AUA Hosts First Conference on Empowerment of Girls and Women in Armenia

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YEREVAN — On April 21 and 22, the American University of Armenia (AUA) organized and hosted a conference on the empowerment of girls and women in Armenia. The two-day event brought together students, faculty, civil society representatives, successful female entrepreneurs, community leaders and members of the both the public and private sector. More than 50 speakers from Armenia and around the world to offer a holistic perspective on the status and role of girls in women in Armenian society, including in the military, workplace, healthcare society and society at large.

The conference was the first stage in AUA’s Women’s Empowerment Initiative, which will identify issues, foster awareness, and help set an agenda for research, social activism and academic programming.

In her opening remarks, Conference Chair Dr. Shakeh Kaftarian noted that “the conference is dedicated to learning about the immediate and long-lasting impact of gender inequality, discussing local models, which have been effective in enhancing female empowerment, and learning about international strategies addressing women and gender studies, along with their records of sustained success.” Kaftarian believes that a continuous effort must be made extending beyond the conference in order to put Armenia on the path toward gender-based equality in healthcare, employment, economic strength, as well as participation in social and political life.

Minister of Justice Arpine Hovhannisyan also addressed conference attendees. “One of the key indicators of a society’s development is the role of women and how said society treats them. I firmly believe that society needs to realize the full potential of women, however it is very important that these changes are made knowingly and willingly,” she noted. Hovhannisyan added, as an example of progress in the right direction, that the Ministry of Justice’s main body is made up of 386 employees out of which 208 are women and 35 of whom occupy managerial positions.

After the opening remarks, the day continued with two plenary panels on leveraging mentorship and sharing of experience to empower women and girls. Further break-out sessions addressed targeted topics including the effects of nationalism on women in Armenia, strengthening rural communities through empowering rural women, changing gender roles and breaking gender stereotypes, and violence prevention.

AUA President Dr. Armen Der Kiureghian said, “Today in Armenia, of 18 government ministers, two are female and, of 131 members of the Parliament, only 13 are women. In the private sector, while a growing number of top managers are women, many of them AUA graduates, the ratio is still dominated by men. Clearly, there is an enormous pool of human resource and talent that is not fully tapped. This conference aims at examining ways to empower girls and women in Armenia, so they can more fully contribute to the economic and social advancement of Armenia.”

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In her keynote address, President of San Jose State University, Dr. Mary Papazian, said, “It is sobering to realize the extent to which women in America and Armenia face similar issues and challenges. I am confident that we can forge a meaningful, enduring partnership and knowledge exchange between AUA and San Jose State University because of our shared values and enduring commitment to inclusion and equity. This conference is evidence of both. This ongoing exchange will broaden global awareness and understanding of those issues, enrich efforts to identify solutions, and help women and girls in both countries imagine and create brighter futures.”

Founding Partner and Chair of the Board of Governors at UWC Dilijan College and a member of the Board of Trustees at AUA Veronika Zonabend stated, “Education begins in the family, and a great role and responsibility for the next generation lies with women. In today’s world, in order to be a good mother, a woman has to be appealing to her children; and she can reach her potential in various spheres of life. Education plays an enormous part in this. To date, several successful educational initiatives and development projects have been implemented in Armenia. Among them are the American University of Armenia and UWC Dilijan, which provide the opportunity for girls to fully realize their potential, allow them to know their own strengths and fallibilities, and prepare them for life beyond the classroom.”

To celebrate the various contributions by women to society, the conference also included performances by musicians Lilit Pipoyan, Vahagn Hayrapetyan, book signings, and an art exhibition showcasing the works of female artists in Armenian modern art called “The Spirit of Woman.”

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