Toastmasters District 20 (D20) is part of Toastmasters International. District 20, which originally consisted of 7 countries in the Middle East, has seen a phenomenal growth over the past few years. In 2017, D20 has been split into two, Bahrain and Kuwait which are two of the original seven countries have become one district retaining the name District 20.
Currently, in District 20 there are 8 Divisions, 137 clubs & about 6043 members including English & Arabic speaking clubs. There are 74 clubs in Bahrain and 68 clubs in Kuwait.
Every year, District 20 of Toastmasters International organizes District Annual Toastmasters Conference (D20TAC) in one of the member countries. The participating Toastmasters are the ones that make it through Club contest, Area contest, and Division contests. The winners of the D20TAC will certainly be the ‘Best of the Best’ and will represent D20 at the International contests.
It took 30 years for the Toastmasters movement to cross the Atlantic and the Sahara to reach the Arabian Gulf. When Bahrain Petroleum Company (BAPCO), the pioneering oil refining company in the Gulf recruited personnel from the USA, some of them were Toastmasters back home. They felt the need to form a Toastmasters Club in Bahrain to pursue their communication and leadership skills. With their initiative, “Bahrain Toastmasters Club” was formed at Awali in the year 1954.To cater to the residents of Manama, in the year 1964 they formed “Manama Toastmasters Club” which had its first meeting at the Bahrain Sports Club, (The Indian Club at present). Though both the clubs co-existed for some time, eventually, Bahrain Toastmasters became defunct as many Americans left the island and the rest joined Manama Toastmasters club.Manama Toastmasters Club continued to function which is now the oldest Club in Bahrain and the whole of the Middle East!
First International Taped Speech Contest was conducted at the Manama Toastmasters in 1984 when Ponnuchamy was the VP Edn. From receiving awards at the TMI Annual Convention in the USA to traveling to Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore to attend the Toastmasters club meetings, Manama Toastmasters had a lot of reasons to take pride in their clubs’ efforts, A. Ponnuchamy took over the President of Members of the Manama Toastmasters Club in 1988 and his wife Gita as the first Lady Toastmaster.
Later the first Youth Leadership Program at the Bahrain Sports Club along with Vijay Boloor. The second YLP was conducted in 1989 for the benefit of its member’s children. This led to The Bahrain Club Speakers Forum being formed in October 1989 f (2916-U).
Some 24 years later the second club, called the Bahrain Sports Club Speakers Forum was formed in Oct 1989 in Bahrain, sponsored by A. Ponnuchamy.
The Dhahran Toastmasters Club (1059 U) from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, was established around the same time.
Wellington Nevis from Dhahran Toastmasters visited Bahrain to visit Manama Toastmasters Club (2916 U) and the BSC Speakers Forum (1836-U) at the invitation of Ponnuchamy. The first joint meeting of the above three clubs was organized in Bahrain. Only the Humorous Speech contest was conducted for the joint meetings held at Bahrain in the year 1989 & 1990 due to its success.
Oasis Toastmasters (8258U) was chartered in 1991 in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia and joined the group in 1991. Riyadh Toastmasters Club, the only club in Riyadh since 1987 joined the group in 1992 and became the fifth member.
Until ‘93, the annual conference, held in Bahrain always, had contests only in three categories, namely Table Topics, Evaluation and International Speech with one participant from each club taking part in it and the Best awards presented to each of the 3 categories accordingly.
GTAC in its first meeting in 1993, decided to have:
- Different clubs hosting each year’s annual conference
- Every year to have International Speech Contest, Humorous Speech Contest, Evaluation Contest and Table Topics Contest during the Annual conference.
During the “business session” of a typical meeting in 1994, Horace Caviness proposed to form a “body” to oversee the affairs of all the 5 active clubs known during then. This “body” was named Gulf Toastmasters Executive Committee or GTEC.
In 1995 more clubs came into existence in Riyadh and UAE. Doha Toastmasters Club, the First Club in Qatar came into existence in 1996.
GTEC unanimously decided to form Gulf Toastmasters Council (GTC) with all 9 participating clubs as members in the Arabian Gulf. The primary objective of GTC was to work towards creating Toastmasters Territorial Council and later to strive to form a Toastmasters District in the Arabian Gulf.
Constitutions were formally adopted by the 14 clubs’ representatives during the GTC business meeting.
Representatives from nineteen clubs attended the Annual Business meeting of the Council to strive for and achieve the Territorial Recognition. Gulf Toastmasters Conference (GTC) became a glorious part of history with GTC renamed as GTAC – Gulf Toastmasters Annual Conference. The very first Annual Conference was also held outside Bahrain in Doha, Qatar.
During the closing ceremony of GTAC2000, GTC Governor set the goal for GTC to strive to get the Provisional District status by 2002.
In July the GTC received the landmark recognition from Toastmasters International as a Territorial Council. The same year, Jordan had its very first women’s Toastmasters Club, thanks to TM Betsy and the UAE region hosted GTAC. By a resolution, the tenure of the GTC officers were reduced from two years to one year.
This conference was attended by representatives from Oman and sparked the Toastmasters existence and growth in Oman.
The same set of officers continued to build the Territorial Council. Jordan was made the member country of GTC by TMI. Third Area was formed in Bahrain and ATM (G) A. Ponnuchamy was elected as the First Area Governor
By June 2002 a total chartered club went up to 62 and 11 clubs were in the making, thanks to the hard work of several toastmasters The Goal was set to become a Provisional District within a year by the GTC Governor Ponnuchamy
Manama Toastmasters Club hosted GTAC 2001 with 30 clubs participating in total. With the division of Areas in Oman and the UAE to form additional Areas with various GTC Coordinators and Governors elected for the particular areas. Eventually Three Divisions were formed. Division A comprised of Saudi Arabia and Jordan was led by Governor Syed Abuzafar CTM. Division B was led by Governor DTM Royston Fernadez which comprised of UAE and Oman. Division C was led by Governor Vijay Boloor which comprised of Bahrain, Qatar, and Kuwait.
By December 31, 2001 there were 45 clubs and the number required to form Provisional District was met!
GTC Gov DTM Ponnuchamy officially visited the TMI to attend the 71st Annual Convention and to discuss the issue of Provisional District.
At the GTC Excom meeting held on 17th & 18th October 2002, it was decided to apply for the Provisional District. Ponnuchamy traveled to all the countries to get support of the clubs in the formation of a Provisional District. Accordingly, application along with Resolutions of 63-member clubs were sent to WHQ on 31st October, 2002.
International President DTM Gavin Blackey visited all the six gulf countries along with his wife, Bea Duffield at the invitation of Ponnuchamy to report his findings about the gulf toastmasters to the Board. Based on his recommendation, for the first time in TI history, District status was granted to GTC!
Then the TI Board had approved unanimously our application during their meeting in February 2003 based on recommendations from TMI Board Excom after formal approval of the application.
This was the first year that officers from the District attended the training in the International Convention. With some clubs skeptical of joining the District fearing the loss of autonomy over their clubs. Through the hard work of several district leaders, they were convinced that it would be to the benefit of all to join.
Official Banner of District 79 was presented by the Senior Vice President DTM Ted Cocorun to the Dist Governor DTM A. Ponnuchamy at the Conference held at Dubai. Therefore Dist 79 was officially declared!
During the first year of its recognition as District 79 in 2003, it became the No.1 District in the world which was a historic moment for Toastmasters International.
For the first time District 79 was approved as a full district and the provisional status was removed after the first year only.
District 79 consists of Toastmasters Clubs in Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. Since our beginning back in 1964, District 79 is today, a tribute to the hundreds of members who have passed through the Clubs in the last 40 years and who have contributed in their own ways to the growth and establishment of Toastmasters as the leading communication and leadership training organization in the Middle East. We have had many fine leaders and success stories – all too numerous to mention here. But… in the years to come we look forward to even greater success.
Later District 79 was divided, and 2 separate districts were formed.
Thus, the District 20 was born and consisting of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Lebanon & UAE all the countries except Saudi Arabia). Further on, Saudi too formed its own district for better management of its clubs. In the last two years, due to geographical restrictions, District 20 was divided twice and D 20 now consists of Bahrain and Kuwait.