Inspiring wisdom: highlighting older women this International Women’s Day


In celebration of International Women’s Day, we turn the spotlight to three extraordinary women whose stories transcend age, demonstrating that a lifetime of learning and service knows no bounds.  

Meet Aura del Carmen Calimán, 71, from Colombia, Ambassador Mary, 74, from Kenya, and Arpi Mankasarian, 70, from Lebanon – three formidable figures whose journeys inspire, uplift, and redefine what it means to age gracefully. 

Arpi Mankasarian, 70, Lebanon: A Cultural Hero

Mankasarian, an Armenian surname Arpi’s grandparents adopted when they settled in Lebanon, translates to “never broken” in Arabic; and nothing can break the will of this amazing woman. Arpi is loved by her local community, a woman with infinite stories, and the owner of an Armenian restaurant-turned-cultural-centre in Beirut. 

Family is everything to me. I grew up with love, laughter and stories. I wanted to create a space where people came together not only for the delicious food that we serve, but to create a sense of family amongst the local community, share stories, and most importantly, share love.

Arpi has seen it all.

I graduated as a civil engineer in 1985, which back then was a major achievement. But you know what made it even more impressive? The fact that I graduated during the 1975- 1990 civil war. I’d go to the office while bombs were flying over my head.

I never left Lebanon. My grandparents had to leave their land; I’m not leaving this one.

“Arpi spreads life”, that’s what her friends always say about her.

I do, what’s better than spreading life among the people you love?

Her advice to young people:

Faith and hard work equal success. That’s it. That’s all you need.

Aura del Carmen Caliman, 71, Colombia: a lifetime of learning

Aura del Carmen Calimán, 71, has had a life full of rich activity and has no intention of slowing down. She is an engaged social leader and elderly community activist based in Bogotá, she has actively contributed to reducing the illiteracy rate in many neighbourhoods.  

Her objective is clear:

My mission, and what I believe God put me on this world to do, is to teach. Through teaching I learn about myself. I consider art to be a very playful way of teaching, communicating, and enabling literacy – as well as learning.

Her proudest achievement? Completing a specialisation in Human Development at age 69.

The moment I graduated was one of great satisfaction.

Her advice to the younger generation:

Take it all in and enjoy the ride. Live life without haste.’ 

Ambassador Mary, 74, Kenya: a woman of firsts

Ambassador Mary is very impressive. While Kenya’s Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, her office successfully lobbied to increase Kenya World Heritage Sites from three to seven, protecting the country’s natural treasures and putting Kenya very much on the global conservation map. She went on to become Kenya’s first Ambassador to UNESCO.

I earn a living by serving on three different boards and looking to make investments. My hope is that I will have the strength to continue doing what I like.

Life has changed for Ambassador Mary since her retirement, and she embraces the change.

I enjoy the freedom to control my time and make my own decisions. I cherish the absence of a strict daily routine and the ability to spend time with family and loved ones. Life is quite different because I am more relaxed and in control compared to when I was younger.

Her advice to young people is clear:

Be professional, self-respecting, and resilient. Respect positive cultural practices and maintain your dignity.

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