“Making the Lives of People Better Is My Passion”

“Making the Lives of People Better Is My Passion”

Joan Kuriansky about her mission to protect the interests of women

Joan Kuriansky embodies such personality traits as non-indifference and steadfastness. She has never stepped back from her positions and devoted all her live to the issue of women’s independence. At the meeting with Marina Volynkina, Head of the Eurasian Women’s Community news agency, Ms. Kuriansky shared about her path from a volunteer to the leader of major organisations. 

Joan Kuriansky has been the Executive Director of several leading women’s organisations in the USA, she has a JD and a Master’s degree in Urban Affairs 

She grew up in the USA in the 1960s. That was the time of great change of forming the civil rights movement and anti-war movement. Women’s communities were actively involved in those fields of activity; however, their contribution to them was not sufficiently recognised. All that had a big impact on Ms. Kuriansky and defined her life position. 

“From a very early age, I knew I wanted to be involved in community. Material goods were not that important to me. My passion was much more in trying to make people’s lives better”, the speaker shared. The main goal of Joan Kuriansky is building a just and fair society, which promotes equality between men and women. 

Ms. Kuriansky obtained a JD and a Master’s degree in Urban Affairs and decided to use her education to achieve justice in the world. She was interested in every field around her, especially in law, business, and politics.

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“I think, the way I chose to approach my work did require a lot of thinking and strategy but the passion was what motivated me to use my mind in the ways that I chose. Many of my colleagues have stayed in one job their whole lives. In my case, everything is different. I tend to like to build an organisation, let it begin to function, and then I like to move on to another issue. The goal is always the same: ensuring that women have equal opportunities”, she said. 

Ms. Kuriansky started more as a volunteer. She was engaged in the work of a legal aid office and first women’s law firms. Then the speaker first started out as an attorney. However, Joan Kuriansky is still very passionate about volunteering. 

Many years ago, jointly with other volunteers Joan Kuriansky opened and ran Washington’s first shelter for battered women. Her organisation cooperated with police and courts and fulfilled the first programme in the USA on supporting women imprisoned for self-defense against violence. 

Not only the society, but also the government of her country recognised Joan Kuriansky’s active and productive work on women’s upliftment. She has consulted with a number of Executive agencies, leaders of the Cabinets of President Clinton and Obama and was appointed by President Clinton to serve on the first National Advisory Council on Violence Against Women. In Barack Obama's administration, she served as one of many advisors in a number of different panels on economic opportunities for women, addressing the needs of the middle class, and working out strategies on elimination of violence against girls. 

Joan Kuriansky has been the leader of several women’s organisations addressing a wide range of issues in addition to ending violence against women. For example, those issues include building women’s leadership, addressing the needs of women as they age, provision of women’s access to health care, education, and employment. 

Ms. Kuriansky headed a major organisation called Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) working at all the local, state, and national levels to expand economic opportunities of women and girls. One of the most large-scale programmes with Ms. Kuriansky’s participation was STEM for Low-Income Women. The initiative was operated by the Open World Program though the US Library of Congress. The project helped women build skills necessary for improving their competitiveness on jobs that considered to be men’s. For example, women learned how to fix air conditioners, heating systems, elevators, and how to build things. According to Ms. Kuriansky, jobs in trades and construction are often well paid. At the same time, such occupations can be learned through apprenticeships and mastery of math without having a degree from a college or University. 

In 2017, Joan Kuriansky, a long-time leader and advocate in the field of domestic violence and women’s communities, joined the Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation as the new chair of the board of trustees. This organisation was established to create social change on behalf of women and girls in the Washington, D.C. area and Israel. The Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation was organised by Jewish Women. The organisation’s values are based on Jewish beliefs including interfaith tolerance, the empowerment of women and girls, and opposing violence against women. 

“We want to make one more step towards creating a more just community that ensures the equal and human rights of all of its members and the one where women and girls can thrive”, shares Ms. Kuriansky. 

Ms. Kuriansky worked not only in the USA but also in other countries including Russia. She followed what rights and opportunities women have in different countries and borrowed successful practices on women’s upliftment. The speaker is inspired by the fact that, historically, Russian women were trained and were leaders in STEM occupations like engineering and medicine. However, Joan Kuriansky believes that today many women from both the USA and Russia need more access to the jobs requiring advanced computer skills. 

Anna Repina, news agency of the Eurasian Women’s Community

Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov