Women at the Frontier: Healing, Empowering, and Nurturing Mindful Leaders

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Dr. Daria Diakonova-Curtis, Dr. Ani Kalayjian, Dr. Leslie Popoff

The 63rdsession of the United Nations (UN) Commission of the Status of Women  gathered thousands of community leaders, non-profit organization participants and activists to New York City from over 193 countries to discuss issues pertaining to this year’s priority theme: social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. On March 12, 2019, the Association for Trauma Outreach & Prevention (ATOP) Meaningfulworld was honored to present a parallel event, titled “Women at the Frontier: Healing, Empowering and Nurturing Mindful Leaders.” This parallel event took the form of a panel discussion with speakers whom have been promoting gender equality in different sectors. Each of the speakers shared their experiences and motivation as well as success stories to which their organizations have contributed. The audience had the opportunity to ask questions and learn how to get involved with the promotion of gender equality from our panelists.

The ambiance was warm and welcoming with candles, original paintings of Patrick Amazon depicting women displayed around the auditorium, and special essential oil infusion. The event began with a talented saxophonist, Steve Carrington, providing a musical interlude while guests gathered in the auditorium. ThenATOP Meaningfulworld United Nations Coordinator, Dr. Leslie Popoff welcomed all to the exciting session and introduced Dr. Ani Kalayjian, Founder, President of ATOP Meaningfulworld. Dr. Kalayjian opened the session by sharing her poem, “Gratitude to Mother Earth” here is the conclusion:

Thank you, Mother Earth, on this

63rdAnniversary of the Commission on Status of Women.

Just like you, we all possess

The power to choose, to Be, to care, and

To watch our emotions with detachment and love.


You show me how to become whole

By Being, and not as Descartes once said by thinking.

I am because I am a human being,

Not a human doing; I don’t identify with my negative thoughts,

Nor do I identify with my negative emotions. I am

Because I love unconditionally, and I create joy and peace

Within me as well as all around me.

A moment of silence followed to help center and calm participants.  Further, Dr. Kalayjian introduced ATOP Meaningfulworld’s work around the world and its commitment to serving marginalized women and girls. Dr. Kalayjian discussed how a “Managing your Emotions” handout is used in the field to help men and women understand their sources of anger, and how this anger is used to perpetuate horizontal violence against women. Session participants were asked to look at the handout and identify which emotions might fuel their own anger. Participants identified: fear, worry, sadness, anxiety, which in fact are the four most frequently expressed feelings driving anger. Dr. Kalayjian encouraged all to continue to measure our levels negative emotions daily, as if we had “an emotional thermometer,” to prevent built up and unmanaged emotional outbursts.

The next speaker was Mr. Carl Murrell, who has been working with the Baha’i Spiritual International Community for 30 years. He is also the Representative to the UN from the Baha’i community in the United States. Mr. Murrell explained that he became involved with groups of men who were challenging other men to talk about violence against women, particularly challenging toxic masculinity (anger, force, and violence) and working toward healthy masculinity (empathy, caring, and gaining emotional intelligence). He invited participants to view a Ted Talk featuring Tony Porter, titled “Man box,” which illustrates what happens when one’s humanity is reduced to the patriarchic norm.

Next, Dr. Kalayjian provided summary remarks and stated that the key for equality and equity is healing: “if you don’t take care of your wound, you will be bleeding on someone else, who did not cause it.” Usually it is the women who suffer from men who do not take care of their wounds, but as a society, everyone is responsible for taking care of their own and each other’s wounds.

Next, Sowmya Kshtriya, ATOP Meaningfulworld’s United Nation’s Fellow, introduced a film about a Humanitarian Outreach program in Haiti,and Dr. Kalayjian provided remarks about current political unrest in Haiti and ways that women and girls are affected by political violence and rape. She highlighted the following Meaningfulworld sustainable programs in Haiti: Peace & Forgiveness Gardens, sewing lessons and machines for the orphanages, having water pipes fixed so that they could have running water in the orphanage, sponsoring 10 children, and purchasing mattresses for the orphans, who were sleeping on floors.

The last panelist, Ms. Anye Young, was only 17 years old and a senior in high school. Ms. Young wrote a book last year, titled, Teen Guide to Living with Incarcerated Parents, and spoke about the absence of her father and the toll it took on her. Ms. Young had both parents until she was nine years old, when her father, an African-American man was sentenced to 12 years in prison for stealing clothes. Ms. Young revealed that before she wrote the book, she had abandoned all hope and faith, but putting pen to paper helped her to forgive her father for his decisions and provided healing by offering hope to other teens. Ms. Young is a passionate young woman who has turned hardship into healing and help for others, and she now speaks out against the mass incarceration crisis.

Following this presentation, Dr. Kalayjian discussed the power of herbs for calming our nervous systems and allowed participants to inhale herbal lavender to feel calm and at peace after an emotional presentation offered by Living doTERRA. Dr. Kalayjian then presented the 2019 Meaningfulworld Woman of Year Award to Chirlane I. McCray. The award was received by Aisha Doris, Director of ThriveNYC, a program that provides mental health in the city of New York. Ms. Doris mentioned that ThriveNYC provides free training to any adults in Mental Health First Aid to be a first responder in their community and recognize first signs of emotional distress. Dr. Kalayjian concluded the session by relating the panelists’ work to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including the work that ATOP Meaningfulworld conducts around the world to support gender equality through the 7-Step Integrative Healing Model.  Dr. Kalayjian stated that the Head-Heart-Handmust be aligned in order to nurture a peaceful, just, meaningful world and alleviate the suffering of ourselves and others. Finally, participants were reminded of the importance to educate and involve men in this work because they are often the ones writing laws and policies. The choice is ours: we can blow up buildings and hurt one another or lift one another up.

In closing, DrAni Kalayjian led the group in a moving Heart-to-Heart-Circle of Love and Gratitude for attendees to experience a sense of connectedness with each other, with women across the globe, and humanity at large.

Special gratitude to our sponsors: ATOP Meaningfulworld, Armenian Constitutional Rights Protective Center, Psychology Coalition at the United Nations (PCUN), Institute for Multicultural Counseling & Educational Services (IMCES), Armenian General Benevolent Union of America (AGBU), Nicole Howerton, Cristin Como, Vision League, Dr. Peter E. Nnaemeka, and Patrick Amazon.