Estera Mkrtumyan

Estera Mkrtumyan

“Diplomacy is going to be equally difficult for everyone”

H.E. Estera Mkrtumyan is the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Armenia to the Argentine Republic. She also represents Armenia in Uruguay, Chile, and Peru. Being in such a demanding position, she is convinced that it is for the good of a traditional family to have a working woman.

 

Interview : Tatevik Stepanyan

 

Your Excellency, how would you evaluate the state of Armenian-Argentine relations?

— The Argentine Republic is 200 years old, and for about 100 years – half of its history – it has had close and constantly improving relations with Armenia. Argentina was one of the first countries in the world to recognize the First Republic of Armenia in 1918. Moreover, it was the first country in Latin America where an Armenian embassy was opened. By the way, in April we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of opening the embassy in Buenos Aires. The country has a big and well respected Armenian community. When I first came here I was amazed by how well our culture is known here. Furthermore, Argentines are well informed about the Armenian Genocide of 1915: school and university textbooks have respective references to the issue and April 24 is officially observed as a day of remembrance here. And this is largely thanks to the efforts of the Armenian community. Since the independence of Armenia, the two countries have always supported each other on international platforms. By the way, in 1998, when President Carlos Menem first visited Armenia, I had just graduated from the Yerevan State University and was volunteering as a translator for the official delegation.

Are there positive results in economic sphere?

— In terms of economics, the distance of 14 000 km separating us matters a lot. This makes it harder to increase the volume of commodity turnover substantially. However, thanks to the efforts of Mr Eduardo Eurnekian, Argentina is considered the fifth biggest investor in Armenia. This also speaks about the valuable contribution of the Armenian community in Armenia’s social and economic development.

It is known that the closest cooperation is in the field of arts and culture. What projects in this area are you implementing currently?

— Did you know that Armenian literature days are being held here for 42 years now? They are organised in the framework of Buenos Aires International Book Fair. Before the embassy was established, the Armenian community proved to be instrumental in ensuring Armenia’s presence in the fair. Now we work on this together with “Hay Kentron,” the administrative body of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The event is visited by many Armenian authors who present their works to local readers. Alongside with this, numerous Armenian performers also are often guests here. By the way, the Argentine side invited Cadence Ensemble from Yerevan to participate in Buenos Aires Tango Festival and 90% of the audience were Argentines.

In regards with cultural cooperation, I have to mention that Argentina is a country where they have many places with Armenian names. There is even Zoravar Andranik street in the city of Córdoba. 35 Armenian monuments stand in Buenos Aires only, and the largest park of the city, around eight hectars, bears the name of our country – Armenia.

This issue of Regional Post is dedicated to women’s empowerment in South Caucasus. As a very successful woman, could you share the experience of building a career in a field which is traditionally regarded as “male” occupation in Armenia?

— Throughout the history, Armenian women played a significant role in the society. We know that Armenian queens were not only supporters of their husbands but also important decision makers. However, the country had long been a part of Eastern empires where a certain, very strict gender perception existed and the right of women to eductaion was restricted. This, of course, left its imprint on the Armenian culture. However, Armenia is amongst the most progressive countries to stipulate the right to equal rights between men and women, including the right of women to education in the legislations drafted by Mkhitar Gosh and Shahamir Shahamiryan in the 12th and 18th centuries, respectively. It is worth remembering that even during the First Republic, Diana Abgar, Armenia’s ambassador to Japan, was one of the first female ambassadors in the world. Today we have very brave women working in, for example, demining. I say this because I believe that everybody should have equal opportunities and do what they are most skilled in.

I personally have had no difficulties because of my gender. I started my career in the National Assembly, and all my men superiors supported me and played a major role in my achievements and career promotion.

Do you think professional and personal lives may be combined even if you are in a top managing position?

— I am convinced that job and family do not exclude each other. Vice versa, they supplement each other. People may have different priorities in different stages of their lives. It is really difficult to have a newborn and continue your working carrier at the same time, but there are necessary conditions in many countries to make it easier. I am proud to say that Armenia, where maternity leave may last up to three years, is one of the leaders here. That is to say, a working woman is an asset to the family where love and respect are prevailing values. Besides, there are many cases when men dedicate too much time to work, thus neglecting the basic needs and attention they have to devote to their families. So, there always should be a dialogue between partners not to let one’s professional occupation to be an obstacle. Also, as mothers are the ones who are considered to be more responsible in raising and educating children in the traditional family, their work, skills and knowledge may only have a positive impact on kids. So, I do not see any contradiction here. Lastly, we have to be prepared for anything that can happen in life: unfortunately, families may sometimes split up. In this case women should be able to support themselves.

Is working environment in Argentina different in terms of gender equality?

— Argentina is a country where they pay a lot of effort to protect human rights and eliminate discrimination. Many top positions in the government are occupied by women, including the acting Minister of Security.

What would you recommend to the young generation of fellow females who just start their careers in diplomacy?

— I would not separate men and women in this field – diplomacy is going to be equally difficult for everyone. It requires a complex of multiple skills and professions to succeed in your career, and sometimes a combination of an economist, a psychologist and a foreign policy expert. And if you have excellent communication skills and the will to improve constantly, you will certainly make a great contribution to the future development of your country.