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Put on the eyes of your imagination and think of how the world will be like if the privileged and financially endowed few in the society would swing to action, providing services that promote the welfare of others, especially through generous donations of money to good causes? I bet the world would definitely become a better place.

Some individuals who have acknowledged this truth have swung to philanthropic action, with activities that not only impact on lives positively but also inspire the next generation.

In this “Me First” era where most of the money bag citizens just clamor to use their wealth as a tool for more wealth, only a few individuals still consider philanthropy as a necessary tool towards the development of a nation. Therefore, it is of uttermost importance to celebrate the few selfless icons who have distinguished themselves as figures of indispensable ladder to greatness.

One of such personalities is the founder and Chairman of Beijing Orient Landscape; Madame He Qiaonv. This Chinese philanthropist has given not just a helping hand to her country, but also her heart to making the dreams of many a reality.

Born in east China’s Zhejiang Province in 1966 to a family who ran a successful business of buying and selling seedlings, she found her path of philanthropy at an early stage in life. Later on, she headed to Beijing Forestry University, emerging with a bachelor’s degree in 1988, before heading back to the family firm and spotting a gap in the labor market.

He Qiaonv is one of the founders of the China Global Philanthropy Institute, and a member of Mulan Club, a group of female business leaders in China that donated $44 million to Peking University to foster entrepreneurship by women. Her philanthropic desire propelled her to establish the Beijing Qiaonv Foundation which is devoted to support Panthera, an organization known for protecting the world’s wild cats. She stands out as one of the few individuals with the largest-ever personal philanthropic commitment to wildlife conservation.

He Qiaonv’s burning desire to better the life of others inspired her to adopt a diversified approach in her philanthropic acts, as she have impacted in different sectors of the Chinese economy. It is not strange to describe Qiaonv as an epitome of selflessness, seeing that her philanthropic acts spread across different sectors of her country.  

He Qiaonv’s foundation has set up projects that ensure a wide range of environmental safety such as tackling hazardous waste, polluted water systems, disappearing bodies of water, soil erosion and climate change. It is no doubt that her outstanding leadership qualities has placed her in the spotlight.

The Qiaonv Foundation was established in 2012 and has quietly been spreading its force in the past years, benefiting environmental groups, ecological think tanks, international cooperation, arts organizations, traditional culture, women’s entrepreneurship incubators, and more.

She is not just a philanthropic heroine but a philanthropic influencer who encourages others to involve in philanthropy.  She has engaged in a number of effective partnerships and this has helped in extending her philanthropic acts. Gates and He Qiaonv have established a college for international social good in Shenzhen in south China’s Guangdong Province along with three other collaborators who hope to progress the philanthropic spirit in the Middle Kingdom.

Her undying love to conserve the natural resources in her country has singled her out as an ardent conservationist who is raising a culture of environmental awareness, thereby creating a safe country for her people, as well extending a helping hand to less privileged citizens in China.

Despite being an active player in philanthropy, He Qiaonv is also a top-notch business personality. She is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Oriental Garden Company in Beijing, one of China’s largest landscape architecture firms. Through the works of this great philanthropist, it is quite glaring that the cure our world needs lie in the hand of selfless citizens who will effect the change they want to see in the society.

Zain Group, a leading digital lifestyle provider in eight markets across the Middle East and Africa, has introduced one of the most progressive and innovative human resources policies in the region, providing female employees who become new mothers with four months of paid maternity leave, with a flexible schedule for returning to work.

Picture Source, Teleco & CSP

This restructured leave policy, which falls under the Human Resources Policy Transformation theme, will be rolled out as a group-wide initiative ensuring a unified approach to the program.  

The new policy soon follows the creation of a new senior position within the organization, namely Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer, to drive Empowerment initiatives that define, enhance and continue to cultivate an equitable work environment within all Zain operations.   

The introduction of flexible working models has also been designed including six-hour work weeks for mothers with children up to four years old and an optional compressed working week enabling working mothers to work more hours over a compressed week to avail one day off.  

The incoming flexible work program will complement Zain Group’s recruitment, retention and development efforts, as the company shows itself to be an organization in tune with the needs of female employees to balance their careers with their family responsibilities.  

The announcement follows the hosting of the second annual Gender Diversity (WE) conference held in Kuwait in November 2018, where Zain Vice-Chairman and Group CEO, Bader Al-Kharafi, the brainchild of the WE initiative, first announced the significant regional first regarding the application of flexible hours for working mothers with children up to the age of four years.  

Commenting on the new HR policy, Bader Al-Kharafi said, “As a leading innovative corporate entity in the region, it is incumbent on us to providing more supportive working environments for female employees and forging an inclusive working environment.”  

He continued, “There are very few companies globally that offer a uniform family leave policy and we are proud to be bringing new standards of human resources support and implementation to the region. As an organization we are already well on the path to empowering our female counterparts on numerous levels, and this new maternity leave and flexible hours policy for working mothers will add further momentum to our efforts.”  

Once the new HR policy is fully implemented, Zain Group’s Human Resources team will measure the impact and effect of the policy, through annual engagement surveys, the cost benefit involved such recruitment and retention and the number of returning mothers.  

Zain’s WE program has already scored major successes in raising the profile of women in the organization, with the organization working towards increasing female leadership positions within the organization from 14.5% to 25% by 2020; and ultimately evolving towards a gender diverse workforce.    

Since Zain’s WE initiative official launch in November 2017, it has achieved the following accomplishments:  

  • Female leadership, director and above at Zain Group has grown from 14.5% to 15.5% in one year 
  • Female recruitment into Zain across all operations grew from 21% of total recruitment to 29%
  • The number of women at Chief level increased from 6 to 11, an 83% increase 
  • 33 high potential female leaders have been identified to form the Centered Leaders program 
  • 61 Women Empowerment Ambassadors have been onboarded and tasked with action planning 
  • Zain signed up to the UN Women Empowerment Principles and communicated this to all 6,000 employees 
  • Introduced a Women Empowerment communications app with 300 employees already using it 
  • Women Empowerment embedded into the board of director’s agenda and placed on CEO Scorecards 
  • Two talented women from Zain operations sponsored to attend MBA programs at ESADE, Barcelona 

Bader Al Kharafi concluded by reiterating his conviction in the WE initiative: “I firmly believe that championing gender diversity at Zain will create competitive differentiation, fast-track our strategic ambitions of unlocking the tremendous growth opportunities in the digital arena and at the same time improve the company’s bottom line.”   

Source: Zain

The U.K. development finance institution CDC is committing £1.6 million to TheBoardroom Africa to assist in doubling the number of women occupying company board seats in Africa by 2028.

The representation of women on company boards on Africa is disproportionately low. In Africa, 14% of company board seats are occupied by women, compared to 15% globally, according to the non-profit Catalyst.

Ghanaian entrepreneur Marcia Ashong founded TheBoardroom, or TBR, in 2016 to foster greater representation of women in African businesses through a network of peer-endorsed female candidates. It then helps connect companies and organizations with its candidates. Some of its recent placements include CDC portfolio organizations like MedAccess and the Africa Food Security Fund.

CDC’s Jen Braswell said TBR’s help to the CDC in finding “outstanding candidates for our portfolio that we would not have otherwise found” was a key reason for the investment. The funding was committed from a technical assistance program and is part of a new CDC gender-focused strategy.

Source: impactalpha.com

By John Chola

ZAMBIA has finally launched the global Vision Zero campaign, a process aimed at building a culture of prevention of occupational accidents that integrates safety, health and wellness.

Minister of Labour and Social Security Joyce Simukoko told hundreds of delegates from around the globe and within Zambia gathered in Livingstone for the official launch that the global Vision Zero campaign was premised on the belief that all occupational accidents and diseases are preventable.

Simukoko said the campaign resonates well with the policies of the Government of Zambia that seek to address occupational safety and health at work places across the country.

In a speech read for her by Ministry of Labour and Social Security Permanent Secretary Barnaby Mulenga on Friday December 14, 2018, Simukoko noted that occupational accidents and diseases, present colossal social and economic burdens to enterprises in the local and global economy.

She added that the attendant impact of injuries, disease and deaths was directly interpreted in appalling human and financial stress on communities and countries across the world.

“My Government has put in place adequate social security systems, for the protection of workers against employment injuries and diseases; this is because life and health can never be exchanged for any other benefits.

“Government, through the Ministry of Labour and Social Security will demonstrate through cooperation and dialogue that it is possible to create safe and healthy workplaces by embracing the Vision Zero campaign in Zambia,” affirmed Simukoko.

The minister further said that the Vision Zero campaign must guarantee the freedom to work in healthy and safe environment for all workers in Zambia.

“We all know that the human and social stress attributed to occupational hazards pose a real challenge for the Zambian as well as global economy with over 2.8 million deaths and 394 million accidents attributed to employment related activities.

“These numbers are way too high and therefore the need for a paradigm shift at every level of organisation from one of fault-finding, to one that focuses on finding solutions to prevent injuries and ill-health cannot be over emphasised,” Simukoko explained.

She said that the launch of Vision Zero campaign in Zambia was a timely intervention by the Workers’ Compensation Fund Control Board (WCFCB) in collaboration with the International Social Security Association (ISSA).

She commended the WCFCB and its local and international partners for taking a proactive approach to accident prevention and supporting the Government in taking leadership to ensure that workplaces in Zambia were safe and healthy.

Simukoko stated that the Vision Zero campaign was a positive response to the aspirations of the Government on the need to deliver a vibrant social security system that protects citizens against poverty, and destitution arising from employment-related injuries, diseases and deaths.

“Striving for a world without fatalities or injuries is one of the greatest challenges that confront us all, and to respond to these challenges we need to keep abreast with the latest developments, and constantly review existing legislation and policies on occupational safety and health in Zambia.

“My Government wishes to assure all partners involved that we fully embrace and support the Vision Zero campaign in the country because it confirms the commitment to oversee the implementation of policies that are seeking to transform into an efficient and effective organisation,” the minister said.

She made a clarion call to all stakeholders, especially employers to join the Vision Zero campaign and ensure that Zambia as a country delivered workplaces that were safe and healthy for all workers in the country by 2030.

WCFCB Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Nkumbula praised ISSA and partner organisations for delivering the promise on the launch of the Vision Zero campaign as collectively planned.

She explained that the Vision Zero campaign was a global undertaking launched by the ISSA during its 21st World Congress in September 2017 as a response to the increased number of occupational accidents across the world.

Nkumbula said that, in order to address stakeholder concerns on occupational accidents at workplaces, the ISSA introduced the Vision Zero Campaign as a transformation approach to prevention that embraces three dimensions being safety, health and well-being at all work places.

She said that the Vision Zero Campaign had been aligned to Zambia’s national Vision 2030, adding that it was her organisation’s expectation and hope that the preventable accidents and occupational diseases would be reduced by then.

Some of the local partners that worked closely with the ZCFCB in the launch include National Pension Scheme Authority (Napsa), Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (Zesco), Local Authority Superannuation Fund (LASF), Zambia Sugar, Public Service Pensions Fund and National Construction Council (NCC).

Others are Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) Road Development Agency (RDA and Indeni.

Before the launch, Zambia through the WCFCB had been holding stakeholder meetings to build momentum around the country towards the Vision Zero campaign.

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

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.