By Hagop Vartivarian
NORTH BERGEN, N.J. — The Armenian International Women’s Association (AIWA) was born together with the proclamation of the third Republic of Armenia. In 1990, three Armenian-American women in Boston devoted to the Armenian people, came up with the idea for this association. The goal was to defend the rights of women in Armenian life, both in the homeland and abroad. The founders were Eva Medzorian; Dr. Barbara Merguerian, a longtime editor of the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party publication the Armenian Mirror-Spectator, the first English-language Armenian weekly paper in the US; and Olga Proudian.
For the last 25 years, the organization that they established has allowed Armenian women to confidently and fruitfully accomplish projects in Armenia and Armenian communities abroad.
On March 13, the New Jersey branch celebrated this anniversary of a quarter-century at the Waterside Restaurant of North Bergen on the shores of the Hudson River. Approximately 160 members and supporters filled the hall. Margaret Janikian spoke words of welcome to the guests, while Nvair Beylerian acted as the master of ceremonies.
The ambassador of Armenia to the United Nations (UN), Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, was present, and declared that he had closely followed the activities of this organization even when he was working as an ambassador in Geneva, Switzerland. As it was the international week of women he also was participating in many activities at the UN prepared by Armenian and non-Armenian organizations.
Merguerian had come specially from Boston with other members of the AIWA central executive for this event, and spoke about AIWA’s mission. She is the author of several books and a member of the board of the Armenian Museum of America in Watertown, Mass.
Lisa Stepanian, one of the five founders of the AIWA NJ affiliate, was the honoree of the day. She introduced to the audience her collaborators and reminisced about early difficulties.
She was born in Yerevan and immigrated to the US in 1978. She began to participate in Armenian community life in the US at Union City, New Jersey’s Holy Cross Church by teaching Armenian language classes. After obtaining a degree in chemistry, in 1983 she began working with a large commercial firm. She has been working since 2015 as the executive director of Armenia Fund USA, the East Coast affiliate of the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund. She expressed her thanks to all donors, collaborators and those present, who, believing in the mission of the organization, have participated and worked towards its goals. She thanked the Tekeyan Cultural Association which gladly opened the doors of its New Jersey center for AIWA meetings and events.
Cellist Ani Kalayjian performed four classical pieces in the musical portion of the program.
At the conclusion of the event, Sossie Dadoyan Arlia spoke about the Jack in the Box Schools, which she founded and expanded in New Jersey. She encouraged women to be confident and take initiatives in life.
A cake commemorating the 25th anniversary, prepared by Serpouhi Vartivarian, was then cut. The members of the AIWA New Jersey executive include chairwoman Margaret Akian Janikian, vice chair Ani Chatmajian, treasurer Rose Yaverian, secretary Elizabeth Akian, and advisors Ruth Bedevian and Lisa Stepanian. A portion of the proceeds of the event went to benefit AIWA’s Women’s Entrepreneurial Program.