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At the beginning of this year, the Asian Ladies Friendship Society was formally renamed the Asia-Pacific Ladies Friendship Society. “This name better reflects the society’s present composition,” said Mrs. Rebeka Majid, wife of the ambassador of Bangladesh.

Rebeka Majid

She refers to 24 member countries that, stretching from New Zealand to Pakistan, extend boundaries. “The Japanese name remains unchanged, however, and the acronym ALFS remains the same.” This is important to Majid, who as this year’s chairwoman of the ALFS Festival Committee is concerned that there be no confusion. She is intent that the 2001 festival should be as successful as previous ones have been.

Majid’s home country is a young nation with an ancient background and considerable variety in its history. Some people know Bangladesh best for its abiding monuments from the period of Mogul splendor. Some remember it for its arts and handicrafts, especially its silk-embroidered muslins, and its cotton and jute products.

Majid grew up in Dhaka, and graduated from the university there. When she was in Dhaka, she said, she taught play-group and kindergarten children. She has the kindliness and motherliness to support her special interest in small children.

She has two sons of her own. With her husband on diplomatic assignments, she has, she said, “lived in Paris, New Delhi, London, New York, and now Tokyo since 1999.” Each posting in its way has given her the cultural and social activities that she seeks.

“But nowhere have I seen an organization like the Asia-Pacific Ladies Friendship Society,” she said. “Its membership is as diverse as it is coveted. It is a singular honor for me to have been chosen as chairperson of this year’s committee. “

Majid applauds the initiative of Mutsuko Miki, who founded ALFS in 1968. As wife of Takeo Miki, who served in the Diet for more than half a century and became prime minister, Miki was in a position to see where there were weaknesses and danger points in people’s lives. She advocated improving relationships with Japan’s neighbors as a priority in working for peace. Believing strongly in women, she reasoned that in making efforts to strive for better lives for their own families, women would help improve their communities, their countries and the world. ALFS represented her endeavor to bring Asian women closer together. Miki continues as president of ALFS, and Princess Hitachi is its chief patron.

Majid said: “I believe that the success ALFS has enjoyed since its inception is due in large measure to the commitment of all its members, Japanese and non-Japanese, and the spirit of camaraderie that exists among them. We work in concert for the promotion of a common objective, for a cause that is most commendable.” She points out that ALFS shows practical friendship by raising funds through various activities, “pre-eminent of which is the annual festival bazaar. The funds raised are divided among member nations for charitable and worthwhile causes at home.” Last year each member country was allotted more than 700,000 yen, providing support for about 40 deserving institutions. Bangladesh used its share for education, and an orphanage for girls.

“Additionally,” Majid said, “ALFS maintains funds to meet contingencies when they occur.” Last year six member countries, most of them victims of flood ravages, benefited from ALFS emergency relief fund. In the past Bangladesh has been the recipient of emergency aid when it has been struck by natural disaster.

Majid says the Asian Festival is one of Tokyo’s most popular annual events. This year’s festival will be held at ANA Hotel on April 26 from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. “Asian and Pacific crafts and artifacts and food will be on sale,” she said. “The program will include entertainment of traditional dances and instrumental music of member countries. This year’s grand door prize is a Biman Airlines Tokyo-Dhaka round trip for two with seven nights’ stay at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel. Other door prizes comprise items donated by different embassies. Raffle prizes offer more airline tickets and donated gifts.”

Throughout the year the society arranges programs highlighting the distinct cultures and traditions of member countries. It organizes goodwill trips within the region. “My cochair is Suharti Brotodiningrat, wife of the Indonesian ambassador,” Majid said. “She too has respect and gratitude to ALFS for its generosity and friendship.”