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Capes have always been synonymous with superheroes, from Batman, and Superman, to captain marvel etc., capes are believed to empower superheroes with magical wings, and the ability to fly to the rescue, and do amazing things like save the planet or destroy the enemy.

It’s a little wonder that these capes have found their way onto the backs of the real-life superheroes, as they have become a part of the modern-day women’s clothing designs. Women are Afterall, the superheroes in our everyday lives.

We’ve all come across the famous cape-like jackets and other cape inspired designs, making the rounds in the 2018 fashion scene.

From the stunning Salvatore Ferragamo Fall 2016 cape jacket design, snatched off the runway by Nigeria’s First Lady Aisha Buhari, to the amazing cape inspired wedding outfit with which the famous American tennis superstar, Serena Williams, dazzled the world at her 2017 fall wedding.

These unique cape-inspired outfits, continue to metamorphose through an evolution of designs, weaves, and styles, created in different fabrics by renowned designers through to the 2018 fashion season.

These unique and stylish designs have adorned the backs of famous superstars such as the beautiful American singer and actress, Jennifer Lopez, the adorable actress, and businesswoman Gwyneth Paltrow, and Nigeria’s famous top Nollywood actress and movie producer, Genevieve Nnaji.

Royalty has not been left out of the trend as they have also taken a liking to these unique designs as seen on the stunning Duchess of Sussex, and retired American actress Meghan Markle, and the regal Queen Mathilde of Belgium.

These stunning women have rocked these designs, leaving different fashion statements in their wake. Royalty, professional women, entrepreneurs, socialites, entertainers, and of course, working girls like me all have a one or a couple cape inspired outfits in added to their wardrobe.

There is no doubt that just like jumpsuits have become an irreplaceable constant in women’s wardrobes, these designs are here to stay.

I own a couple, tailored in different designs, just like some of my fashion loving friends; and  when I come across a fashion trend that is fast becoming a classic, I like to know where it originated from. So, I did some research, and here’s what I found.

First of all, a cape is a sleeveless outer garment, which drapes the wearer’s back, arms, and chest, and fastens at the neck. Familiar right? Well, it was a common fashion in medieval Europe, especially when combined with a hood in the chaperon, and it has since then, had periodic returns to fashion.

In nineteenth-century Europe, the Roman Catholic clergy wore a type of cape known as a ferraiolo, which is worn for formal events outside a ritualistic context. It looks quite familiar if you ask me.

Caped overcoats were also popular for men during the Victorian era, with some caped Ulsters featuring multiple layered capes, and the Inverness coat (both formal evening and working day variants). We just tweaked it up a little bit, and it sure looks stunning on women.

There have also been several modifications to this beautiful classic, so if you are getting ready for a chic lit outing, a business meeting, a flash party or an evening on the red carpet event, there is definitely a cape-inspired outfit to go with.

Dress the way you want to be addressed right? Well, that’s what we are doing.

Women are Afterall the Real superheroes, why not look the part?

 

By Boma Benjy Iwuoha

With the various drives going on in Africa to reduce the number of people infected and living with HIV/AIDS, the Consortium of Leadership & Gender Experts (CLGE] has been set up to bridge the gender discriminations that exists on the continent. In an exclusive interview with Amazons Watch Magazine, Dr Tinaye tells us more about the future of Africa and what the plans for PLWHA are on the continent. Excerpts:

  1. Our findings reveal that you have put in over twenty years in the academia and social development in the areas of education, health – HIV/AIDS, & gender. Kindly tell about yourself and your career in these fields.

I am, first and foremost a nurse, at heart and by training but, I was never a clinical nurse! I went in as a Clinical Instructor/Student Fellow upon nursing training completion. After working for just over a year I went for further studies to read for a Bachelors’ Degree, Education at the University. Later, I obtained a Master of Science, Midwifery and Doctor of Philosophy (Sociology) Degrees.  I lectured health professionals – Midwives – over a 15-year period.  During this tenure, I rose through the academic ladder within a Public Tertiary Institution to the highest rank of Senior Lecturer and doubled as Program Coordinator for the program. I cherish those years since Midwifery is close to my heart. Back then, job satisfaction came from observing starry faced Midwifery novices turning into seasoned dexterous professionals capable of managing expectant women through the delivery of live and healthy bundles of joy! Many of my former students continue to humble me by expressing gratitude for setting them up a career advancement pathway every time we meet! As I also proved adept at administration, I swiftly progressed in my career to management level with the admiration of my peers and gratification of my employer. All this achievement came with hard work, humility and by Grace!

Notwithstanding this rather picturesque experience, professional agitation for better and bigger calls knocked at my door. This was in the form of organizational politicking and a nagging feeling to move on to other agendas. I was always passionate about making something out of myself by giving towards bettering other peoples’ lives. So, I joined international NGOs to do development projects addressing topical health issues of the day. In the early 2000s, HIV was the biggest deal. In 2002, together with the Country Director and I as Country Deputy Director set up a Botswana subsidiary of PSG-South Africa known as Matshelo Community Development Association (MCDA), to run an HIV Prevention Program for 11 SADC countries underfunding that was previously managed by the University of Botswana- Center for Continuing Education. The subsidiary CBO exists up to date.  The project was a broad-based project and aimed at addressing foundational and structural barriers to HIV prevention. It adopted participatory educational and outreach approaches through the use of peer education techniques and targeted vulnerable and hard to reach community groups (including youth particularly girls, out of school youth, unemployed women and sex workers among others). It was a multi-faceted project with capacity building of core groups to cascade skills and knowledge to peers in their communities serving as the main instrument for operating at scale to attain a felt impact. In Botswana, we worked in 16 sites along the railway line and border town communities. It was a marvellous project that allowed African countries to share experiences on the trajectory of HIV and AIDS; research engagements and bring results from various parts of the sub-continent together creating holistic telling loops about the scourge and; create a momentous feeling for regional clusters to catch up or do better amidst a sense of camaraderie and oneness!

With lessons from MCDA work, regional and international exchanges, I set up a project as Country Director for Johns Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs in Botswana. The project, Gender Initiative on Girls’ Vulnerability, simply known as GGI for Go! Girls Initiative aimed at reducing girls’ vulnerability through a multi-dimensional approach embracing all groups of people that impact girls’ HIV status. It included intervention research- pre-assessments, designing action packages using research findings and developing relevant materials for the programs, working with communities to act and reviewing results of the action. I couldn’t benefit any better from a project and I regard it as the epitome of my career! The pleasure of working with mothers, girls and boys, adult men and women in their communities, tribal authorities, extension workers, government officials (middle supervisors) and policymakers was immeasurable.  The enthusiasm and commitment to do something about their life situation and promote the safety of the girl child were palpable across communities. The greatest lesson for me was how lopsided our common top-down public planning undermines the very outcomes for which we strive! I thought a little nudge in the right direction for inclusivity and full participation of all towards solving social and development challenges can tip the scales positively big time. This was a turning point for me which explains my inspiration to found CLGE – a vehicle for transforming lives for the better!

Working for the UNDP, Botswana felt like a final stopover in my employment career for advisory/policy formulation and advocacy purposes. Given the wealth of lessons from the amazing organizations I partook in, surely, I wasn’t short of contributions. As Manager for the Country Office Health, HIV and Gender Programme, I smoothly contributed to the formulation, review and design of policies and guidelines working alongside government institutions. Some strategic formulations include; the National HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan and its implementation tools, Gender and Development Policy and needs assessment studies for various policy reforms e.g. family policy, gender mainstreaming in various policies etc. I enjoyed engagement in different dialogue platforms for many social and development work.

Familiarity with the UN system was an eye opener about the institutionalization of power and how national/regional/international efforts sidetrack the man on the ground despite the good intentions. Indication – there are gaps that require to be filled to complete the circuit by reaching out to where it matters most – grassroots!

  1. Botswana has the second highest HIV prevalence in the world with latest reports estimating it to be around 17.6% of the general population, 24% for 15 years and above age group, and 48.9% of women aged 30-34 years, while 33.3% of pregnant ones are HIV positive. What is your take on the prevalence of HIV/AIDs in Botswana?

Actually, figures were slightly adjusted according to the results of the last Botswana AIDS Impact Survey IV of 2013. Botswana has moved to third place after Lesotho and Swaziland. Prevalence now stands at 16.9%. Figures may not indicate a drastic improvement but, the downward trend is a promising sign. However, prevalence remains extremely high and it is expected to remain so for quite some time. To clarify, national prevalence shows how widespread the infection is in the country, i.e. the proportion of infected individuals to the population size. Given Botswana’s high infection rates in earlier years, it will take time to have more people in the population who are free of infection. These individuals are expected to come from uninfected newborn babies who will grow up into older population groups without being infected. Also, older people (children, youth and adults) who will remain uninfected should increase the size of the group of those people who remain free of infection in the population. I am happy to say we see signs that this picture is emerging. One good reason for this is the drop in the incidence rate (2.47 in 2013 from 2.9 in 2008). Incidence is the speed at which new cases occur over a period of time.  But, Botswana’s challenge is to step up behaviour change efforts by helping individuals to become stronger in adopting safety measures. These measures should not be those highly reliant on biomedical techniques like PMTCT, which in our case contributed much to fall in incidence. We should plan of launching our HIV free infants into a childhood and youth space where they can be bold and resilient to avoid infection at all costs as they approach the riskiest years of their lives (adolescence and the childbearing period).  These periods cover years that individuals are most sexually active. Serious dangers of HIV spread during the periods are associated with socio-cultural and gender inequalities and discrimination that increases risks for girls, women and inversely affects everyone. So, Botswana should implement combination prevention as soon as yesterday to reduce HIV incidence across a wide spectrum of population age groups resulting in much prevalence reduction. Such prevention measures require deliberate and coordinated empowerment of women, girls, men and boys towards a common vision, in addition to biomedical techniques

  1. Kindly tell us about your work and efforts in the fights against HIV/AIDS.

I am a people person who likes helping out all the time. So, I believe my work against HIV/AIDS began well before I started working on formal HIV related projects through my efforts as community worker towards all those around me – family, co-workers and social groups. I was always concerned about the consequences of behaviour on one’s life and was ready with a word of encouragement or counsel to support pro-life behaviour with tangible and sustainable benefits. This life outlook drifted me from the training of health professionals towards development projects. I started off as Country Deputy Director for Botswana in a regional HIV Prevention Program run for 11 SADC countries back in 2001 by Project Support Group (PSG) – a South African based NGO. We worked with universities on intervention research projects towards prevention – University of Botswana- Center for Continuing Education, University of Zimbabwe and the University of Oslo- Center for Anthropology. We also worked with vulnerable groups such as girls, out of school and unemployed youth, and women in communities to build their capacity and improve livelihoods. Then, I was Country Director for Botswana in a Johns Hopkins University –Center for Communications Programs project known as the Gender Initiative on Girls’ Vulnerability in three SADC countries – Botswana, Malawi & Mozambique. I was directing research activities for Botswana, planning program activities and overseeing all program activities in communities to complement regional project efforts. The focus was still on capacity building with an evidence base from the research findings to reduce girls’ vulnerability to HIV infection. I derived the greatest satisfaction out of my work life from these years as I could relate the value of academic work to life realities and at the same time bring worthy experiences to the learning table for dialogue and investigation. I regard this link as one of the biggest missing factors between education and its role in developing lives. Still in development work, I then worked for UNDP heading their Health/HIV and Gender Program. At this level my work focused on advisory services and policy formulation at national level. Tapping from my previous work experience I finally set up the Consortium of Leadership & Gender Experts [CLGE], a social enterprise that seeks to build leadership capacity for all to transform lives by addressing barriers such as discriminatory practices like gender, social exclusion by class/status etc. I believe the most lethal weapon for prevention of HIV transmission is the capacity to take charge of one’s life and avoid likely pitfalls that compromise individuals’ resilience and independence e.g. socio-cultural and gender pressures.  I believe that taking charge of self is a leadership function! 

  1. Findings reveal that gender discrimination continues to undermine efforts to ensure education for all, while over 80 per cent of children are in school in Botswana. Violence against women and girls, as well as problems with girls’ retention, continue to plague the school system. What are your thoughts on these and how do you think the society can address these challenges?

Challenges in the school system are only but an iceberg of a much wider social problem that plagues girls and women. Problems faced by girls at school are true signs of institutionalized social problems by gender lines. Problems in schools stand out because of the larger pool of girls in the same space over a period of time. But, imagine that individuals, girls and women are suffering the same fate silently in their various corners. Although everyone agrees that acts of violence and discrimination should be stopped, on a social level, tokenism exists. What I mean is that people believe that this is how society is and so, such acts should be expected – foundational misconceptions! It is important to instigate action for social transformation of both men and women at all levels – individual, peer networks, institutions and wider society.  I believe the key to transformation is the creation of a shared vision in which both men and women are winners and beneficiaries with a vested interest in the change. As it is now, the gender equality drive appears to be characterized by opposing interests. We can never win, that way!  

  1. How do you balance your family and career obligations?

I don’t cry for balance. I give thanks for the opportunity to do what I need to do when I do it! And still, give thanks for relaxation windows! That is what life is about. Balance comes because you are able to do what you like best, anywhere! My family is priority number one because relationships matter most to me. But, I am most pleasant and meaningful to them when I contribute at best towards my life course…. i.e. doing and saying that which brings a smile to everyone, fighting for fairness and justice for ALL. I am a grandmother of a lovely young girl. While I have always felt so much love for our son and daughter, I never felt so much fulfilment and a sense of extension into infinity until my granddaughter was born. It is such an amazing feeling…a blissful feeling of accomplishment that you cannot ascribe to any effort of yours! Although my husband hasn’t expressed it, I have always caught a glimpse of that contented smile on him when he watches the girl during her funny moments! The other thought that carries me through tough times is the love from mum and dad, and the feeling of belonging I developed growing up with my sisters.    

  1. What’s the best way for the readers of Amazons Watch Magazine to connect with you (You can include links to your social networks and websites)

www.clgebw.org

QUOTE: “I believe the most lethal weapon for prevention of HIV transmission is the capacity to take charge of one’s life and avoid likely pitfalls that compromise individuals’ resilience and independence.”

A gender equal society with a framework in which both sexes have access to equal opportunities is one that every woman looks forward to. In this exclusive interview with Amazons Watch Magazine, the General Manager of Central Bank of Ecuador, Ms. Veronica Artola Jarrin, discusses the progress made in promoting gender equality in her country over the years and more. Excerpts:

  • More than half of Ecuador’s population is made up of women. How would you rate the participation of women in socio-economic and political activities?

In recent years the gender equity has faced important improvements; however, it has a lengthy path ahead. The gap in gender equity has been bridging during the last 20 years, in Ecuador there are several examples that show the improvement in this topic. María Alejandra Vicuña is the second women in being nominated as Vice President of the Republic during Ecuador´s political history. Several local governments already have women as mayors and there are currently more women as candidates to assume positions of elected office.

The most important progress seen in Ecuador is observed at the National Assembly where the 38.69% of its members are women. The participation of women as heads of public institutions has increased, even in government bodies that were occupied by men through time, such as the Interior Ministry, Defense Ministry and the Central Bank of Ecuador.

But the gap still persists and in other areas it is more evident, the socio-economic situation of women is even disturbing. The last 20 years until 2016, have faced a phenomenon of poverty´s feminization, which is undoubtedly related to other problems such as the gap in wage and work. Women still work up to three times more than men, and much of that time, without any remuneration. There is a marked job insecurity in women, despite the fact that access to education gap had been closed, the labor market is still governed by gender-generic parameters that affects women. This cause that many women prefer to chose low-paid and precarious jobs where they are faced to labor exploitation, such domestic service or child care.

Additionally, the gender violence is still alarming in Ecuador, by 2011, one in four women had suffered some type of sexual assault and the current femicide situations have shocked the society. There are important gaps from the economic perspective, women are excluded from the financial system, economic violence and traditional roles still limiting the participation of women in the economic field.

  • Ecuador has over the years maintained economic stability rising in ranks among other Southern American countries. What will you say is responsible for this?

The management and financing model in recent years has focused on taking advantage of the positive externalities presented in the world economy, especially the ones related to the high price of commodities, which were channeled into public investment to generate the necessary conditions, in particular in infrastructure to boost private investment.

In this regard, public management played an important role in the economy and fostered the dynamism of a large part of the economic sectors, promoting public purchases to Ecuadorian suppliers, the incorporation of capital goods and national raw material into strategic projects of the State and the articulation of public and private actors, and universities and popular economy actors as well.

In this context, the Central Bank of Ecuador has searched for the proper functioning of the monetary and financial system through the optimal administration of liquidity and economic flows, protecting the systemic stability and promoting the access of the population to credit and financial services.

Currently, we are faced with a new macroeconomic scenario where it is evident the necessity to take advantage of the conditions previously generated in the benefit of the private sector. Meanwhile the public sector should focus its management towards efficiency of the resources that were previously provided and look for new actions and tools that allow us to cope with a less favorable economic outlook for our country, since the price of commodities has shown a lower price level and it has been complemented by the appreciation of the dollar and unfortunately we had to manage non-predictable natural events, such as the April 16, 2016 earthquake.

In this way, we believe the productive sector will be decisive (as it has always been, but now with greater emphasis) in pursuing national objectives and thus the economic situation. Therefore, we have seen the need to articulate spaces and actions aimed at this objective, such as the disclosure of the “Organic Law of incentives for public-private partnerships” and the “Organic Law for productive promotion”, which are aimed to a healthy articulation between the public and the private sector.

  • In your opinion, what are some of the trade policies which can be put in place to boost economic growth?

We are looking to generate opportunities for the development of our exports and therefore achieve our national objectives like: the productive diversification based on the incorporation of added value, in the impulse of exports; its expansion in products and destinations, and import substitution; the inclusion of actors and the continuous improvement of productivity and competitiveness, in a transversal way in all sectors of the economy. In this sense, it is possible to analyze a greater commercial openness to the world, focused towards economic recovery, so the best strategies are being analyzed to initiate relations with blocs of nations with which we can count on synergies that mutually benefit us.

It is important to note that non-oil exports as a component of the total exports of Ecuador, have emerged strongly in the last ten years, showing a greater participation in the total composition of the goods sent abroad. In 2008, non-oil exports accounted for 38%, while the weight of oil exports amounted to 62%. On the contrary, in 2017 a structural change in the economy was reflected, since 64% corresponded to non-oil exports

Although, it is necessary to continue working on the diversification and positioning of our products and services at international level, there is still evidence of a predominance of primary products (especially banana and shrimp),and the quality and global acceptance of our products compel us to support our national production through the modernization and aggregation of value to our products. This should be complemented with the management of attraction and promotion of investments, in line with the development of objectives and strategies for the generation of employment and promotion through the income of currencies.

What is previously mentioned is articulated and implemented through the policies projected in the national development plan called “Plan toda una vida”, aimed at boosting productivity and competitiveness for sustainable economic growth in are distributive and solidarity way.

  • The Central Bank of Ecuador has put in place an institution which supports pregnant and breastfeeding women. What specific occurrences prompted this move?

The Central Bank of Ecuador permanently advocates actions that allow the promotion of a positive working culture, as well as promoting the improvement in the living and working conditions of those who are part of the entity. We are committed to build a proactive, empowered and socially responsible organizational culture. On the basis of this challenge, the institution has worked from various points, in which the promotion of gender equity has been addressed as a priority and integral strategy plan of the Bank.

 

Consistent with this line of action, in July 2017, I arranged the implementation of a lactation area in the bank, knowing the importance of breastfeeding to contribute to the gender equity strategy and ensure compliance with the rights of female workers in postpartum period. To date, among the bank officials we have 216 women of childbearing age, 8 are pregnant and 13 in breastfeeding period, which could benefit from this space. Among them I am one who will be a user of this area because last Thursday October 25, I gave birth to my little daughter Paula, who will also be a direct beneficiary of the lactation area of the Central bank.

This space is certified by the Ministry of Public Health due to compliance of high sanitary and technical standards, but also because it is a cozy, quiet and luminous place, where it will be a pleasure and joy for me to feed my beloved daughter.

  • In recent times, women protested several injustices from workplace marginalization to assaults of different kinds. How best do you think the rights of women can be protected?

One can protect women’s rights first of all, through acknowledgement, awareness raising and self appropriation, that is, as women, demanding respect of rights and educating children and men to do the same.  Also, there must be punitive action against those who disrespect these rights, and the act of filing a claim should count on clear means of communication.

I am one of the few women around the world, at the head office of a Central Bank. It seems we are only a bit over twenty in total, and I have recently given birth to my little baby girl, Paula. It is appalling to see at a local, but also international scale, the impact caused by a female Governor of a Central Bank being pregnant and exercising her right to go on maternity leave, when this is something natural and it’s a basic right; maybe even at the basis for the existence of human race. Nowadays it is still a step forward to see a high official simply benefiting from a right and that alone lets on that there is still a lot of work to be done.  Hopefully these small examples  make an impact on society, making it every time more natural to see women exercising rights such as maternity leave, and generating no criticism or amazement.

When we stand up for our rights, we’re also standing up for the rights of other women.

On the other hand, to make other women’s rights true, facilities must be given for them to be effective.  During my time in office at the Central Bank of Ecuador, I have worked widely around the country with events and round-table discussions, aside from promoting research on gender equity from economics.  This way, we further respect to women’s economic rights and gender equity and we reassert our total rejection to gender violence.

As a final step, we’ve set forward a ten-million-dollar fund for women that are currently suffering abuse, to finance entrepreneurship, thus providing them with a tool to effectively leave that circle of violence through self-generating income. This is key from a women’s right perspective, because it creates tools that allow effective enforcement of these rights.

  • To which of your career experiences do you credit your quality service and outstanding work ethics as Chief Executive Officer of the Central Bank of Ecuador?

My professional career has being closely linked to the Central Bank of Ecuador for a very long time. I started working in this institution over fifteen years ago as a young professional of the Studies Department and was later promoted to other positions that demanded more responsibilities.

Being part of this institution and to have been considered to hold such positions, is the result of an arduous effort, but also of the opportunities that were given to me by an institution that treasures commitment and professionalism beyond one’s gender.  It is precisely this tight link to the Central Bank of Ecuador that has motivated me to always give the best of myself in this important task that I have been assigned.

This experience in the Central Bank of Ecuador, added up to other high responsibility positions that I’ve held as public server[1] and in several working areas that include public policy configuration and effective implementation, have restated my commitment with community service. I believe this is expressed through empathy, transparency, efficiency and ethics. A service-minded attitude and a high sense of professional ethics are a condition, but not the outcome of a successful professional experience, which is why they should be applied on every task that we perform.

QUOTE: The most important progress seen in Ecuador is observed at the National Assembly where the 38.69% of its members are women. The participation of women as heads of public institutions has increased.

In this exclusive interview with the Amazons Watch magazine, the Spouse of the President of Armenia discussed the gender gaps and challenges of women in Armenia and some of the efforts of the government in tackling them. Excerpt:

Your Excellency, thank you for granting us this opportunity to interact with you. In describing your childhood, you have been quoted to have said that you don’t have a rich family background, but had enough money to feed and clothe yourselves. Kindly tell us more about your background and some of your experiences growing up in Soviet Armenia.

I was born into an intellectual family in the Republic of Armenia, USSR. My father was a writer and journalist. My mother was a teacher of Armenian language and literature.

I went to a school where the English language was taught parallel to Armenian and Russian. We were staging Bernard Shaw’s and Shaespear’s plays in original language. I considered myself lucky to have the parts of Eliza Doolittle “Pygmalionˮ, and Cordelia “King Learˮ and Juliet “Romeo and Julietˮ. The schools gave us excellent education.

The life in the communist regime was harsh and difficult, with restricted freedom. There were no rich or poor people. My parents were making enough money to buy food, clothes and books. My mother’s salary was spent on transport, food and clothing, my father’s – on books. Most of objects of necessity were considered to be a luxury, including good books. One had to register, queue and wait for months for a good dictionary or a novel. Many books were forbidden, like “Master and Margaritaˮ by Bulgakov, so we were secretly circulating them among us, teenagers. In spite of all restrictions and lack of goods, we – children of Soviet society were getting excellent education for free.

We learnt that you worked at the Research Institute of Ancient Manuscripts in Yerevan, after graduating from Yerevan State University. Please tell us about your professional activities in your country.

Matenadaran, one of the largest manuscript depositories of the world was a unique institution. While working there I had the opportunity to meet with many scholars and look at thousands of medieval manuscripts with gorgeous skillfully done illustrations and improve my professional skills on Medieval Armenian art and history. I was paid very little, but so-called material life was not a priority. 

Parallel to my work at the Institute, I started to write essays for the Armenian Radio on culture as well as about the work of prominent artists and musicians. I have made up a rich basis for myself, based on my work and our family library.

We understand that in 1991 you relocated to London with your family, and started writing articles on art, music and culture, as well as authoring stories for children. Kindly share with us your experience living with your family in London and how the Western Culture affected your writings and professional activities.

We, as a family of four, my husband Armen Sarkissian, my two sons Vartan and Hayk and I, settled down in London in 1991. We have been connected with the West since 1984, due to the work of my husband, who used to be a physicist.

Once my husband became the first Ambassador of the independent Republic of Armenia in the UK, I entered the Department of History of Art at Goldsmiths’ College, London University and graduated with an MA. Art became my priority and I did numerous courses at Sotheby’s Auction House, Christie’s Auction House and at Westminster College – to improve my drawing and painting skills. I continued to write on Art and artistic people for newspapers of Armenian Diaspora.

For many years I dedicated my time and energy to International and Armenian charities, raising funds through concerts of classical music, inviting famous musicians, choirs and orchestras for good causes.

Your books, including The Magic Buttons, which is the first to be published in English, teach children to love and respect moral values, and also to be resourceful and brave in defending same. What inspires your literary writing?

Our world is complicated. It is becoming more and more difficult to preserve moral values in such a complex environment for very young minds. It is extremely important priority for my generation to present to the young generation of our children and in my case – grandchildren, values like kindness, love, family, friendship and through books and word of mouth. It is important to teach them not to be lazy and to have goals and to have dreams in their lives. That is why I spend a lot of time visiting schools for talks and workshops with children. Good moral and disciplinary values are shaped in human beings at the very early age, during childhood, that’s why it is utmost importance to pay more attention on the education of children at nurseries and schools.

The world of children is different. It is not easy to write for them. One has to look at things through their prism and keep them still interested with books in the huge flow of electronic information around them.

I find inspiration for my books in the world of children who I love.

Research has shown that gender imbalances and inequality remain salient in Armenia in terms of women’s access to economic opportunities, underrepresentation in leadership roles, and health and survival. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Gender Gap Index 2017, Armenia is ranked 97th among 144 countries. What are your thoughts on gender inequality and efforts to close gender gaps?

We attach a great importance to this issue. I would like to stress that participation of women in our economy has dynamically increased during recent years. This also creates necessary guarantees and sustainable grounds for reducing poverty, consumption and income gap between the men and women in our society.

We constantly invest in women’s economic empowerment as it sets a direct path towards gender equality and inclusive economic growth. Women make enormous contributions to economies, whether in business, on farms, as entrepreneurs or employees, or by doing unpaid care work at home.

Improvement in women’s economic activity has also led to the strengthening of their political activity and today we already have many successful examples.

At present the Government has initiated the development of new strategy for 2019 -2023on providing equal rights and equal opportunities for women and men. This long-term action plan would explicitly address all areas that involve women as participant and/or final user. And on everyday basis, policies will  target the elimination of existing gaps and the prevention of new ones.

Domestic violence has been a prevalent problem for Armenian society. Statistics from women’s rights NGOs reveal that there were 602 cases of domestic violence officially registered by the Armenian police in 2017, as at October; and from 2010 – 2017, at least 50 women were killed by their partners or ex-partners. Remarkably, the National Assembly of Armenia in 2017 adopted legislation aimed at combating domestic violence by introducing criminal and administrative liability against those found guilty of the crime. What are your thoughts on domestic violence and abuse in the country, and do you think this legislation and its full implementation will be effective in reducing the worrisome trend in the country?

It is also a very important issue, as until the adoption of the “Law on Prevention of Violence within the Family, Protection of Victims of Violence within the Family and Restoration of Peace in the Family” in December 2017, there have been no specific regulations in place on domestic violence, and the Criminal Code regulated acts of violence against women in general. In January 2018, Armenia signed the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention).

Now we witness raise of public awareness, which together with the implementation of respective laws play significant role in violence prevention, which is also another major factor in violence elimination.

I strongly believe that undertaken actions would result in significant improvement of situation.

Flipping through the pages of a magazine content containing the list of women whose giant strides in S.T.E.M are unbelievable, I noticed that one woman was distinctly different from the others just by the uniqueness displayed by each person in a particular S.T.E.M field.

Against all the odds, women in S.T.E.M are still excelling and impacting the world with their knowledge and skills in the various S.T.E.M fields in which they operate. They have been encouraging, impactful and very teachable to the worldwide women society.

An example of these women is the amiable Thai Lee, the Owner, CEO and President of the largest female-owned business in America, SHI International.

Thai is a successful woman in S.T.E.M and a wealthy female business leader; she was born in Bangkok, Thailand in 1958. Her father was a prominent Korean economist, who traveled the world with his wife and four children, promoting his country’s postwar development plan.

Thai was born during the period when the heat between both sides of Korea was really intense. She is the second girl among three sisters and a brother. During her early years, Thai acted differently from her other siblings, she was focused and a deep thinker, who spent most of her time thinking and planning on her family’s survival.

Thai moved to the United States with Margaret her older sister when she was a teenager, to pursue and further her education. They lived with a family friend in Amherst a little town in Massachusetts, United States.

She attended a high school in Amherst and later enrolled at Amherst College earning a double major BA in biology and economics. During her college days, like most foreigners, Thai had difficulty with her accent and fluency in English. Because she was determined to get the best grade, she avoided any course that required writing and speaking in class. She had always believed that her only chance of becoming a successful person in life was to do business and start up her own enterprise.

She had set her heart on being an entrepreneur and she was ready to go the extra mile without any distraction. Her plans were to devote her 20s, to learning all about business so that by age 30, she would be running her own company and then get married and have kids by age 40.

As sweet and clean as it may sound, it did not end up as she had planned it out, but today she is a renowned successful woman in S.T.E.M.

Thai moved to Korea after college and worked at Daesung Industrial Co. an auto parts maker in Seoul in order to raise enough money to further her education. After some years, she was back in Massachusetts to pursue her MBA in the Harvard Business School and earned her degree 1985, becoming the first Korean woman to graduate from the business school.

After her MBA, Thai started out with a job at Procter & Gamble working on brands like Always and Crest, she worked there for two years and later moved to American Express where she also worked for another two years. The whole essence of working after business school was to help prepare herself for the entrepreneurship journey which she has now built in the S.T.E.M Industry.

Speaking of S.T.E.M, Thai was never interested in technology, all the while she had been dreaming of becoming a self-made business tycoon, she was not looking at the Technology Industry. At the time when she became very passionate about her ambition, she had very little exposure to personal computers and her access to it was very limited.

Thai got married to a Columbia-educated lawyer Leo Koguan in 1989. Having shared her entrepreneurship dream with Leo, he was ready to go all the way with her to see that her dream becomes a reality. Soon after the couple was married they came face to face with a golden opportunity that could make Thai’s dream come true. It had to do with a software company in New Jersey, called Lautek. At that time, Lautek was on the verge of running down, the company had a tiny division called Software House that sold business licenses to run programs like Lotus 1-2-3. During that period the company had lost a large number of its customers and was left with just a few. However, the few customers were big like AT&T with vendors such as IBM.

Seeing the many potential values in its relationships with the vendors, the couple grabbed the opportunity by paying less than $1 million for the purchase of Software House, funding the purchase with savings and a few small loans.

Having bought the business, renamed the company as Software House International (SHI), just the way Thai has always dreamed about it. In the space of few years, with Thai’s vision and relentless hard work, she turned the company around into one of the most successful businesses in America with 3,000 employees.

Under her leadership, SHI has grown into a top-ranked provider of IT products and services. With an industry-high of 99 percent in customer retention. Currently, SHI is one of the largest privately-owned firms in the Industry.

Thai did not get up the ladder in a twinkle of an eye, it took dedication and perseverance amidst challenges for Thai to become a leading female business leader in the S.T.E.M industry and she is still making waves up till date.

It’s no secret that women in STEM still face a difficult struggle to reach gender parity. Many women working in science, technology, engineering and math report everything from “boy’s club” hiring practices to toxic working environments. STEM fields, like many other industries have a long way to go before they’re properly gender balanced. A new study published in Nature by female geoscientists and engineers diagnoses the problem more thoroughly — and offers some pretty brilliant solutions.

According to previously collected data, the women behind the study explain, women around the world show no shortage of passion for STEM: they make up 53 percent of global undergraduate and Masters students in science and 43 percent of PhDs, but only 28 percent manage to become researchers. The numbers get narrower the further you get up the ladder: in Europe in 2013, women made up only 24 percent of tenured science academics and only 13 percent of professors. And the problem isn’t that things are “still catching up”; there have been enough qualified women to do these jobs for decades. The structural barriers in place simply aren’t letting them get there.

The women also did a survey of over 300 people in their own field. Their numbers showed some pretty chronic under-representation in all the most vital areas, from journal publications to big scientific committees and high-prestige jobs at universities and institutions. Female researchers surveyed reported extensive gender stereotyping and not being taken seriously, a chronic lack of female role models in higher jobs, and being excluded from social events and attempting to network or get funding. It’s only a small study, but the trends aren’t exactly new.

The scientists behind the survey came up with a seven-point plan, and it sounds like it could truly knock gender bias on the head. And, importantly, they apply to men as well as women, and can be implemented across a broad swathe of industries.

The researchers laid out their plan as follows:

  1. Advocate for more women in prestige roles;
  2. Promote high-achieving females;
  3. Create awareness of gender bias;
  4. Speak up;
  5. Get better support for return to work;
  6. Redefine success; and,
  7. Encourage more women to enter the discipline at a young age.

The study’s conclusion outlines more actionable ways to implement these steps. “I think there are many [female] role models out there, but not enough are publicised the way males are,” one survey respondent noted, referring to step two. And the researchers also placed an emphasis on having all members of the community, not just marginalized ones, speak up when they see examples of bias happening: “(sadly) men might be more inclined to listen when a fellow male engineer calls them out on their sexism,” another respondent said, according to the study.

Furthermore, on a structural level, things need to change. “It could be having a secure position and contributing to the field while working flexible hours and enjoying life beyond work, as opposed to being a ‘star performer’ based on often quantitative workplace and disciplinary criteria,” write the researchers. The ‘no home life, all work, all genius’ model tends to discriminate in favour of men.

Finally, giving women the permission and the push to enter STEM disciplines at a young age, and mentoring them when they do, may be a key factor in evening out gender inequality, the scientists note. Clearly women possess both the talent and the love for STEM to study it in huge numbers. But supporting them through their early careers is crucial for helping them to push forward and succeed.

The thing about this seven-part plan of attack is that it’s not just a good idea for STEM. It’s a decent set of approaches for any industry that deals with gender and wants to make women a key, respected and equal element. If you work in another industry or business entirely, but recognize that some of these approaches will seriously help out, go on and start making them a thing.

By JR THORPE

Nezha Hayat, is the founder and deputy chair of the Association des femmes’ chefs d’ enterprises du Marocis pacesetter in leadership. She believes that leadership cannot be fully explained without it being expressed by a woman, therefore, she relentlessly pushes for more women to play decision-making roles in the Moroccan economy. This desire for leadership was propelled by her background, growing up in an environment that supports financial independence at an early stage, regardless of the gender. 

Association des femmes’ chefs d’ enterprises du Maroc; is the first women’s professional association to obtain the certificate of ISO 9001 in 2008 for its activities. The Association was founded on 28 September 2000 and operates with determination and selflessness in promoting female entrepreneurship in the country.

Her desire to showcase the outstanding leadership traits in women led to the creation of “Le Club des femmes administrateurs au Maroc” in 2012, which helps to promote women in corporate boards. She was brought to the spotlight as a trailblazer in a competitive patriarchal system when she became the first woman on board of a major bank in Morocco; Morocco’s Capital Market Authority.

Hayat graduated from ESSEC Paris (An international higher education institution located in France). In1984, after her graduation from ESSEC Hayat started her career in Spain where she functioned in a few management positions before returning to her home country Morocco, in 1993. She also held a leadership position as a deputy director of Banque Nationale de Paris offshore unit in Tangier 1993. She is a founding member and Vice-Chair of AFEM (the Moroccan Association of Female Company Senior Executives). In Spain, she served at the international division of Banco Atlantico, responsible for international risks and restructured debt portfolio. She served in this capacity from 1985 -1988.

In 1999, she was elected President of the Association of stockbrokers in Morocco during two mandates.  She was also nominated as a global leader for tomorrow by the World Economic Forum in 2001.

Hayat being a woman with a consistent passion for service was appointed as president of the AMMC back in February 2016 by King Mohammed VI. Until her nomination, she worked at Société Générale Morocco group and in 2007, she became the first woman on a management board of a bank in the country.

Hayat also serves on the executive board of the Banque SocieteGenerale in Morocco. She is the founder of Morocco’s club of women corporate directors. She is the chairperson and CEO of the Moroccan Capital Market Authority. As the chairperson, she led her company to launch guidelines on corporate social responsibility and Environmental, Social Governance which was aimed at helping and encouraging companies to pursue sustainable development; thereby fulfilling the passion she has always had to give back to the society.

Hayat was also elected vice-president of the Regional Committee for Africa and the Middle East (AMERC) of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO). From 1988 to 1990, she was in charge of the department of corporate finance in two brokerage houses in Madrid (Inverfinanzas and then Bravo y Garayalde), while she moved to private banking activities in 1990 as the branch manager of Banco inversion in Marbella. She was chairperson and CEO of Sogelease (Société Générale Morocco group

Her desire to spearhead a global change in female leadership inspired the force towards every step of leadership she took as she continues to remain an epitome of excellence in female leadership.

Nezha Hayat is a true Amazon, Mirroring Excellence in Female Leadership on corporate boards.