Women’s issues are in the public discourse. Many activists speak up for gender equality, gender-based and domestic violence, women’s low representation in political and economic environments. The importance to come together and discuss those issues with activists on women’s issues motivated Women’s Resource Center to organize a 3-day meeting addressing the barriers faced by women’s rights defenders.
Representative of organisations and activists concerned by women’s issues were invited to the meeting. During the meeting a significant importance was given to highlight issues faced by women’s rights defenders. Those issues were identified and mechanisms were discussed to address those issues.
A significant attention was paid to work with media. Media experts invited to the meeting together with the activists discussed challenges that women activists face in communication with media. The participant activists highlighted the problems they face in communication with media. They discussed the strategies used by them to face those problems and dicussed with media experts the effectiveness and possible reformulation of those strategies which had potential to enforce effective communication with media.
The meeting participants underlined stereotypes faced by women’s rights defenders as well. They were concerned about the influence of the negative stereotypes affecting their activities. It was an important step towards further work on stereotypes. The researchers experienced in women’s studies facilitated revelation of stereotypes roots and ways to address them. It was agreed upon meeting and working in small groups in order to find techniques to address the negative stereotypes used against the activists.
Participants of the meeting brought up also an important issue preventing development of women’s movement in Armenia. The importance of having shared agenda was highlighted. The participants agreed to continue such kind of meetings in order to develop a shared agenda. The majority stressed the importance of movement formation. The continuing meetings will contribute to reaching solidarity, unity and mutual understanding which are the founding stones of women’s movement.
The meeting was significant with various suggestions from the participants. Small groups were later on created to work on realization of those ideas.
Concluding the meeting, the fruitfulness and productiveness of it should be stressed. It was the launch of such kind of discussions and meetings for further cooperation and partnership addressing women’s issues.
After this meeting the real need for ultimate need assessment of women activists’ needs and problems was underlined by the organisation. In order to reach the goal, Women’s Recourse Center planned and implemented round tables in all the regions inviting civil and political leaders of the local communities to raise the issues women face in their communities and how they deal with these issues. The role of women in local political realities was discussed and the barriers for women’s political involvement were highlighted. The participant women were also suggested to come up with suggestions how they see the role of Women’s Recourse Center in supporting them while facing the problems they mentioned.
Women in all the regions primarily stressed the social-economic severe conditions in the regions which make women think only of obtaining minimal living conditions for the family. In such situation women are not able to take another position and burden to their shoulders. Accordingly, their participation in “outside” world becomes less possible.
Another important barriers faced by active women is the “dirty” politics which is exercised in local and national levels. Women do not want to be involved in unjust competition being beforehand convinced in their loss.
Then some more issues are raised up. Some of the participants mention that women do not have the knowledge and skills in order to compete with men for the political positions. They see the role of NGOs in supporting them to enrich their capacity as leaders in their communities, as they believe that the electorate values educated and well-prepared candidates more regardless the gender of the candidate.
At the same time the women stress also lack of solidarity among women being a barrier towards women’s involvement in decision-making. Some of the participants ensure that lack of women’s support to women candidates creates an atmosphere of distrust towards women candidates in the whole community. Therefore, their chances of winning decrease. The same issue is raised regarding lack of mutual support and cooperation among women candidates and those already positioned in political structures.
As a solution to the above mentioned problems, women give importance to economical support to women initiating their own businesses throughout which gaining economic independence. They also value the awareness raising of women on solidarity and importance of their involvement in politics for better decisions for them and their families.
The results of the round tables will be summed up and analyzed, and further actions will be developed accordingly.
The organization of these round tables was a step forward also in cooperation with local government and setting partnership for further cooperation and support. The role of local authorities in arranging the meetings and ensuring the participation of women is appreciated by the organization.
Women’s Recourse Center values regular meetings with women activists strongly believing in women’s movement development as a consequence of regular communication.