To cast a glance back I would like to mention that since 1991, women’s NGOs in Armenia have done much in changing public opinion and focusing it on the problems connected with women’s issues. Numerous conferences, seminars and round tables, public and parliamentary hearings have been organized devoted to the basic problems of women’s rights protection. Women’s NGOs collaborate with mass media protecting women’s rights and supporting formation of gender policy in mass media. Often these organizations function in the sphere of services for women and children supplementing and sometimes even undertaking all the responsibility for the sphere that should have been done by the state.
About 60 women’s NGOs are presently registered at the RA Ministry of Justice. Several main directions can be identified in the activities of women’s NGOs:
• Protection of women’s basic freedom and rights
• Participation of women in decision making
• Protection of women and children from violence
• Women’s reproductive and sexual health and rights
• Development of entrepreneurship among women
• Social protection of women and children, charity.
However, every structure including women’s NGOs need appropriate conditions to exist and function. Due to lack of those conditions not all registered NGOs are in reality active, many of them exist only on paper. Some of them function from time to time, depending on grants they manage to get. Sometimes these organizations are obliged to take part in grant contests in any sphere trying to get some support. It is not even essential that the topic of the grant sometimes does not correspond to their mission. Actually, a very small portion of women’s NGOs manage to survive and stay active. Another serious obstacle for the successful development of the Armenian women’s movement is the fact that society is not ready to overcome gender inequality; influence of patriarchal stereotypes on political activity of women leaders. It is important that the moral and financial support to women in elected bodies as well as women’s insufficient professional training in political and public life is very weak.
Women's NGOs, who are often busy looking for means for their organizations and sometimes for themselves and at the same time not quite realizing the importance of unification or simply neglecting other organizations, are not very interested in unification ideas. Lack of trust for the future takes most of their time and efforts leaving no wish for other activities. Hence, it is no surprise that their unification tendencies are quite weak and their efforts to unite are formal, often disorganized and inefficient. If informal groups are created from time to time within the framework of some international organization collaboration to react to this or that problem together and quickly, they do not survive.
The ideological concept has not been developed either and there is no coordinating body that would unite the organizations. There is no strategy of organizations’ cooperation. In fact, there are only separate organizations that function independent of each other and depending on their financial state and organizational skills.
What are the guarantees of the efficient work and development of a women’s movement? They are: permanent financial and ideological support from the state as well as from international organizations and donors; expansion of research on women’s rights which in their turn will help to develop efficient state policy and inclusion of the problem in the state budget; training of leaders of women’s organizations especially how to present and push forward interests of women’s NGOs at all government levels and international instances. It is also necessary to stimulate a closer cooperation between women’s NGOs and state bodies at the local, regional and national levels. Finally of equal importance is the coordination of activity of women’s organizations to develop joint strategies and new methods of gender equality lobbying. Nevertheless, despite all difficulties, women’s organizations of Armenia have gained significant success. Among civil society experts there is no doubt that women’s NGOs are very popular, they have gained the trust of society and represent the most active part of society.
I am convinced that the day when Armenia becomes a developed and democratic country, is not far and when it comes, the issue of women’s rights will have a natural sound. We are grateful to the Global Fund for Women for their support to women’s NGOs and development of the women’s movement aimed at improving women’s state and protection of their rights all over the world.
Founder and President of Women’s Rights Center