July 13, 2020

The Diplomatic Spouses Association: Worldwide (DSAW)

I’m Cécile Atta-Van Peteghem, Belgian wife of a Belgian diplomat on his first posting abroad; Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates). I left my career as an economist in Brussels to come here to raise my two kids. We have been in Abu Dhabi for almost two years now and, as I entered this diplomatic world, I saw an exciting opportunity: misconceptions.

Indeed, people don’t have the right image of diplomats, and even more so, of their partners. People see us as boring followers with a life made of champagne nights.

To kill some myths but also tell our adventures (because let’s face it, it’s a crazy life), I started a blog: www.desperatediplowife.com and created this Desperate Diplo Wife character on Instagram.

In a short time, I started building a community of diplomatic spouses and trailing spouses in general (although I wouldn’t say I like this term, it pictures us like caravans tied up to the strong moving vehicle that is our partner). As it grew bigger, I felt understood and supported in ways that I never was with my friends and family for whom it’s difficult to understand our lifestyle and challenges. I started getting messages from Diplomatic spouses around the world, seeking advice or looking for a friendly ear. Came to me this little idea that maybe, just maybe, some other diplomatic spouses were looking to connect too. They would benefit from shared info, or only from an openminded spouse who lived the same challenges in the past.

So, on May 13th, I launched a Facebook group of Diplomatic spouses. Can it be so simple? We all have Facebook; we know how it works. I didn’t want something complicated or expensive; I just wanted people to be able to connect on a private platform.

Cécile Atta-Van Peteghem. Photography by Kelly Acs.

As I was launching the Diplomatic Spouses Association: Worldwide (DSAW) I was sure it was going to be a failure with only six members. Several days later, we are 1300 members, and others are waiting to join.

We post from 100 countries in the world. Diplomatic partners exchange views about this lifestyle, concerns about the current situation and advice for new postings.

You can find Diplomatic spouses’ groups in different cities, though often for Head of Mission spouses only. This group allows a mix between all levels of experience in our lifestyle, which turns out to be very useful for everyone. Although it’s much more demanding for me than I thought it was going to be, I’m delighted to see all of them exchanging.

I quickly realised that in this Covis-19 crisis, the need to build virtual connections between people was enormous. Imagine you are moving this summer to a new posting, I don’t think you will get the usual warm welcome of the diplomatic community! You are filled with stress, and coffees with strangers aren’t going to happen soon! Now, we can still communicate and feel less lonely thanks to this platform.

So Desperate Diplo Wife isn’t so desperate anymore!

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