Our Team as a Women’s Circle

Tetiana (Tania) Kiforyshyn (Creative Women's Space in Kyiv, Ukraine), Manan Mkhitaryan (Martuni Women's Community Council NGO (MWCC) in Martuni, Armenia) and Maryna Konieva (Fashion Initiative in Kharkiv, Ukraine) have joined forces within Tandem Ukraine to find common topics of interest for Ukrainian and Armenian women in business and creativity in order to carry out mutual long-term projects in the nearest future. Months into their collaboration, they share insights on how Tandem brought them closer and inspire them to move further with their project.

As we look back now, we realize that a chance brought us together.

The three of us were actually at a loss at the very beginning, during the Partner Forum (the very first event of each programme round where tandems are created). We could not see how we could possibly interact with each other professionally and where our mutual interest in Tandem was.

Marina’s organization is in the fashion sector, and if there is one thing Tania is far away from that is definitely fashion!

Tania’s organization is interested in women empowerment, and this is something that definitely deals more with the inside than the outside of any woman.

Manan represents the women’s organization and likes both the idea of fashion AND women empowerment altogether, however, Armenia is the country that values traditions and has its own understanding of women’s and men’s roles in society.

Sounds like a tough nut to crack, doesn’t it? Moreover, the three of us were not sure we could possibly get on well together on a personal level, as we seemed very different.

How on Earth is it possible to combine the uncombinable?

However, as soon as we sat together in a circle and started sharing our stories, talking honestly about what was essential for us, what drove each one of us, and what we were all passionate about, the energy emanating from our talks became palpable.

This was the pivotal point of our collaboration because the stories we told each other spoke volumes about who we were, what values we cherished, and what dreams we had.

Marina’s background in performative art and contemporary art shed light on how lots of uneasy topics connected with women’s bodies and souls could be translated into the audience by means of drama, theatre, painting, solo performance, and visual art.

Tania’s experience in organizing non-formal educational and motivational events, as well as her skills in storytelling and group facilitation helped to shape out the format of our future collaboration which was becoming possible more and more.

Manan’s knowledge of the local Armenian cultures and traditions along with the needs of Armenian women her organization kept working with for so many years helped us to have a full picture of the target audience we wished to be useful for. Every single detail just clicked into its place. And it was merely our first women’s circle, the circle of our personal stories that made ripples on the water.

Our case once again proved that the exchange of experiences, sharing similar values, active listening, and showing respect towards the differences can make people closer, and a women’s circle as a format of effective women collaboration works.

It’s extremely important to be able to stay in an environment where one can be true to him/herself, talk freely, be accepted without any judgments, or whatsoever. This is a healthy environment. This is the environment when one can unleash his/her creative potential, be productive and spontaneous. This is all about our team. What at first seemed like a very bad idea, turned out to be a great collaboration and international friendship. Even though we never managed to fully realize our project the way we already planned it on paper and shaped it in our heads, because of COVID-19, total lockdown, and, finally, the war in Armenia, we still have something a lot more precious to hold on to, and this is our women’s circle.

New ideas, like seeds, have already started growing in our heads, so each of us is looking forward to the very first opportunity that would definitely bring us together again, ignite the passion for something equally important for the three of us, something that would educate, empower and emphasize the simple message: we are a lot stronger when we unite.