Today is international women’s day and on that occasion I would like to congratulate and salute women around the world and especially the women in my life who have made it possible for me to be here today and be who I am.
Some of you might be familiar with my story. I was born in Lebanon to refugee Armenian parents. I spent my childhood and youth there in that politically troubled country. To top it all I grew up listening to my grandparents’ horror stories of displacements. How they had to fight the Turks and how they were helped by the French and taken in boats with nothing but the clothes they had on to the safer shores of Lebanon. A place where they didn’t even speak the language.
My grandparents (and later my parents) went through many hardships to start a new life as refugees in this foreign country. And out of this nothing they were able to stand on their feet and build a new home, raise a good family. My grandmother from my mom’s side believed in education so much that she was able to pass on the passion to all three of her girls. Even though it was too late for my mom, my aunts went to university at a time when women were meant to be homemakers and didn’t have much of a voice in society. They believed:
“Give a girl an education and introduce her properly into the world, and ten to one but she has the means of settling well, without further expense to anybody. ” Jane Austen
And from my mom I learned the greatest lessons of life. I learned to look around at the less fortunate and count my blessings. I learned to work hard, as I learned that in order to succeed I had to have patience and perseverance. And due to the sacrifices she made (along with my dad), my two brothers and I were able to have a happy childhood even when hers was taken away from her.
I always looked up to them. Coming from such a family I grew up with no fear of life. It was only the other day when I expressed my concern to my daughter she told me:
“Don’t worry mom, I come from a family of strong women.”
So to the women in my life, to the strong women in my life, my maternal grandmother, may she rest in peace, my mother and my two aunts I say thank you, for if it weren’t for you I would not be who I am today. I love you so much. And to my daughter I say you are the best thing that happened to me in my life. I hope that as a woman you have no country, as a woman you want no country:
“As a woman I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world.” Virginia Woolf
You are a phenomenal woman and I love you so very much.