Highlighting the Luncheon, held at the Sheraton Lincoln Harbor Hotel in Weehawken, N. J., on May 18, were presentations by three special guests: Dr. Mary Papazian, President of Southern Connecticut State University, who gave the keynote address on “The Empowerment of Women through Education;” Maro Matosian, Director of the Women’s Support Center in Yerevan, one of a consortium of organizations in Armenia addressing problems associated with Domestic Violence and partially funded by AIWA; and Ruth Bedevian, who received the Distinguished Service Award for her active contributions to a number of cultural and humanitarian projects in the United States and Armenia.
The day began with the Annual Meeting in the morning, with organizational reports on membership, projects, programs, archives and publications, scholarships, and affiliate reports. Present from the Los Angeles Affiliate were Affiliate President Silva Khatchiguian and Board member Joan Quinn; from Boston Board Vice Presidents Barbara Merguerian, Judy Norsigian, and Joy Renjilian-Burgy, as well as Armenia Liaison Eva Medzorian.
In her Keynote presentation Dr. Papazian summarized many of the gains made by women in the field of education, noting that more girls than boys attend college today. Yet women lag in many key areas, such as computer science, math, and engineering, which are to key to the rapid global economic development taking place today. Women are active in business, but continue to face a glass ceiling when it comes to advancement.
“Women have come a long way, but equality is not yet at hand,” she said in conclusion. “Education can prepare women for any profession, but society must accept them in some roles still restricted to men.”
The road ahead for women? “We must all help each other—be a network of successful women supporting and nurturing other women to success,” she urged. “Only through such support can we shape the future to the benefit of all.”
The theme of working together in order to advance women’s rights was taken up by Mary Matosian, describing her work in Yerevan. While Armenia’s constitution and signed international conventions protect women’s rights and adhere to principles of gender equality, “the reality on the ground is completely different,” she pointed out.
“Because of this we need to organize and develop a women’s movement or network so that we start working towards activism, advocacy, and gender mainstreaming,” she noted. “Gender equality is not just a women’s issue but a societal one.”
Ending on a positive note, Matosian noted that in Armenia today, a young generation of women have emerged, who are active citizens concerned with social justice and gender issues. “All this, gives me hope that progress will come to Armenia,” she concluded.
Ruth Bedevian, in accepting her Distinguished Service Award, offered heartwarming remarks about her participation in several projects, particularly in publications (she helped to arrange and edited My Odyssey, the memoir of Antonina Mahari, wife of Armenian poet Gurgen Mahari), and also her work at Mer Hooys home, located in the Nakashian Children’s Support Center in Yerevan.
Success of the event was made possible through the planning and preparations by the New Jersey AIWA Affilate, headed by the President, Lisa Stepanian.