Eleni Antoniou: Women were, are and will always be needed to bring communities together
Eleni Antoniou is a mother of three boys, a writer, a blogger, and a podcaster. She is vocal on issues of feminism and violence against women and the challenges that mothers face including raising children. She believes that “is not only important to empower girls, but to also educate boys so they become allies on our quest towards gender equality.”
Eleni began blogging in 2011, a few months after she had her first baby and decided to quit her job at a local newspaper. She named the blog Georgie’s Mummy and then went on sharing on social media her experiences as a mother in Cyprus.
In early 2022, she found a unique opportunity to participate in the mindful leadership project, which provided a series of workshops on meditation and breath work, organized by Hands Across the Divide and the International Association for Human Values, with support from UNFICYP.
Through the programme, she learned “how to find light in a dark place and how to cultivate a mindset for peace,” but also “how important my inner peace is and that in order to be of service to those who need me, I must take care of myself first,” Eleni recalls.
She explains that “as a mother I have found this incredibly hard over the years mainly because we are taught as women and mothers that our role is to sacrifice ourselves, mentally and physically, for our families and loved ones. I gained knowledge and empowerment and inspiration from the programme, but most importantly I gained friends. Friends I would never have met, friendships that would not flourish and bloom if it were not for programmes like this”.
Inspired by the idea discussed during the sessions, Eleni started her own peace project and created a podcast with mothers from both communities. “My idea was to bring two Turkish Cypriot mothers and two Greek Cypriot mothers to have a discussion about their experiences and personal stories growing up on a divided island, to open up about myths, lies and propaganda we were taught by our families, society, the media and the education system,” she highlights.
She notes that “the result was absolutely astonishing, the similarities and common experiences we all had was shocking and also so very healing.”
Eleni highlights that the mindful leadership initiative “contributed to empowering women in Cyprus because it has broken down barriers that still exist, a division that until now has not allowed us to come together and have open dialogues. It has shown us that women were, are and will be needed to bring communities together and bring on much needed change.”
“Up until now we, the women of Cyprus, have been excluded from the negotiation tables, from political and social discussions and I cannot help but wonder what the Cyprus problem would look like if women were included. This project has allowed us to dare to envision this and push against further conflict. This experience was life-changing and inspirational,” she concludes.
Listen to Eleni’s podcast as part of her peace project, where she invites mothers from both sides of the island as well as a podcast with, Gizem Kavaz, another participant in the mindful leadership initiative: http://georgiesmummy.com/mamma-mu-podcast/