ABU DHABI // The Indian Ladies Association (ILA) has been striving to bridge the gap between Indian and Emirati women and nurture good contacts for a healthy cultural and traditional relationship.
Jonia Mathew, honorary president of the association, said the group has many plans for the women in the two communities.
"We are very much appreciative to the Emirati culture and traditions of this country," she said. "We are just putting things in place to hold an event where women from both communities could gather, share and interact.
A coffee morning is planned that would focus on Emirati culture, cuisine and attire.
The ILA, which has about a thousand members, was established in 1976 in Abu Dhabi. Mohammed Hamid Ansari, then the Indian ambassador to the UAE, founded the group with four or five Indian women.
In a gala dinner last Friday, MK Lokesh, the current Indian ambassador and guest of honour, said the functions and programmes of the ILA are very impressive.
The dinner was attended by more than a thousand people, including dignitaries from the Indian business community.
Mr Lokesh praised the women who were involved in the ILA.
"All of them are either very busy housewives or in their own careers, but they continue to give lots of time to the association.
"ILA is a very important organisation among other Indian organisations," he said.
Currently, the ILA is dealing only with women-centric social activities, Ms Mathew said.
"We provide a platform where ladies showcase their talents. You would find many Indian woman, housewives, having extraordinary talents but they don't find any specific platform where they can exhibit their calibre."
The events offer women a chance to feel at home away from home, she said. They are organised on a big scale, engaging thousands of women and their families. Earlier this year, during the festival of Holi, more than 1,200 participants celebrated the festival of colours.
The group also tries to keep Indian culture alive in the UAE. Children are exposed to special dances like the dandya and garba, featured in North Indian culture.
"The children who were born and brought up here entirely don't know about the dandya," Ms Mathew said. "If you ask my son what is dandya, he wouldn't be able to tell you anything."
The ILA has a very strong support from the Indian Embassy and when members come across any cases of women in distress, they refer them to the proper authorities for support. The group also provides education to housemaids. Women who wish to learn English can contact the group.
"We arrange especial classes for them so that they can learn reading and writing skills," Ms Mathew said.
"For housemaids, time is money, we found them very less enthusiastic as they only believe in working and earning. So it's very difficult to convince them."
Membership in the ILA is open to Indian women residing on Abu Dhabi Island. Those interested, can call 02 633 0182 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .