Societal attitudes in Armenia mean that men are encouraged from boyhood to take on leadership positions while women are relegated to secondary roles. Traditional female stereotypes dominate the media, advertising and even children’s textbooks. Gender-based violence, trafficking and harassment are rife.
Almost one in ten Armenian women are subjected to occasional or regular beatings by a husband or partner, according to a study supported by the United Nations Population Fund. A quarter of women face psychological violence, and 1 in 30 have experienced sexual violence, according to the study. Over 60 per cent of women say they experience controlling behaviour with many women handing over their earnings or savings to their partner against their will.
Poverty and unemployment further fuel the violence. Violence against women has an immense impact on their physical and psychological health. Women and girls believe that in order to change attitudes, there must be a political will to support women’s progress.
WRCA has set up a crisis centre, which offers legal aid and counselling to victims of domestic violence. It offers training courses on women’s rights and gender-based violence, while simultaneously lobbying and advocating for changes in legislation that will address gender discrimination in all its forms. The centre also provides a telephone hotline for emergencies.
WRCA provides a safe space where women can share their experiences, educate themselves and receive the support they need to better their lives and take control of their futures. It organises regular roundtable discussions as well as a career club for women.
The organisation offers prenatal programmes for pregnant women and sexual health courses for adolescent girls. WRCA has benefited 2,000 people so far, 90 per cent of whom are females.
Photos: Nazik Armenakian