By Alix Norman
March is a wonderful month, isn’t it? It’s the start of Spring: that long-awaited change in weather has arrived, the wildflowers are beginning to bloom. It’s a great month to celebrate being alive. Or in fact, just celebrate! St David’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, Woman’s Day, the Spring Equinox … March has always been full of festivities. And now we’ve got another special reason to rejoice: on Saturday and Sunday there’s a rather exceptional (and very important) celebration happening for the very first time: Yinalithea– the Cyprus Women’s Conference. Where courage meets truth.
Billed as “A brilliant, uplifting weekend event for the actualisation of the women of Cyprus”, Yinalithea is a forum for women all over the island to grow, learn and share their knowledge and experiences. From the words ‘yineka’ and ‘alithiea’ (‘woman’ and ‘truth’), it’s a platform for women’s issues that, through a series of talks, discussions and workshops, seeks to empower women in every possible way.
”We live on an island that has celebrated women since ancient times, and Yinalithea is about giving support and encouragement,” says co-organiser Penelope Magoulianiti who, along with Clinical Psychologist and Therapist Heleniq Argyrou, has put together this extraordinary event. “As women we need to step up, we need to get out of our comfort zone and stop staying small. It’s time to love ourselves, believe in ourselves, take charge of our lives and our kids’ lives, and to support each other – time to create a community of women who support each other and who are not afraid to do something.”
This is the essence of the conference, which will include 12 speakers – “women of substance sharing their life learning expertise and wisdom” – and occurs under the auspices of Cyprus’ First Lady, Andri Anastasiades. “All the speakers will talk on the main subject – women,” says Penelope. “But within that designation, we will have the chance to hear about women in politics, the identity of women, women’s substance, sexuality, kids and music, love, careers, and working towards your goals. It’s all about the personal journey these speakers have had, and sharing what they’ve learnt through endless failures and successes; it’s about learning from women who have picked themselves up and kept going, whatever life throws at them.”
Most of the 12 are names that will be instantly recognisable; women who have been in positions of power and change in Cyprus in the last few decades. “Erato Markouli, for instance, who served as Minister for Foreign Affairs and in a number of other important posts, will be giving a talk,” says Penelope. “Mary Koutsoulini, Professor of Instruction and Curriculum at the University of Cyprus, will be discussing myths and realities as they relate to the identity of women, while Anna Pitta will be speaking on the power of image – how beauty comes from the inside out.”
The majority of speakers are Cypriot – all are, in fact, based on the island – and this, says Penelope, is particularly significant. “It’s important because we want to give the opportunity to the wonderful women of Cyprus to become examples for each other. While there are people abroad who are doing great stuff, there are amazing things happening on this island, and this gives people who have their businesses and companies here in Cyprus the chance to be involved in making a real change.”
Having organised a host of special events within the format of the conference itself (a series of workshops around the island heralds the event), Penelope and Heleniq are greatly looking forward to what will no doubt be a game-changer for the women of Cyprus. “We all have our struggles, our moments of being overwhelmed, our guilt at trying to balance career and family,” says Penelope, whose personal journey has seen her balance motherhood with a career as a high-powered investment banker. “The important thing to realise is that we are not alone – we’re not the only one; all women struggle to balance their lives in some way.
“None of our speakers have had an easy ride,” she concludes. “But by sharing our experiences and wisdom as women we can all benefit. Every one of us.” Women pulling together in difficult times, helping one another, and learning for life? Yinalithea sounds like it’s going to be a breakthrough event! And that’s certainly a fantastic reason to celebrate this month.
Yinalithiea Cyprus Women’s Conference
At the Elias Beach Hotel, Limassol, on March 21 and 22 between 9am and 6pm. For further information, prices and bookings, call 99 454977 or 99 238660, [email protected] or visit www.cypruswomenconference.com. The conference is also supported by a series of workshops, organised in various towns around the island. For full details, follow the link above