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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

The UAE social network: Online group helps women find their way within the community 

Abu Dhabi Ladies Forum was created by Hanan Wahbe after she found it difficult to fit into a new city

Abu Dhabi Ladies Forum, a group of expats and local ladies who engage in social activities, was created by Hanan Wehbe (centre). Members include Lisa Kanso (left) and Naglaa Fathy (right). Victor Besa / The National 
Abu Dhabi Ladies Forum, a group of expats and local ladies who engage in social activities, was created by Hanan Wehbe (centre). Members include Lisa Kanso (left) and Naglaa Fathy (right). Victor Besa / The National 

After three years of loneliness prompted by moving to a new country, where she didn’t know anybody, Hanan Wehbe found a way to make sure no one would feel the way she did again.

In 2010, the Palestinian mother-of-three moved to Abu Dhabi where she struggled to meet people or find advice on the best doctors, schools and activities to enrol her children in.

“Moving to a new place and trying to cope with the surrounding community was not easy on us as a family. It was challenging to mingle and meet new friends and neighbours,” she said.

Ms Wehbe, 35, wanted to connect with her local community but also provide a platform for women to exchange knowledge and become active members of society.

Three years after her arrival in the UAE, she created the Abu Dhabi Ladies Forum group on Facebook

The goal of the group was to connect with other mothers or expatriates, share useful tips, get engaged in social activities and participate in various awareness workshops.

“After three years of struggle, I decided to create a Facebook group that would help me connect with other women and mothers to share tips and maybe form friendships,” she said.

“I was surprised with the number of women who requested to join the group and in less than a year we reached 10,000 members.

“We started by asking questions about where to find the best curtain shop or what is the best school in the area and then decided to arrange for a gathering to get to know each other in person. That was the beginning of new friendships,” said Ms Wehbe.

After meeting with some of the group members and taking in their suggestions on how to benefit more from the group, Ms Wehbe, along with other members, started to arrange community initiatives, awareness and voluntary campaigns, fairs and other activities.

“We arrange lots of initiatives, such as cancer and medical awareness lectures in collaboration with many healthcare institutions, book and craft fairs, we help families in need by providing them with clothes and food, visit special needs centres, take part in cultural activities and so much more,” she said.

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“We stand by each other, support one another and we have become one big family,” said Ms Wehbe.

The group now has more than 30,000 members. Naglaa Fathy, 36, said she joined two years ago hoping to meet friends and get introduced to different activates.

“We moved to Abu Dhabi in 2006, and of course it’s hard to be away from your family and friends and it's more difficult to make new friends as everyone is busy with their lives,” said the Egyptian mother of two.

“The group made me feel more alive and introduced me to a whole new community,” said Ms Fathy.

“My children also started to make new friends, it’s like our home away from home.”

Liza Kanso, 38, said she has been introduced to many who share the same interests and hobbies as her through the group.

“I love arts and crafts and the group gave me the opportunity to find places that provided art classes,” said the Lebanese mother of two.

“Each time I visit the group, I find new useful things and my children enjoy the monthly gatherings.

“We don’t feel lonely anymore and the group has given us the opportunity to give back to the community and learn new things through the workshops and lectures they organise regularly,” said Ms Kanso.