Empowering Armenian Women: Natalie Marcarian’s journey with Birthright Armenia

In early 2021, amidst the global unrest of the pandemic and the aftermath of the 2020 Artsakh War, Natalie Marcarian found herself at a crucial juncture. The Australian-Armenian graduate, armed with degrees in psychology and international development and a minor in gender studies, sought a meaningful way to engage with her heritage and contribute to her ancestral homeland, Armenia. This quest led her to Birthright Armenia, a volunteering program designed to immerse diasporan Armenians in their heritage. Marcarian’s journey from a volunteer to a repatriate deeply involved in gender equality projects is a testament to the transformative power of connecting with one’s roots.

“Moving overseas was something I had always considered,” Marcarian recounts. The desire to make a tangible contribution to Armenia’s welfare in the face of existential threats propelled her towards Birthright Armenia. Friends’ glowing testimonials of the program convinced her to embark on what was intended to be a four-month stint. However, the impact was immediate and profound, with Natalie realizing within the first week, “I was where I belonged.”

Her previous visits to Armenia had not prepared her for the profound sense of connection and purpose she found through Birthright. “Suddenly I was surrounded by people who felt the same passion for Armenia,” she reflects. This shared experience and mission fostered a deep sense of belonging and ultimately led to her decision to repatriate. Marcarian describes the transition from volunteer to resident as unexpectedly fulfilling, finding a community that continually uplifts her.

Natalie Marcarian at the 2023 Armenian National Youth Forum

Marcarian’s work with Safe YOU, an organization dedicated to combating gender-based violence, exemplifies the intersection of her passions and Birthright Armenia’s influence. Introduced to the founder through familial connections, she quickly realized that the role aligned perfectly with her academic background and personal values. “Birthright Armenia gave me the freedom and the safe space to explore my passion,” she shares, emphasizing the unique and deeply personal connection she felt to her work and the broader mission of gender equality in Armenia.

Her commitment to gender equality is driven by the challenges faced in Armenia, such as the normalization of domestic violence. Marcarian’s work through Safe YOU involves providing resources for women to recognize and escape abusive relationships, providing data needed for legal reforms and leveraging technology to ensure quicker, accountable responses to incidents of domestic violence. Her experiences have underscored the universality of these issues and fueled her resolve to contribute to global and local solutions.

Marcarian’s contributions extend beyond individual projects. She played a key role in a United Nations event focused on innovative, data-driven responses to gender-based violence, representing both Safe YOU and Armenia. Additionally, her involvement in supporting displaced women and children from Artsakh highlights the tangible impact of her work and the resilience of the communities she serves.

Natalie Marcarian at the United Nations in Geneva hosting an event with Safe YOU

Reflecting on the role of the Armenian diaspora, Marcarian advocates for a nuanced approach to engagement and development, emphasizing the importance of working within the local context and valuing local voices. She challenges the notion that career advancement is incompatible with life in Armenia, highlighting her own experiences and the potential for diasporans to contribute significantly to the country’s growth, particularly in advancing gender equality.

Marcarian’s story is a compelling illustration of how volunteering can transform both individual lives and communities. Her journey from a volunteer seeking to connect with her heritage to a key player in Armenia’s gender equality movement showcases the profound impact of immersive cultural and service experiences. Through her work and dedication, Marcarian exemplifies the empowerment and change that can arise from reconnecting with one’s roots, contributing her skills and passion to the betterment of her ancestral homeland.

Guest Contributor

Guest Contributor

Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles or press releases written and submitted by members of the community.

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