AIWA San Francisco Affiliate Celebrates Armenian Women Preserving Cultural Heritage



OAKLAND, Calif. — On Saturday, November 15, the Armenian International Women’s Association (AIWA) San Francisco affiliate once again held a memorable event at St. Vartan Armenian Church here, bringing together its members that continually have supported the young organization over the last three years.

Laura Dirtadian, an AIWA SF Executive Committee member, was mistress of ceremonies and kept the attendees’ spirits up throughout the event with her welcoming and personal way of conducting the evening.

The president of the affiliate, Gaiane Khachatrian, welcomed the guests and briefly updated the affiliate’s supporters on AIWA SF’s ongoing initiatives and future plans. She highlighted the organization’s continued efforts of empowering the disadvantaged teenage girls of Mer Hooys program at the Nakashian Children’s Support Center in Yerevan, through offering them after school educational programs focused on English language, computer science, and comprehensive health education for teens at risk. In 2014 the organization expanded its reach by offering after school English classes to youth at Dsegh Village School, as well as to children with special needs at Bridge of Hope in Dilijan, and the staff members working at the center. Along with the educational opportunities offered to the Armenian youth in the country, AIWA SF also continues to empower professional young women in the country through creating employment opportunities for them to teach in these programs.

In its efforts to help young women entrepreneurs develop strong business skills to be able to create, grow and sustain their businesses, AIWA SF continues to partner with the Homeland Development Initiative Fund (HDIF) in pursuit of offering professional training opportunities to female business owners coming from 10 regions of Armenia to participate in wide range of professional seminars focused on accounting/business taxation, financial management, and marketing/media relations. In addition, AIWA SF continues to support the growth and development of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (WEP), an umbrella project for AIWA, led by the American University of Armenia, designed to teach business management skills to women entrepreneurs in the country.

The President highlighted that since its inception AWIA SF had a vision to address the healthcare improvement through knowledge advancement in rural Armenia, where the need is always greater. Despite the challenges that the young organization faced initially, that vision had finally became a reality. Three doctors serving on the executive committee of AIWA SF, Doctors Ani Tajirian, Hasmik Arzumanyan and Kohar Der Simonian, travelled to Armenia in October to carry out a pilot project in collaboration with the Children of Armenia Fund (COAF). The project was designed to carry out health education sessions for the medical field professionals in the Baghramian and Talin regions of Armenia. “Our trip was a success and left all three of us actively encouraged to remain engaged in working to improve health care delivery and education in Armenia,” remarked Kohar Der Simonian, AIWA SF Executive Committee member, who serves as Assistant Clinical Professor in both the departments of Family and Community and Obstetrics and Gynecology at UCSF.

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In addition to advancing the welfare of women in Armenia, a grant from the IBM Corporation each year enables AIWA SF to provide educational and professional development workshops in the Bay Area, aiming to promote the personal, educational and professional growth of women and youth in the community.

The president concluded her speech with the announcement of her stepping down from the role at the end of the year after serving as the founding president of AIWA SF for three years, introducing and welcoming her successor, Christine Soussa Sagahtelian, who had joined the affiliate in Spring of 2014, serving as the organization’s Vice President of External Affairs. “AIWA has been an incredible journey for which I am truly grateful,” Khachatrian remarked. “As our dedicated team worked hard to empower women in Armenia and in the Bay Area, I, myself have been empowered in so many ways as a result of my association with the organization. AIWA helped me better understand my own environment, my own relationships, the community that I am part of, and interestingly, my own culture, for which I have developed greater appreciation”. She then emphasized that an individual commitment to team effort was the key in making AIWA SF work as an organization and succeed, along with the tremendous support of the strong community in the Bay Area.

The event’s honorary guest, Grace Andounian, the principal at Krouzian Zekarian Vasbouragan Armenian School in San Francisco, who was accompanied by her family and friends, expressed her appreciation to the executive team of AIWA SF for the recognition, and highlighted the importance of preserving Armenian language on a foreign land through the only Armenian school in the Bay Area.

As the evening progressed, Lory Tatoulian, a guest comedian from Los Angeles, filled the room with laughter, appearing in a role of an Armenian woman, highlighting the characteristics of “Tantigeen” through her humorous skit.

The highlight of the evening was the breathtaking artwork called “Love” created by talented artist, Arev Petrosyan, who generously donated her inspiring painting to AIWA SF to be auctioned at the special event, the proceeds of the sales to go to support the affiliate’s initiatives in Armenia. “I met Arev this summer in Armenia, and after I learned about her accomplishments and fame, I couldn’t help thinking what a humble person she is,” remarked Mrs. Marine Gouchian, the AIWA SF’s Treasurer, who presented the young accomplished artist and the generous contributor. “When you learn that someone won a competition amongst 160 artists around the world and her creation of stained-glass art embellishes the Parliamentary Assembly building of the council of Europe, certain arrogance would seem to be justified, but Arev is a proof that greatness can exist in a humble soul”.

Being the daughter of a renowned sculptor Benik Petrosyan and a violinist and an art world socialite Alice Adamyan, Petrosyan was exposed to the world of art since childhood.  She became famous in Armenia with her innovative solutions and unique colors when designing TV studios, concert halls and cooperating with Coca Cola, Schwazkopf and others.  Her breakthrough came in 2005 when she opened her first exhibition featuring plexiglass paintings using real gold and silver leaves mixed technique. There were many exhibitions that followed not only in Yerevan but also in Tbilisi, Beirut, Moscow, Monaco, Belarus and most recently in Fresno, where Petrosyan donated two of her artworks to the Holy Trinity Church of Fresno.

Petrosyan’s paintings have been described as bright, luminous, rich in color, infinitely free and spacious, with mystical inner warmth and full of sensuality, sometimes daring and if gloomy still with the anticipation of light and creation beyond.  Her paintings divulge new shades with the changing reflection of light as the sun rises and sets but the positive energy invested by the artist never fades.

The special evening was closed with gifted Lilit Pipoian’s stunning performance filling the room with magical tunes and creating nostalgic mood for the audience.

To learn more about AIWA, please visit To get involved with the AIWA SF affiliate, send an email to


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