Each and every one of us has potential, we tend to think this applies to every one else but us! This Association is OURS, all Bahá'í women in Scotland are members, it only exists to be of service. Each member can play a part by telling us of ways in which they think we can accomplish this service. It would be fine if we could meet together on a regular basis, to deepen on the writings and to encourage each other. Perhaps having coffee or lunch afterwards. How can this be arranged in your area? Are you close enough other women to do this weekly? If the distance is too great could you manage monthly meetings?
When we met in Aberdeen we discussed the following quotation from a letter written by the Universal House of Justice, it so interesting we wanted to share it with you. It is number 90 or 94 in the "Women" Compilation", depending on which issue you have.
"The emancipation of women, the achievement of full equality between the sexes, is one of the most important, though less acknowledged, prerequisites of peace. The denial of such equality perpetrates an injustice against one half of the world's population and promotes in men harmful attitudes and habits that are carried from the family to the workplace, to political life, and ultimately to international relations. There are no grounds, moral, practical or biological, upon which such denial can be justified. Only as women are welcomed into full partnership in all fields of human endeavour will the moral and psychological climate be created in which international peace can emerge."
(October 1985 to the Peoples of the World, published as
The Promise of world Peace)
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From The Scottish Bahá'í No.19, Spring 2000:
Some of the things we could consider are:
  • What a joy and a privilege it is to be a Handmaiden of the All-Powerful!
  • In what ways have we placed our trust in Him?
  • How may we fulfil 'that which is well-pleasing to Him?'
  • Have we loosed our tongues to make mention of Him?
To end: it is hoped that a weekly study can be started by e-mail. Women [and men] who are interested please contact the Secretary.
I am one of Thy handmaidens, O my Lord! Unto Thee have I turned, and in Thee have I placed my trust. Grant that I may be so confirmed in my love for Thee, and in fulfilling that which is well-pleasing unto Thee, that neither the defection of the infidels among Thy people, nor the clamour of the hypocrites among Thy creatures, may avail to keep me back from Thee... Illuminate my heart with the light of Thy knowledge, and loose my tongue that it may make mention of Thee and sing Thy praise.
Baha'u'llah, Prayers and Meditations, p.142
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From The Scottish Bahá'í No.18, Winter 1999:
The executive board of the newly formed Association of Baha'i Women (Scotland) held its inaugural meeting in Glasgow on 3rd November, 1999, with National Spiritual Assembly chairman, Wendi Momen, and director of the Office for the Advancement of Women, Zarin Hainsworth-Fadaei, travelling from London for the occasion.
     The meeting began with prayers, after which Wendi outlined the history of the Association from its early days until this new phase and the establishment of an Office for the Advancement of Women. Zarin then spoke of how she perceived the future of the OAW, and how it will work with the four regional Associations in the UK.
     The remit of the ABW is to promote "the principle of the equality of men and women by helping Baha'i women realise their potential, and the community as a whole to come to terms with the advancement of women", and in external affairs:
  • To raise the profile of the Faith in Scotland in issues relating to women.
  • To assist the Baha'i Council for Scotland in this work.
Here in Scotland we have a wonderful opportunity to consult with the decision makers in the new Scottish Parliament and the Board is eager to encourage everyone to approach any member with plans or ideas they have. We can accomplish great things if we all work together.
The executive board members are: Shelagh Gudmundsson, Mona Helmy, Mandy Hepburn, Mahrokh Majidi, and Lizbeth Thomson.