Breaking stereotypes: girls can!

7 May 2020

By Nane Vardanyan

3 min read

“You are a girl, you cannot do that,” an expression Nareh was told too many times and had to prove them wrong.

Meet Nareh Galstyan, a COAF Alumna, a sophomore at Brusov State University, and a football enthusiast. She was born in Armavir’s Lernagog village, one of the cleanest villages in Armenia. Nareh grew up as an active teenager doing the utmost to enroll in as many programs as possible.

She has never got along with the cliches and parochial opinions about the role of a woman in her surroundings, which are numerous. Human rights are her passion, and her inner instinct of breaking stereotypes and impacting the lives of others has become one of her highlighted qualities.

She was only 6 when COAF started its first programs at Lernagog school. “Thanks to COAF, my perspective has changed on different phenomena in life. I was introduced to the concept of diversification and, for sure, have become more open-minded and tolerant,” confesses the young go-getter. Deep in her heart, she dreams of becoming an actress, a desire she has had after participating in COAF’s “My Theater” and playing several performances with her friends.

English knowledge has impacted the lives of many COAF Alumni, including Nareh, who was chosen as a FLEX exchange student, thanks to the English Access program organized by the partnership of COAF and the U.S. Embassy in Armenia. Nareh spent almost a year in Minnesota, USA, a state characterized by cold weather but warm-hearted people. Here she discovered a new sport, shot put and discus, experienced rock-climbing, saw a giraffe, the animal she is obsessed with, for the first time, and tried the best tacos and lasagna in her life.

 

Nareh during the Pumpkin Festival in Minnesota, USA.

Nareh has always been interested in human rights and conflict resolution. Once, she was participating in a workshop in Kyiv, Ukraine. There were participants from 5 different countries, including Azerbaijan. The first time she met one of the girls from  Azerbaijan, she thought they looked exactly like each other as the girl had curly brown hair and brown eyes just like Nareh. When they got to the workshop, so many people asked if they were twins. “This made me understand how these two nations are alike and yet how different and apart we are from each other.”

At the end of the workshop, Nareh wrote a letter to the Azerbaijani girl expressing her will of peace between the two nations and its people. She received a similar reaction from her. “Everybody was talking about the letter, but, to me, it was just two humans being human. When we left, I had tears in my eyes since I knew we would probably never meet again because there was a “conflict” between us.”

From then on, Nareh decided she wanted to take part in conflict resolution and peace-building workshops to become a leader in her community, to teach and encourage people to be more tolerant and hateless. “I want to contribute to creating an environment where people feel safe living in and telling their opinion,” explains Nareh, who also fights for her and other women’s rights daily.

Nareh Galstyan during one of the COAF debates.

Most of the students at the university she attends are women. Seeing other women limiting themselves by the opinions of others has forced Nareh to use every opportunity to speak up about equal opportunities and women’s empowerment.

Speaking up can change someone’s mind. Changing a mind can change someone’s life.

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