The title of this Monologue belongs to the American University of Armenia (AUA) which has organized and hosted a two-day conference from April 21-22 on “Empowerment of Girls and Women in Armenia”. According to the communique, there were about 50 speakers from Armenia and Diaspora(s) that included Students, Faculty, Civic Society Members, Community Leaders, etc.
This is an issue that I briefly touched upon in my Monologue dated December 2 2016 titled “Party Convention or Coronation?”. Generally speaking, empowerment is not something that is granted, rather, it is demanded, obtained, and exercised.
Let me emphasize that here I am not talking about “feminism” per se, rather, I am talking about the women’s rights as equal citizens of the country to be able to participate in and be part of, the leadership of the country to help build a just society based on equal rights.
The current Parliament that has 131 Members (MP) has only 13 women MPs and the 18 member government has only 2 women Ministers in their ranks. (I do not know yet, how many women MPs there will be in the newly-elected 105-member Parliament and so far there have been no changes reported on the government ranks either).
The new electoral laws seem to require that every Political Party (Party) that participates in the election must have at least 20% of its proportional list be women. This new electoral law is not only unfair but also outright discriminatory as well.
The best way for women to succeed, is to be members of the major institutions in Armenia be it political, cultural, benevolent, socioeconomic, etc, and strive to be part of the decision-making leadership.
It has to start with education. It is encouraging to see an educational institution like AUA be the forum to discuss these issues. It was also encouraging to see high-ranking leaders from some major universities in Diaspora(s) participate in the forum.
It was also encouraging to see The Minster of Justice of Armenia, Arpine Hovhannisyan (the first woman ever to hold such a very important portfolio in any Armenian Government) participate in the forum. She said, out of the 386 employees of her ministry 208 were women and 35 held managerial roles. Very encouraging indeed.
I wished this was the case for the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) (of which Ms. Hovhannisyan is a member) which has been in power for over twenty years and boasts to have 54% of its members being women while only three women are members of its 21 member executive board that thankfully includes Ms. Hovhannisyan as well.
Let us hope that, Ms. Hovhannisyan will be a role model to help increase the number of women participating in all echelons of the executive powers of the RPA-led institutions. After all, RPA seems to be the best organized Party in Armenia and if the last election is of any indication, unfortunately, no alternatives seem to be in sight in near future.
Fortunately, a quick google search indicates that there are many women’s civic organizations and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) in Armenia that are trying to improve the socio-economic conditions of the women in Armenia.
Activities of grassroots civic organizations is very important and could make a huge impact if they stay active and be outspoken about current issues affecting women’s rights. They should have the support of the Armenian Diaspora(s) that so far seems to be lacking.
It is also encouraging to see Zaruhi Postanjyan as the head of the newly established Yergir Tsirani Երկիր Ծիրանի Party, challenging the RPA in municipal elections in Yerevan city that is scheduled on may the 14. She seems to be an outspoken lady and let us hope that she does well in her first campaign as the head of a Political Party.
Needless to say, no society could achieve real progress by marginalizing any segment of its population let alone half of its population. After twenty-five years of independence, it seems that women of the Republic of Armenia are getting more active, and let us hope that, they will succeed to be an important part of the leadership of the country as well.
AUA seems to be taking an active and leadership role in this issue. Here is in part what their well-prepared statement reads “The conference was the first step in AUA’s Women’s Empowerment Initiative which will identify issues, foster awareness, and help set an agenda for research, social activism, and academic programming”.
Let us hope that, this first step initiative that was started by AUA will continue to “snowball” and women of Armenia will succeed to have their rightful place in the leadership of Armenia, and thus help improve the socio-economic lives of all the people living in Armenia.
Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian