As a part of a true family, we always make sure you are up to date with our latest news, thrive, and trailblazers. You can find all these topics in this blog section. Start reading and get to know AIWA, its members, and the Armenian community better today.
The month of March marks International Women’s Day as the global celebration of women recognized widely throughout the 20th century after its official launch by the United Nations General Assembly in 1977. It is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women, who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities. Yet, the day isn’t simply a celebration — it is an international call to action for everyone to continue to push for complete gender equality.
I am incredibly excited to begin the year as Interim President of the Armenian International Women’s Association. Over the past years of serving on AIWA leadership committees and on the Board of Directors, I have had the privilege to see in action the power and impact of the organization within our communities. We have accomplished much in our young 30 years.
As 2021 comes to an end, I would like to extend my sincerest gratitude to you for your generosity and support of AIWA. Founded in 1991 by 3 women in Massachusetts, what started as a small organization has enjoyed incredible growth over the past 30 years. With 5 affiliates and members worldwide, AIWA celebrates 30 years of elevating and connecting Armenian women globally.
Annie is a high school senior with a wide range of interests in humanitarian work, acting, entrepreneurship, and medical sciences. Annie established her nonprofit in 2019 after she contemplated the difficulty of getting involved in humanitarian and philanthropic efforts at a young age without needing to fly out of the country to volunteer at volunteer sites.
Dr. Armine Nadiryan was born and raised in Armenia, Yerevan. Becoming a doctor was decided for her way before she could choose a profession for herself. It was her mother’s dream which she was unable to pursue due to certain circumstances, so she embedded her dream very deeply inside, making it eventually her dream as well.
Lena was born in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia in 1985. On her father’s side, her grandfather Gevorg came from Mush, and her grandmother Lena was a native Yerevan girl. On her mother’s side, her grandfather Valodya came from the village Krnchkot in the town of Kari, and her grandmother Nina from the city of Manglis in the Georgian Tetritskaro region.
Tim Straight was born in Cleveland, Ohio. An eternal believer in the future of Armenia, Tim has lived in Yerevan since September of 2000. He is the honorary consul of both Finland and Norway in Armenia. Reporting regularly to Helsinki and Oslo about poverty, emigration, unemployment, domestic violence and stunting in children, Tim decided in 2010 to create an organization that focuses on the creation of viable employment of women, mostly in the regions of Armenia. Today, the Homeland Development Initiative Foundation provides an income to hundreds of women across the country, designing and marketing products based on their traditional skills – crocheting, knitting, sewing, embroidery, illumination painting, fruit preserves and more. The Homeland Development Initiative Foundation is an AIWA supported initiative.
Seda Papoyan is the founder and managing director of Girls in Tech Armenia chapter. She has 15+ years of experience in communication and project management with a specialty in non-profits, social entrepreneurship and fundraising. Seda has a mastery of digital tools and technological innovations which she chases to use for change. Just recently, Seda joined another promising educational initiative – Relq School of Technology, as their executive director.
Tatiana is a communications specialist and works for The Economist Group as business development manager, responsible for the commercial development of the World Ocean Initiative. She previously worked for the Guardian and the Spectator. Tatiana uses her expertise to support strategy and fundraising development for two charities in the UK, serving as trustee and vice-president for Alkionides UK, and trustee and advisor of the Armenian Institute. She is a member of the board of advisors for the Shirley Chisholm Education Foundation, fundraising chair of the Harvard W3D (women in development, defense and development) network and co-programming chair of HKS Women’s Network. More recently, she was invited to teach a program on ethics and politics for women working in the private and public sector in Ecuador.
Teny Avakian was born in Tehran, Iran. At the age of 4, her family moved to Boston, MA. At the age of 13, her family repatriated to Armenia. She graduated from Yerevan State University with a B.A. in International Relations and Diplomacy. With her BA degree in hand, Teny continued her education first at the American Graduate School of International Relations in Paris, then at the Lebanese American University in Beirut. Teny repatriated to Armenia for the second time in 2010. She started her career in a corporate environment doing product development and marketing for telecommunications and IT companies. However, feeling unfulfilled she made the transition to non-profit work as Chief of Programs with Teach For Armenia. Currently, she is the CEO of a sports for social impact organization Girls of Armenia Leadership Soccer (GOALS) and resides full-time in Armenia.
Emma Ohanian is a Media and Technology Consultant at FTI Consulting, based out of Century City, Los Angeles. She participates in various types of engagements, including business plan development, commercial due diligence, M&A advisory, litigation support and expert witness testimony. She is particularly interested in regulation in media and technology and continues to explore policy and industry shifts in the quickly evolving landscape. She also makes time to volunteer at several community-centric organizations, such as Kooyrigs, MIASEEN Inc., and Generation She (more detail below).
Maria Sarkisian was born in Armenia during the Artsakh war in 1992. Her family relocated to San Francisco where she attended KZV Armenian School. She attended UC Davis to receive a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Toxicology and a Master of Science in Forensic Science. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Forensic Toxicology and Chemistry. When the war in Artsakh broke out in 2020, Maria raised over $200,000 and relocated to Armenia during the war to provide humanitarian aid. Along with assisting over 400 families impacted by the war, Maria assisted in an agricultural initiative which helped preserve over 9 tons of crops, and helped provide over 500 volunteer soldiers with uniforms, boots, vests and other necessities. She also collected, documented and transported historical artifacts from two churches, along with 3 khachkars, right before the lands they were located on were turned over. Due to the success in fundraising, Maria teamed up with Tatiana Armstrong, another Bay-Area native and KZV Alumni, and began their non-profit Miaseen which provides funding to families and individuals impacted by the war in Artsakh. In total, Maria has raised over $300,000 for the people of Armenia and Artsakh, and continues her humanitarian work through Miaseen.
Arevik Ashkharoyan is a literary agent with 10 years of experience in publishing. In 2016, she established ARI Literary and Talent Agency, representing a dozen writers of Armenian origin from all over the world. In 2018, she founded the non-profit arm of the organization, the ARI Literature Foundation, to implement projects aimed at the development of the local book market, promotion of reading and writing in Armenia and enhancing international dialogue. Projects run by the ARI Foundation include Write in Armenia International Writing Camp, Zabel International Women Writers Forum, and Let’s Read! (ARI Kardanq) book clubs.
Ani Attamian is a strategic problem solver and coalition builder focused on business growth for global partners in industries ranging from technology, publishing, education, finance, retail, and consumer packaged goods, among others. She has nearly 20 years of experience managing multinational teams between North America, the United Kingdom, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).
Promoter extraordinaire, Hasmik Movsisian, has revolutionized the Armenian music business by creating an international organization, and all from a Facebook group she created in October 2008. Her PR know-how gleaned the possibility of greater realizations from these rudimentary beginnings and, years later, Music of Armenia is still spreading the sounds of Armenian music across the globe.
Deena Ghazarian is an award-winning business executive with more than 25 years of experience driving top consumer technology and fashion brands. She is the CEO of technology accessories company Austere as well as a managing partner at TargetPath LLC. Prior to her consumer electronics career, she held management roles at Macy’s, where her experiences shaped her passion for fashion and design.
Svetlana (“Svet”) Pirjan was born in Tehran, Iran. As a Christian Armenian living in an Islamic Country, her family experienced grave injustice and discrimination, which, among other social and economic factors, made it an unsafe environment to raise a family. To open doors for his two daughters, her father decided to move her family to the United States in 1990.
Maria Akopyan is an intern at the Organization for World Peace, producing weekly articles on important international issues. A graduate from San Jose State University she has a degree in Political Science with a minor in Women’s Studies. Maria is deeply passionate about women’s rights and the fight for equality globally. Specifically, she is passionate about helping break down the gender barriers. As she looks towards graduating soon, Maria will be joining the Developmental Team as a Developmental Assistant for the American University of Armenia Corporation.
Powerful women influenced my childhood. I had two grandmothers who had lost their spouses early in life and who singlehandedly and successfully raised their families while working and living in a man’s world. I had a mother who held her ground and tried hard not to allow the societal definition of woman define her place in life. I have a sister who continues to voice her professional and personal rights to preserve her dignity and quash a needless compulsion of women to prove themselves worthy of respect. In brief, the women I looked up to had a lot in common. They were educated, they were married, they were mothers, they were involved in their communities, and they were bold, proud and heard.
I was born in 1992 year when Virgo constellation was delivering the Sun. My father is Armenian, and my mother has Lithuanian origin. My grandmother (Father’s mom) is from Artsakh also known as Nagorno-Karabakh – a beautiful mountainous and forested area between Armenia and Azerbaijan. I love forested mountains – they are like living ancient witnesses of history of the human kind. Mountains give us the perception how small we really are, they help to sort out what’s really important, what are the true values of life and fill the longing of our spirits.
When Astrik Vardanyan gave birth to her first son in 1998, the experience she had in a Burbank, CA hospital left her scarred physically and mentally, humiliated, and traumatized. It was not the childbirth experience she had prepared for or dreamt of. At that time, the dehumanization she felt in the service of a clinical technological birth and the lack of autonomy she felt over her own body was shocking to her. After experiencing similar inhumane treatment during the birth of her next two sons and complications with their health because of it (her second son was heavily drugged to the point where he failed to respond for hours – they thought he was deaf or worse). She realized, perhaps, this was a bigger problem in the world than she had thought. In 2005, along with her late husband, child psychiatrist, Arthur Pogosyan, Astrik founded the haikProject to educate and support women in labor and establish healthy, peaceful, non-violent child birthing.
Mané likes to call herself a human experience designer since whether it is in designing more human experience in hospitals, playing the accordion for her family, consulting organizations to augment their impact through story and narrative methodologies, or dancing; they are all instances that invite more humanity, and hence freedom.
AIWA, a member of the UN ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) and the UN DPI (Department of Public Information) since 1996, joined forces with the other Armenian NGOs with consultative status at the United Nations (AGBU and ARS) and sent a joint letter to his Excellency António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, asking him to take immediate action at the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, by:
2021 marks the 30th anniversary of the Armenian International Women’s Association (AIWA). Founded in Boston by three trailblazing women, Eva Medzorian, Barbara Merguerian and Olga Proudian, AIWA has made a great impact in the lives of Armenian women worldwide. Over the last 3 decades, whether involved in initiatives for the arts, health, leadership, scholarships, publishing, archives and many others, AIWA’s focus has always been the advancement of the Armenian woman.
Her prominent ancestors moved from New Julfa, Iran, to Paris, and then to Italy, where Vittoria was born in Padua. She, along with her four sisters, grew up in the “Casa degli Armeni” (House of the Armenians) and received an Italian education. She married the Italian count and member of Parliament Guido Pompili. Vitoria was very fond of Italian poetry, and wrote her poems in Italian. Her first poem was published in 1875, and the first poem to appear in the Armenian‑language, “Lrutyun” (“Silence”), was translated by Arsen Ghazikyan in 1896.
Born in Tiflis, she graduated from the Russian gymnasium in Tiflis and went on to study music in Leipzig, graduating from the Conservatory there with a diploma of first degree in 1909. Her voice was developed and refined under the guidance of Russian Imperial opera singers M. A. Slavina and S. M. Mirovich. From 1913 to 1929 Akimova was a soloist with the St. Petersburg Marinin’s Opera and Ballet Theater, which was later renamed the Leningrad Opera and Ballet Theater after S. M. Kirov. From 1919 to 1925 and from 1929 to 1952 she taught in the Leningrad Conservatory.
Born in New Julfa, Iran, Diana Apcar moved to Calcutta, India, at a young age. She received her elementary education in the local Armenian Sandukhtyan school, then studied in English educational institutions. Since then she became interested in various national issues. She married a wealthy silk trader, Apcar Apcaryan, and moved to Yokahama, Japan.
Born in Tiflis (Tbilisi), in a traditional aristocratic family, she lost her father at a young age and spent her childhood under the care of her grandfather, who was an eloquent speaker and a great story-teller. Later Sofya frequently recalled her grandfather’s tales and shared them with her students.
Born in Beshiktash (Constantinople), she studied in Pera, in the Nurinyan school. After graduation she became a teacher at the Yesayan School. Beyleryan also began writing and became interested in national issues at a young age. Her articles on the social and public roles of women, “Hay Aghchkats Gyanken” (From Lives of Armenian Girls), “Narekn u Narekatsin,” as well as articles on other social issues, were published in the periodicals Arevelk (Constantinople) and Ardzagank (Tiflis).
Born in Constantinople (Istanbul), Heranush lost her father at the age of three, which was a great tragedy for her. She attended the French School of the Bakirkoy Sisters (French) in Constantinople beginning at the age of 10, then the Armenian Makruhyats School in the Beshiktas district. As a student she showed remarkable abilities, amazing the teachers with her essays. At the age of 15 Heranush became ill with tuberculosis and had to move to a nearby farm. She spent two years in peaceful surroundings, but was unable to defeat the terrible illness. She died at the age of 17.
Margarit Brutyan was born in Alexandropol (Gyumri) into a military family – her father was a sergeant in the army of the First Republic of Armenia. His ancestors emigrated from the Mush-Taron region of historic Armenia to Eastern Armenia after the Russo-Turkish war of 1828‑1829. Her grandfather, Arshak Brutyan (1864‑1936), was a famous musician, group leader, painter, and teacher.
Born in Tiflis, Danielyan received her elementary education in the region. She graduated from the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1920, and later developed and refined her voice in a class taught by I. I. Iretskaya. Between 1920 and 1922 Danielyan performed in the Theatre of Musical Comedy in Petrograd, which was led by K. Mardjanashvili.
Born in Constantinople (Istanbul) into a wealthy and socially prominent family, Srpuhi received her elementary education in the French schools of the capital. Her mother, Nazli Vahan, one of the most educated and socially aware women of the city, was among the founders of the first national women’s institutions in the capital, including the Hripsimyats School and the Women’s Philanthropic Association (1859). After the untimely death of her husband, she devoted herself to the upbringing and education of her daughter and son. Her son, Vahan Hovhannes (1832‑1891), received his higher education in chemistry and held high governmental positions.
Born in Constantinople (Istanbul), Zaruhi studied at the local Aramyan school. Her first poems were published under the pen name “Yevterpe” in the Women’s Section of the periodicals Manzume Efkyar and Byuzandyon. Later collections of her poetry were published between 1892 and 1894: Nvakh Yevterpya (Yevterpyan Tunes), Zartonk (Awakening), and Mrmunj (Murmur). The major themes of her poetry were: the tragedy of an abandoned people, injustice in the world, and praise for true love.
Nonee Kay Keshishian curates celebratory environments in the hopes of reminding nonee people that life is meant to be lived. From weddings honoring two peoples’ commitment to each other to thousands of people in an airline hangar celebrating their years’ work of shooting a rocket into space…Nonee does it all. She and her brother launched a catering and event production coalition 11 years ago out of their parents’ kitchen. They called it @kitchen12000 and went full steam ahead in an industry they knew little about. Turns out if you’re really passionate about a cause, the way they are about building community and performing sociological experiments with strangers, you can become really good at something fast.
Vera Nazarian is a two-time Nebula Award® Finalist, a Dragon Award 2018 Finalist, and Author-Photo-Large2-Nazariana member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. She immigrated from Moscow, USSR in 1975 as an 8-year old girl, with her Armenian father and Russian mother, spent a civil-war-ridden year in Beirut, Lebanon as a refugee, then arrived by way of Greece to the United States, and settled in Los Angeles, CA. She professionally sold her first story at the age of seventeen to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s classic fantasy anthology Sword and Sorceress #2 (DAW Books, 1985) while still a high school student, and has since been published in numerous anthologies, magazines, and publishing houses, honorably mentioned in Year’s Best anthology volumes, and translated into eight languages.
Born and raised in Armenia, Dr Hasmik Arzumanyan, MD studied medicine at Yerevan HasmikState Medical University and graduated Summa Cum Laude. After practicing medicine for several years in Armenia, she made the very difficult decision, leaving her family, friends and life behind in Armenia and moved to the United States to fulfill her educational aspirations.
Kevin is a registered Architect in California, a member of the San Francisco Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and holds a Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Architecture from The University of California at Berkeley. The focus of his works come from his fascination with the larger urban context, as well as a diverse set of social challenges related to designing housing and increasing density in cities.
Satineh Kassarjian was born in San Francisco in 2003 and moved to Armenia before she turned 5. This move has shaped who she is as an Armenian and an American. She feels blessed to be comfortable in both countries and societies. In addition to school and after-school activities, Satineh is most proud of the volunteering she has done for several events in Armenia.
Dr Anahit Danielyan was born in Yerevan, Armenia and graduated from Yerevan State University in 1993. After the collapse of USSR and in the middle of blockade of Armenia she started her professional career as a Hematologist at Armenia Hematology Center. She finished her fellowship and went into practice afterwards. Looking back she often wonders how she survived those difficult years.
Dr. Annie Hovsepian was born in Tehran, Iran and moved to USA when she was 10 years old. After finishing high school, she attended the University of California, Irvine and earned a degree in Biological Sciences. Then she attended St. Louis University Medical School and did her residency in Internal Medicine at University of California, Davis.
As CEO and President of SADA Systems, Tony Safoian firmly believes that technology can empower people to transform their world. To this end, he places innovation at the core of the business model, coupled with exceptional customer experience and managed services. Under Safoian’s guidance, SADA has differentiated itself by proactively addressing a rapidly evolving market across Enterprise, Midmarket, Government and Education sectors, while anticipating the needs of its customers—often even before they do.
Inesa Zohrabyan is a youth community leader within her village of Arteni in the Aragatsotn region of Armenia. As a member of the “Community Impact Club” since the age of 14, she has participated in eco-friendly community gardening projects and conducted student’s leadership training-workshops. At the same time, she focuses on self-improvement, as well as my personal growth. As a student of Teach for Armenia, she was inspired by her teacher who introduced Kids Education Revolution and encouraged her to participate in the KER Summit in India, as one of the Teach For Armenia’s student community representatives. Participating in this experience has been life changing as a result, Inesa is one of the eight (8) appointed Teach for All’s 2020 Student Leader Advisory Council.
Armen Orujyan, PhD, is the Founding CEO of the Foundation for Armenian Science and Technology (FAST). FAST is a nonprofit organization that reinforces Intellectual, Financial, and Network capacities of science and technology ecosystem in Armenia and beyond. Focused on producing an ecosystem that drives scientific advancement and technological innovation, under Armen’s leadership FAST has launched Startup Acceleration Programs inclusive of Startup Studios focused on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Biotechnology, and Robotics, an Advanced Solutions Center on AI and Machine Learning, a Creative Campus, a Fellowship for the top 10% of all PhDs in Armenia in STEM, deployed numerous scientific grants, and established the first Science and Technology Angels Network in Armenia.
Maggie Ryan is half Armenian (Arstakhtsi) and half Irish, born in Orange County, she has lived in Russia, USA, and Armenia. She is an alumna of the American University of Armenia, where she earned a Bachelors in Business. During her junior year of college, she was given the incredible opportunity to work at PicsArt, a photo editing application. That’s where she learned about the value of community, and the effect it can have on technology, expression and product development.
Acclaimed for her “smoldering stage presence,” (The New York Times) her “richly-hued Solange Merdinian by Martin Bustos copyvoice” (BBC Music magazine), the New York based American-Argentinean mezzo-soprano Solange Merdinian has garnered an international reputation for her versatility and interpretation as a recitalist, chamber musician, and opera singer in repertoire ranging from baroque to contemporary, folk, tango, cabaret and world music. She is the Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of the nonprofit organization, New Docta, and the New Docta Festival in Argentina.
Lena Tashjian is an author, writer, and recipe developer, from Canada. Her interest in food developed after going vegan as a university student, which lead her to become a nutritionist. She lived in Armenia for six years, where she began writing about food, culture, tradition and travel to develop her own blog and various publications. Upon returning to Canada, she established a Vegan Armenian Kitchen, where she shares recipes and stories of Armenian food.
Anahit Ghazaryan is a writer, an activist, a feminist podcast host, a teacher, and a researcher, Anahit gets her main strengths from looking at the essence of things. Anahit holds a B.A. of Philology and Qualification of a Teacher in the field of Armenian Language and Literature and M.A. of Philology in the field of World Literature and Literary Theory from Yerevan State University. She has studied at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Yerevan from, where the duo met six years ago. In addition to co-producing and co-hosting Akanjogh, currently, Anahit is researching the life and work of Maryam Shahinyan (1911-1996), the first female photographer in Turkey.
Ovsanna Takvoryan is a business and restructuring attorney based out of Los Angeles with over nineteen years of experience serving as counsel to various corporate entities and high net worth individuals locally, nationally and globally, in various industries including, but not limited to entertainment, retail, real estate, finance, technology and manufacturing. In addition to practicing law, Ovsanna recently joined NMS Consulting, Inc. as Managing Director and Partner working in the firm’s management consulting and corporate advisory business units.
Armenians are known as the Creator and Builder Nation everywhere. We built that reputation by contributing to humanity, progress, and growth for centuries. It inspired and shaped my character and my life’s mission: creating positive and results-driven teams, environments, and countries (I was fortunate enough to work in 40+ countries) everywhere I go. Our ancient traditions of excellence, literature, music, art, and science have influenced deeply my perspective about innovation and its benefits and promises to humanity. It was one of the reasons I dedicated my studies and my career to technology and innovation.
Joel A. Martin is a classical and jazz pianist, producer, composer, and arranger who has collaborated with, and/or written music for, Grammy® Award-winners Alan Menken, opera legend Kathleen Battle, Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, cellist Eugene Friesen of the Paul Winter Consort, and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Jaimoe of the Allman Brothers.
Narine Sahakyan, Resident Representative of UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) in North Macedonia. With almost 20 years of experience with UN system with increasing levels of responsibility from Project Coordinator to UNDP Resident Representative/Head of Office; 19 years of additional experience with the Government of Armenia, the scientific research institutions, the local and international NGOs, the WB, USAID and other international organizations. Since 2019 she has been leading the UNDP Team in North Macedonia. Previously, she served as UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in North Macedonia, Moldova, Turkmenistan and as Head of Programme in Armenia. Prior to joining UNDP she worked for the Government of Republic of Armenia, leading the Department of Diaspora Relations and Humanitarian Aid at the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations (1991-1993), Investments and Export Promotion Department at the Ministry of Economy (1993-1996) and Foreign Investment at the Ministry of Industry (1996-2000).
Asya Dallakyan, Small and Medium Business Development Lead for the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region at DSC_4310 Microsoft Co. With more than 21 years of professional experience, her strong expertise in IT stems from 16 years in the sector in key managerial roles. Her background also features 3 years in education and 2 years in the government/public sector.
Today, we change our lens a bit and take a retrospective look at some of the women who were among the first in their fields. Throughout history and currently, there are so many individuals doing extraordinary things to inspire and make impact. April 24 is a somber day as we remember the difficult history that all Armenians worldwide share. As part of AIWA-SF Thrive we decided to highlight some Armenian women who were born in the 1800s and contributed in significant ways to our world.
NOMINATE A THRIVE RECIPIENT
Do you know an amazing Armenian Woman to nominate for AIWA Thrive?