SWEA the Swedish organisation – a global network

SWEA Bangkok

SWEA, The “Swedish Women Educational Association”

When moving abroad to a new country, be it the first time or the fourth, the importance of meeting new friends and socialising, experiencing things together with your fellow countrymen or in this case women, is so important. I would say it is almost a must. You could be extremely lonely I believe if you didn’t have the associations that connect and bind us tighter together when we no longer have a job to go to every morning. We are all in the same boat so to speak. Some of us have children in international schools and that keeps you quite busy of course with all the activities happening around the school, sports, etc. Helping out with the load of homework. Some of us are a bit older and have grown up children at home and maybe even grandchildren and you are a spouse to your working husband here in Bangkok. Some work here at the Embassy e.g. but get involved in SWEA still for the friendships and also for yearly parties or festivities and also now for the sake of SWEA professionals where different events are organised during after office hours.

In Sweden my experience is that often people socialise with friends who are from the same working environment. Lawyers associate and enjoy the company of other lawyers and colleagues. Doctors with other friends with medical background and teachers gladly become friends with school colleagues etc. But in the expat world the experience itself being abroad and moving to another country brings us close together no matter what your profession is in your home country and that I believe is so rewarding and fun. You listen and learn from each other and we all have different stories and experiences from “back home” or from another country that you have lived in. The similarities and the differences meet.

SWEA Bangkok

When my husband and I came to Bangkok in January 2015 I immediately got involved in SWEA, The “Swedish Women Educational Association” and for two years I was engaged in the Board and the second year I was elected as the President (2016) or Chairwoman. It was two fun years and I got so many new contacts and friends, not only here in Bangkok, but as the President you also get to meet and talk to the equivalent of the countries in the rest of SE Asia that has a SWEA Chapter and also in Australia. Every month you have meetings via “Got to Meeting”/Skype.

There are SWEA Bangkok/SWEA Asia /SWEA International. 7000 members globally in 72 countries and it started already 1979 by Agneta Nilsson in California so this year 2019 SWEA celebrates 40 years. A year filled with festivities. I am positive that Agneta Nilsson is very proud of what the organisation has achieved and that it is still very active and means so much for Swedish speaking women living abroad.

As activities SWEA Bangkok has a full schedule every month. Something fun and interesting happens almost every week. It may be just a coffee morning, a lunch with a lecture on different subjects or a visit to some interesting venue, maybe a museum or a visit to a company. It can be a course in photography perhaps, or to learn about life coaching. We have fun and learn something at the same time. What can possibly be better? The SWEA group responsible for activities is doing a great job coming up with new ideas all the time. No one will get bored here. Not for long anyway.

SWEA Bangkok just recently held its AGM (January) the Annual General Meeting at the Rembrandt Hotel as the venue for many years back. SWEA Bangkok started in the year 2000 as an independent chapter but the organisation was active even before that, but belonged then, to SWEA Singapore. The very first President was Susanne Rapp, but since then there have been quite a few names such as Agneta Bekassy de Bekas, author of many articles, Berit Carlekrantz, Maria Mellblom (2008-2015), Monica Nilsson (2016) Simone Westergård (2017), and now Anna Frummerin since early 2018. Anna started her involvement in SWEA in 2016 responsible for sponsorship etc. She now enters her second year as the President. SWEA Bangkok ended year 2018 with 73 members.

SWEA donates either money or other contributions/material to different organisations but it always has to have a Swedish link of some sort. e.g. this year the contribution went to the family Bergqvist in Huay Yang who help Thai children to swim. In Sweden every child learns to swim at an early age, but that is not the case in Thailand where it is quite common that children and young people drown. They just haven’t learned how to swim. To ride a bike and to learn how to swim is as natural for Swedish children as learning how to walk when they are 1 years old.

Other donations in the past have gone to the children in Klong Toey slum, I remember we had an Easter Party for the children and it was so much fun to see the children and how happy they were. Hang on Hangers, which started by Mrs Annika Jonasson many years ago, is another receiver of SWEA donations. There are different ways you can help the families and women in the less fortunate areas to get a better life. Annika has moved back to Sweden but Hang on Hangers is still active today selling its products at The Hope Fair e.g. It feels good to help the needy and SWEA is just one of many organisations here, doing just that. Another part of SWEA is SWEA Professionals. Here comes some words directly from Mrs Anna Frummerin:

SWEA Bangkok

“SWEA Professional started in San Francisco 2010 and is by now represented in many SWEA departments all over the world. For us in Bangkok it was our former treasurer Birgitta Leveen that got it started back in November 2017. Birgitta is unfortunately not living in Bangkok anymore but when she was, she was a full time working SWEA member, a type of member that is becoming increasingly common and a strong reason why SWEA Professional is needed. SWEA Professional is a group for everyone within SWEA who is curious about business activities and interested in working life and professional issues. This means that you do not need to be employed today to be involved – it is interest and commitment to the issues that are important.

With Birgitta no longer in Bangkok and the large SWEA Regional Meeting (RM) project taking most of our resources forced us to take a break with SWEA Professional during the autumn 2018. With the successful RM behind us and, even more important, a new enthusiastic project owner in Charlotte Haentzal to drive the project we are however now very happy to be able to restart SWEA Professional activities again. SWEA Bangkok is working to achieve better results that in the end can benefits our members. Last year we started to work with surveys in order to get all input, feedback and suggestion what we can do to meet our members’ wishes and needs. We selected and analysed the responses and took action. At the moment we are working with the plan for 2019 and we will have a workshop so we can see what actions need to be done, in order to challenge ourselves to the next step.

This year is a new important year for SWEA globally, celebrating its 40th anniversary. SWEA Bangkok will mark this event in early May with a big white glamorous party, a party no SWEA member with spouses and friends want to miss. Additionally the SWEA International Board is coming to Bangkok having its AGM and will start celebrating the 40th anniversary on March the 30th.

SWEA Asia consists of 9 so-called chapters or departments; Bangkok, Beijing, Seoul, Melbourne, Perth, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Japan and Singapore. Every second year we meet in one of the chapters and every second year a global meeting is being organised. 2018 was a year with a regional meeting that took place here in Bangkok as mentioned earlier, which means that this year will be a year of a global meeting. I participated at the last regional meeting, which took place in Perth. This year a global meeting will be held in Dubai. Many of us are looking forward to this meeting and are planning to go, says Anna the current President of SWEA.

As for myself I will move back to home to Sweden in May after 4.5 years in Bangkok and almost 13 years in total abroad. I will truly miss all my SWEA friends and hope this organisation will continue with their good, fun, important and inspiring work. I have no doubt that SWEA will continue to grow and has an interesting future to come.

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