In this empowerment series article, we meet Jeanne Parseghian, a French politician and member of the European Ecologie Les Verts (France’s Green Party). Parseghian was recently elected as mayor of Strasbourg, France. Born in Suresnes, Parseghian studied environmental law and really grew as a leader and change agent when she moved to Strasbourg in 2002 and volunteered at the Alsace Mammal Studies and Protection Group and the National Office for Hunting and Wildlife.
Actually, Parseghian was a natural born leader, being the great-granddaughter of Sarkis Parseghian and Berjouhi Bardizbanian-Parseghian.
As we learned a few weeks ago, Berjouhi Parseghian was one of first three females elected to serve as a parliamentarian during the First Republic of Armenia in 1919. Berjouhi, Jeanne’s great-grandmother, was a teacher, writer and humanitarian and the wife of Sarkis Parseghian who served as the leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) in Constantinople. Sarkis was one of the first intellectuals arrested on April 24, 1915, the start of the Armenian Genocide. He was later deported and executed. Berjouhi eventually resettled in France with her son Armen, Jeanne’s grandfather.
The lineage of leadership is definitely remarkable as both of her great-grandparents were leaders who helped to bring about change. Known for her work helping refugees, Berjouhi believed in universal suffrage. As a public servant, she worked alongside members of the ARF to ensure that the constitution of the First Republic provided opportunities for women, not just men.
Much like her great-grandmother, Jeanne Parseghian has spent her career advocating for change – namely, environmental change. In 2016, she advocated for the removal of plastic trays in school cafeterias. In 2018, she quit serving on the executive council of the Eurométropole to protest the highway bypass project they were overseeing to the west of Strasbourg. She’s also worked on sustainable development projects with regard to nuclear power plants in the Alsace region.
While many of her projects involve her work in Strasbourg, Jeanne is very much committed to the Armenian nation. Immersed in the culture, she became proficient in the Armenian language and has worked on projects and initiatives in Armenia as well. These include sustainable tourism, sociocultural exchanges, and, in 2010, she advocated to combat waste. At home in Strasbourg, she created a branch of the SEVAK Association, named after the Armenian poet Paruyr Sevak. SEVAK’s purpose is to strengthen the socio-cultural ties between Europe and Armenia.
To that end, she was involved in the 2016 filming of Bernard Mangiante’s European Arte’s documentary “Voyage en Anatolie” (Voyage to Anatolia) which depicts the story of seven Armenians who return to their ancestral homes in modern-day Turkey.
Her focus now as Mayor will be on creating change at home in Strasbourg, which has the largest diplomatic presence in France, after Paris, with a seat on the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights.
France held a second round of municipal elections in June, delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, and in her first speech as Mayor, she pledged to address the challenges facing Strasbourg.
Jeanne will serve as Mayor of Strasbourg for six years, during which she will no doubt flourish as a leader and implement the change that she considers integral for future generations.
As Mayor Parseghian continues to flourish as a leader and change-agent, her life mirrors that of her great-grandparents who also dedicated their lives to the survival of the Armenian nation and the marginalized.
Many people speak of their families’ legacies and they, no doubt, live on through generations. But, what Jeanne has chosen to do with her life is a true testament to the legacy of the Parseghian family. She’s chosen to serve, to act and to create change.