- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2006

Flower power was out in force Wednesday at two celebratory embassy fetes. Hundreds of red and pink roses decorated a tribute lunch on behalf of 2006 Vital Voices Global Leadership Award recipients, hosted by Kuwaiti Ambassador Salem Al-Sabah and his wife, Rima.

That was followed by last evening’s benefit in the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater, which brought out a bevy of bipartisan supporters for the organization, which promotes women’s rights around the world. Both occasions heralded Kuwait’s parliamentary move giving women the right to vote and run for office — a step forward that Vital Voices’ professional staff had helped make happen.

A key figure at the luncheon was Lulwa Al-Qatami, the first Kuwaiti female dean of a college, who dared call for a ban on the mandatory head scarf.

Another woman of note was Rola Dashti, 41, an economist with a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University who is one of 10 women running against 800 men for 50 parliamentary seats in next year’s election.

“I’m tense,” she confessed at lunch. “It’s a big battle.” Her platform includes drafting a proposal for women’s rights across the board, one that would allow for female judges, she said.

There was at least one man at every table, including D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, who offered tongue-in-cheek political advice from the podium: “if you plan on building a stadium, expect to take 30 years ….”

Modern floral displays “with attitude” were the purposeful eye-catching centers of attention at an evening reception in the Netherlands’ ambassadorial residence. The event was the embassy’s annual spring soiree — this one heralding several of the country’s remarkably talented young designers.

“Tulips are outside,” said Delft-born Pim van den Akker, creator of the striking arrangements seen throughout the mansion. He was making the point that none of the country’s traditional flowers had been part of his work. Some 8,000 other kinds had been included in the imaginative show, which he admitted was “out of the box” but included such simple materials as paraffin and chicken wire.

Guests — a cross section of diplomatic and social regulars —were enveloped in Dutch atmosphere, with striking fashions from Amsterdam’s Erny van Reijmersdal being worn by Jellie van Eenennaam, wife of Ambassador Boudewijn van Eenennaam as well as on mannequins on display on the landing of the flower-enveloped staircase.

Ann Geracimos

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