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Visible Femmes d’Europe

Femmes d'Europe Irish Group

By Femmes d'Europe Irish Group

The Femmes d’Europe Association is a philanthropic non-political, independent organisation based in Belgium and Luxembourg. The Ireland group, or ‘Mná na hÉireann’, as we sometimes call ourselves privately,  was one of the founders in 1976. There are almost one thousand Femmes d’Europe in total, all volunteers, organised in 23 national groups. Our members are women from the European Union (EU) and other countries worldwide. 

Women join when they are living in Brussels or Luxembourg and many stay active as members when they return to live in their home countries. 

The Association’s aim is humanitarian, its motto solidarity. We want to help the most vulnerable, often women and children, focusing mainly on education, training and health programmes. We finance small-scale projects (80 a year on average). Since its inception in 1976, the Association has distributed over €10 million in support of projects all over the world.

The Ireland Group’s younger members are mostly working mothers of children still at school. They work in international organisations, delegations, the European institutions and European Schools.. Many of our more active members are retired and happily take the time to organise events like our Annual Christmas Bazaar. The Association benefits from their professionalism and experience. In a normal year the Christmas Bazaar alone would generate up to €150.000 for our projects fund, with our group contributing strongly by selling quality products from Ireland. In 2020 it was an online virtual Bazaar, another innovation forced by the pandemic.

The Ireland group raises money to support projects by organising events throughout the year: a Bloomsday Brunch with music and singing together with the Irish Theatre Group, at the Embassy, an annual bridge tournament and concerts. The bridge event has become an important date in the calendar of many lovers of the game in the Brussels area. We are fortunate to be able to use St. Anthony’s Parish Hall in Kraainem to host 60 players and offer food and drink with the prize-giving. During the last Irish Presidency we organised a gala concert with the Chieftains in Flagey. In 2019, Míċéal O’Rourke, the well-known Irish pianist, gave a piano recital in aid of the Association at the Conservatoire in Brussels. 

Femmes projects run throughout Europe as well as Africa, South America and Asia: the aim is always to help women and children in need. Each individual project is small but deeply practical. A typical project would be to build a classroom for a school in Africa. We have organised clean water or toilets for a hospital in the bush. We have replaced the heating system in a refuge for women near Athlone. 

Recently we funded 100 beehives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 50 of the hives will belong to individual families who will be taught apiculture. The other 50 will belong to the community. The honey will be sold and the money will create an ongoing income for the fifty families, enabling them to feed and clothe themselves and send their children to school. A recent project in India will buy 30 tablets for street-children so they can be taught to read and write in a clean, safe place. 

The Association is proud of the fact that we are a charity which does not pay any organisers and we have minimal overheads. The money raised is allocated to carefully selected projects identified by our own members. All spending is, of course, carefully monitored to ensure that the funds are well used. 

Over the years the Ireland group, though one of the smaller ones, has contributed two Presidents and a Secretary General to the executive board of the Association. The Irish Group is generally considered to be very dynamic and punch well above its weight.

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