On April 13, 2019, Anna Hakobyan, founder and leader of two new charitable foundations in Armenia and spouse of Armenia’s Prime Minister, was the guest of honor at a luncheon with Armenian-American women in New York City organized by AGBU. Her visit to New York was the last stop of her 17-day U.S. tour, the main goal of which was to raise awareness for My Step and City of Smile foundations.

Welcoming Hakobyan on behalf of AGBU, Central Board Member Arda Haratunian described Hakobyan “not as the wife of the Prime Minister, but as an accomplished journalist, a passionate advocate, someone who has been an activist almost her entire life, and as a mother of four children.” In referring to Hakobyan’s newest role in the non-profit arena, Haratunian considered how charity fits into the larger picture of the New Armenia agenda. “Government is there to serve the needs of the people; to make sure there is economic opportunity; and work to eradicate poverty. And since no government can meet all its national priorities at once, that’s where the non-profit sector comes in. That is what AGBU has been doing for 113 years and what My Step and City of Smile foundations are doing to assist wherever needed and fill in the gaps.”

Hakobyan responded by stating, “It is very important for me to meet powerful Armenian women, in New York City, the heart of the world.” She also characterized the numerous meetings and events she attended over the past few weeks as “very successful.” In Washington D.C. she was received by U.S. Representatives and had several meetings and speeches at the U.S. Congress, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the National Endowment for Democracy and the Library of Congress. She also met with the Armenian communities in Boston and Los-Angeles. Notably, in Memphis, she signed a memorandum of understanding with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, making Armenia the first partner in St. Jude’s global pediatric cancer fight.

Hakobyan expressed her gratitude for the support of Armenians and non-Armenians alike, emphasizing how very proud she was to hear what Americans had to say about Armenia. “The American people who I met were so excited about Armenia, about our revolution, about our people, and their achievements. And this is so important for me.” She explained that, while her foundations are charitable, her goal is to provide sustainable and long-term development, not just a handout. She also spoke about the need for culture change in Armenia. Acknowledging that many in Armenia are accustomed to receiving help from the diaspora, she expressed hope that My Step Foundation will create a new culture of philanthropy within Armenia. “It is very important in the society for people to take care of each other, of the needy next to them and not to think only about themselves, their own benefit and happiness. We, at My Step Foundation, want to achieve these kinds of results.”

She also fielded questions about women’s rights, domestic violence, and educational reforms. She agreed these are pressing concerns for Armenia and, in time, hopes to address them all. In response to a question about the one message that diasporans should deliver as ambassadors for Armenia, Hakobyan replied, “The Women for Peace Initiative is very important for me; I would like us to be advocates of this initiative and raise our voice as Armenian women and mothers for peace in our region. Call on decision-makers not to use force or violence.” In regard to the frozen conflict between Republics of Armenia and Artsakh with Azerbaijan, Hakobyan was clear. “My message is that it doesn't matter whether they are Armenians or Azerbaijanis, they are just 18 to 20-year-old soldiers, and they don't deserve to die because politicians can't sit around a table and work to find a solution to the conflict.”

Guests were also given the opportunity to engage with Hakobyan in one-on-one conversations at her table, before she departed for a town hall meeting with the Armenian community at the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church.


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