The history of DSG

Although we have records dating back only to 1968, the Diplomatic Ladies’ Group (DLG), later renamed the Diplomatic Women’s Group (DWG), was formed shortly after Independence. In its current form, the Diplomatic Spouses Group would hardly be recognised by the early members of the DLG or the DWG.

The Diplomatic Ladies’ Group, the first title used, was composed of wives of Ambassadors (the title used in the records for all Heads of Mission) who thought there was a need to coordinate action on requests received by their husbands as representatives of their various countries. A small committee was formed with a rotating membership to allow all countries to be represented in turn.

It was soon known as the Diplomatic Wives’ Group, and by the early 70’s any woman listed, either in her own rights or as a spouse, on the diplomatic list issued by the Government of Tanzania was automatically a member of the Group. In actuality, however, for many years all the organisation and decision-making was done by a relatively small group of Ambassadors’ wives. They comprised “the Committee”, which was the only part of the organisation to meet regularly, and was responsible for all aspects of the DWG. The Committee members were also the only members with the right to vote on issues. Members-at-large attended the morning bridge parties or afternoon tea parties which were the main money-raising activities of the Group for several years.

The structure of the early Committee was based on a principle of representation drawn on geopolitical lines. The chairmanship of the organisation always went to the wife of the doyen, or the next senior wife who was prepared to accept the task. The other Committee members represented seven regional groupings: the Far East; Western Europe; Eastern Europe; Scandinavia; Africa; the American Continent and Others; and the United Nations Organisations. The names of the groups varied slightly from time to time, as did the membership. The “Others” associated with the American continent included Israel at one point and Australia at another. As they became too large, the groupings were split, with Western Europe having two groups, and Africa being split into French and English-speaking groups.

There was very little interaction between the groups. After one lengthy outing, in which members from the “east bloc” and those from the “west bloc” travelled in separate vehicles, it was reported by one participant that “all the diplomatic ladies were very cordial to each other. ”

The organisation of the Group remained as described until 1977 when considerable dissatisfaction with its hierarchical structure was expressed on several fronts. The minutes of several meetings reflect very heated discussions on the subject, with some members calling on “loyalty” to one’s predecessors, others demanding a more democratic approach to the organisation, and at least one member querying whether the junior wives were really capable of accepting responsibility. The compromise was an agreement to invite any Ambassador’s wife to represent her own country on the Committee and to invite junior wives to join in on visits.

At a members’ lunch held in 1981 at the Bushtrekker Restaurant, members were asked for the first time to volunteer for activities, and though it was some time yet before the advent of standing sub-committees, there was a smaller committee formed to reconsider the “ethics” of the DWG.

In April 1983, a suggestion was made that meetings be opened to those who were not wives of Ambassadors. The options suggested were a) to invite a Chargé’s wife who could take over from her Ambassador’s wife; b) to invite two other wives from each embassy; or c) to open the meetings to any who were interested. By September a committee had been set up to consider the reorganisation of the DWG.

Proposals adopted in January 1984 set up the group in much the same form in which it now operates. An executive committee was formed to consist of a chairman, co-chair, secretary and co-secretary, treasurer and sub-committee chairmen. (As you can see, political correctness had not yet appeared on the scene!) The social and projects sub-committees were formed at this time. All members of the DWG were allowed to vote, and only the chairman was still required to be the wife of an Ambassador. It was decided that there would be three business meetings a year, with social gatherings in the other months. Membership was no longer automatic, and depended on payment of a membership fee.

In 1993, it was decided to drop the requirement that the chairperson be the wife of an Ambassador.

One change discussed at the time was not adopted. Many felt that, given the changing demographics of the diplomatic community, male spouses should be invited to join the group, but this idea was dropped.

As is natural, the focus of the organisation has evolved over the years. The first “Statement of Aims” reads that “The aim of the group is to assist Tanzanian Voluntary Agencies, especially in projects that involve personal service to Tanzanians in need.” In the early years, the group worked very frequently in cooperation with the Umoja wa Wanawake wa Tanganyika (United Women of Tanganyika), the UWT. They also participated, on request, in events sponsored by other non-governmental organisations such as the YWCA and the Salvation Army.

Fund-raising was done mainly through the monthly teas and bridge parties, but also through a variety of small projects: film showings, fashion shows, concerts, etc. There were special events during the International Women’s Year.

After a time, some members queried whether too much of the group’s energies went into fund-raising. They saw the benefits of social interaction as also being of importance to the members, and sought to find a balance. During those days, fund-raising activities were channeled into one major charity bazaar each November, and members also enjoyed regular activities such as weekly quilting sessions, an art group and language conversation groups.

The history up to this point has been taken from the DWG booklet published in 1993. Since then, records are very vague, to say the least!

It is believed that men were allowed into the group around 1998 and that was when our name was changed to the DSG.

In 2004 the DSG Information booklet was updated and the first DSG Charter was produced. According to the most recent Charter dated 2011, “Membership is  open to partners of all persons with identity cards issued by the Protocol Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs”.  This Charter still guides the work of the DSG. Over the years more and more men have joined the DSG and in 2015 the first male Chairperson was elected.

As far as we know, Chairpersons since 1993 were:

  • 1994-1995 and 1995-1996 Birgitta Rentakari of Finland
  • 1996-1997 and 1997-1998 Christine Petersen of Denmark
  • 1998-1999, 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 Pamela Mettacotta of Italy
  • 2001-2002 Odette Mutuhanguha of Rwanda
  • 2002-2003 Waty Djohan of Indonesia
  • 2003-2004 Monique Pietermaat of the Netherlands
  • 2004-2005 Emanuela Griccioli from Italy
  • 2005-2006 Jean-Eudes D’Achon from France
  • 2006-2007 Louise Akesson from Sweden
  • 2007-2008 Chris Maddens from Belgium (acting Chair)
  • 2008-2009 Xiaobing He from China
  • 2009-2010 Huwaida Kalo from Sudan
  • 2010-2011 Anne Clark from European Union
  • 2011-2012 Gunilla Hjelmaker from Sweden
  • 2012-2013 Juliana Parroni from the United States, wife of Swiss Ambassador
  • 2013 Nathalie Grolleman from the Netherlands
  • 2014 Susanna Dedeyan from the United States
  • 2015-2017 Tony Kuylen from the Netherlands, husband of Norwegian Ambassador