Gender gap: ACNIS roundtable addresses rights of women in Armenia

Armenian experts in gender equality issues think that democracy in Armenia will not become full-fledged until women get fully involved in the democratic process. According to experts, the existing problems in the sphere of women’s rights will be possible to solve first by speaking about them out loud, which is yet impossible in Armenia, since a majority of Armenian women are reluctant to speak about violence against them.

The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) convened a roundtable discussion on Wednesday examining gender equality and the state of women’s rights in Armenia.

ACNIS Director Richard Giragosian presented a brief overview of the issues, noting that “for most countries, the issues of gender equality and the state of women’s rights serve as key indicators of the overall development of society and the state of democracy.” Giragosian added that “in the case of Armenia as well, the conditions of the female population, including the opportunities for Armenian women in the workplace, the educational system and in politics, present revealing insight into the real conditions of today’s Armenia.”

Giragosian said that gender equality issues required long-term work. For this purpose, he said, the Center will implement a project on this issue beginning next year.

(According to official statistics, women make 53 percent of the population of Armenia).

Jina Sargizova, the Project Coordinator for the UNFPA Programme on Gender-Based Violence, provided a detailed presentation of UN activities in this sphere. She said that the program “Against Gender-based Violence in the South Caucasus” has been implemented in Armenia since 2008, as part of which polls have been conducted in 4,600 households to reveal the extent of that problem.

“The collection of statistics is a very painstaking work, since Armenian women hide facts of violence, without realizing that by their behavior they create a pattern, an example for their daughters and granddaughters to follow,” said Sargizova.

Tsovinar Harutyunyan, the Senior Democratization Assistant for the OSCE Office in Yerevan, presented an overview of OSCE efforts and stressed the potential of women as a resource that is not being fully utilized.

Harutyunyan said that the de-feminization of women in public and political life is the result of heavy post-independence years in Armenia.

“Sixty-six percent of the unemployed in Armenia are women, however more than a half of people with university education are also women. One can say that a university diploma for a majority of Armenian women is the first and last achievement, then they disappear from public-political life,” said Harutyunyan, calling for cooperation among civil society and other organizations that deal with these issues.

Prominent attorney Tiruhy Nazaretyan addressed the issue of women’s rights in the workplace.

“Discrimination is displayed when for the same job, women are most often paid less than men performing the same work, when choosing between equally highly skilled women and men for taking up for a job or giving a promotion employers often prefer a man,” said Nazaretyan, adding that as a rule employers do not give women high positions.