The first biggest gender-related international project of 2017


A Quest 4 Equality: Breaking Gender Barriers through Youth Work

Nowadays most countries recognize that equal rights, as a question of human rights, democracy and justice should exist as well as that gender equality represents a part of resolution to the challenges that our society is facing to. Albeit many have elaborated and set in motion regulations intended to fight discrimination and different issues, the gender equality situation both in the EU and the Neighboring countries, especially in Eastern Europe and Caucasus remains unsatisfactory.

Gender equality topic has been always considered to be one of the working dimensions of the Armenian Progressive Youth (APY) NGO, which is constantly expanding its boarders by hosting more and more gender-related international projects in Armenia. The first international training course of this year called “A Quest 4 Equality: Breaking Gender Barriers through Youth Work” was convened from the 3rd to the 11th of June in Yerevan. The 38 youth workers coming from Armenia, United Kingdom, Belarus, Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Moldova, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Russia and Turkey have been the integral part of a project aiming to develop and improve the participant’s knowledge and understanding on various concepts related to gender issues, analyze traditions, roles and perceptions of gender in different countries and societies.

Through the implementation of the international training course the youth workers and young leaders from diverse backgrounds had an opportunity to feel and reflect about the power of gender and gender roles by having space to discuss, debate and learn more about the topic that often remains undiscussed. Besides tackling the mentioned issues, the training course looked for solutions in our organizations and daily lives. The participation in different scale of activities as discussions, presentations, field visits let the participants exchange their skills and experiences particularly on gender mainstreaming, gender discrimination, gender violence and gender perspectives in different parts of Europe and know more about diverse realities in Eastern Europe and Caucasus region. Furthermore, thanks to the practical side of the training course, the participants focused on non-formal learning activities adressed for concrete target groups (school leaders, youth with disabilities, etc.), which will enable them to implement afterwards real projects on local or European levels.

This international gender-equality-related training course, unique with its vast geographical coverage and the contemporary topic, has been brought about by the conjoint cooperation between the Armenian Progressive Youth NGO and Nikola Arts organization from the United Kingdom, as well as by the funds of the European Union in the frames of Erasmus+ program.

Notwithstanding that the prevailing conservative, discriminating values in our societies are hard to tackle on account of clearly defined roles for men and women, gender stereotypes and issues with the expression of gender identity and sexual orientation, we believe that through non-formal educational activities we can spread awareness and look for solutions to the issues of our daily lives.

Challenge to Change: Gender Perspectives in Europe

The concept of gender equality is highly affected by the culture and the politics of the country where it is discussed. Consequently, the work on policies, norms and juridical systems in favor of gender equality differ greatly around the world. Thus, what do not differ around the world is the structural violence against women. This is a problem present in all societies regardless of development, culture, religion, policies and history. To gather different youth workers and leaders from all over the world to discuss these issues are therefore of highest importance, not only because the youth can bring a change, but because it is an international problem and should therefore be understood internationally.

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From June 27 to 5th of July together with JUB International from Netherlands we hosted the international training ”Gender Perspectives in Europe:13517493_1213558571996820_2261714809289119394_o Challenge to Change” bringing together youth workers, youth leaders, experts, NGO workers, Civil Society Organization representatives working for the promotion of Gender Equality and women’s empowerment in the Eastern Partnership Countries and the European Union.
The project has involved 36 participants coming from such countries as the United Kingdom, Croatia, Ukraine, Belarus, Czech Republic, Georgia, Italy, Latvia, Moldova, Netherlands, Poland, Russian Federation, Spain and Armenia.
Since all participants came from different countries, backgrounds and gender experiences the discussions and exchanges were rich.

Nuard Minasian (Armenia)

I was actively involved in gender related issues before and after the training, but I should confess that the format of the training enriched my skills on how the gender topics should be represented for a mixed audience. The stimulation games and exercises were very useful for me and I’m going to practice it in my work as a trainer.
The main issue is the gender stereotypes which causes gender inequality in our society. Another big issue is the gender based violence which is common for developing countries not having legislative mechanisms to prevent the cases.
There were represented some mechanisms on how to combat against these stereotypes which can differ from country to country, but which still characteristic for every society in a specific way. The stronger the society is the higher will be its level of gender equality. That’s why we drafted some joint projects during the training aiming to engage more people in awareness rising process on gender equality and non-violence.13603353_1216795288339815_1050718266209977591_o
I will address the teenage pupils who are the most target group for being educated on gender issues. This will give the opportunity to prevent gender inequality and domestic violence by educating the generation rather than working on the sad consequences of the absence of gender education.
The training was held in a very friendly atmosphere keeping everyone energized and motivated to take part in each activity. We really enjoyed the training, made useful networks for the further cooperation and went back home with positive and unforgettable memories.

Alexei Croitor (Moldova)

The project has been focused on gender issues, mostly challenges and causes which lead to inequality between men and women. For me this training wasn’t the 1 st course in gender equality issues, as a lawyer I’ve participated in a lot of educational programs which has been based on equality and non-discrimination issues from the legal point of view. This course has specific that approach this theme not from legal but social and cultural aspect regarding countries involved in project. It shows how young people understand this issue and their individual or group attitude to this, the importance of topic in social life, how it can influence society. Due to the Course I much more understand how stereotypes are influence our life and can be powerful instruments which stop development and progress. Only by like these educational program especially for young generation we can eliminate stereotypes from society and clean it up.

13517587_1214565185229492_3695389827692976380_oRepublic of Moldova has problems to solve with intolerance in society, inequality of women in all fields staring of decision making to enterprising. More problematical is non-realizing by the society of that problem which leads to discrimination, domestic violence. Despite of strong legal framework, in practical application of this Moldova is still fail. The situation with non-implementation of existing laws like in Moldova, or improvement of legislation with necessary framework, for states which aspiring for it must take in consideration that it needs not only legal and political approach. It necessary change and open minds of society especially with young generation. That is why the same Projects are strictly necessary, for showing positive examples, giving possibility to participants to come to the idea of equality by themselves, working together on the problem, generating new ideas.

 

Boba Markovich Baluchova (Czech Republic)

Very heterogeneous, but open-minded group of the participants (of different age, from different countries and with different educational background) learnt and talked about gender related topics and the need for gender equality in all areas of our lives. It was not only about equal job opportunities and equally paid salaries for women and men; this training was also about the understanding of the concepts of women’s rights protection, e.g. reproductive rights (which is very sensitive topic in Armenia – what we found out during the training). We also asked ourselves whether do we have an equivalent for “gender mainstreaming” term in our own languages.

I’ve been working as youth worker, journalist and lecturer at Palacky university, so gender related topics are not new to me. In past I conducted the research about the media (re)presentation of vulnerable groups (including women) from developed, as well as developing countries. During the training I was interested in the advocacy campaigns and gender related issues in countries from Eastern Partnership and Caucasus region. Therefore I appreciated the Study tours to local Armenian NGOs: Women’s Resource Center of Armenia, Public Information and Need of Knowledge (PINK). For example I learnt that ‪Diana Abkar (an Armenian writer and diplomat) was the 1st female ambassador in the World (in 1920!).

13580397_1215348718484472_88981260433290312_oI come from Slovakia, but I work in Czechia (these two countries used to be one big country: Czechoslovakia in past). I contributed to the international conference (as a part of this TC) with the presentation: “Portrayal of women in Czech and Slovak media (journalism and marketing products)”. I talked about a significant difference in portrayal of women and men. Sexual harassment and sexism are big issues in my region. I showed the examples of annual competition “Sexist pig” focused on the most sexist adverts in Czechia. As I understood (based on the discussion after the conference) there are very similar experiences and examples of gender insensitive language’s usage from other European countries.

I think the training courses and youth exchanges (using non-formal learning methods) can be always an opportunity to face our own stereotypes and work on their reduction. In my case study/research of portrayal of women in media: educational seminars for journalism students about gender related issues and topics would be helpful.

Even though the group participants had different age, educational background, cultural and religious values, together we created very safe space for the opinions sharing and open discussions about feminism, women’s reproductive rights or LGBTQI+ topic. I believe that was the most important outcome of the TC.

Florian Kleinhoven (The Netherlands)

I think what mostly changed for me is my view on different cultures. Not only was travelling to Armenia a great experience, such a project with so

many members partaking from numerous cultural backgrounds was also helpful. I learned to see how many European cultures regard the problem of gender inequality and anything related to it from a similar perspective, whereas Georgians or Armenians consider the situation radically different. I think the project mainly taught me to mitigate my opinions as to gender discrimination. As Freud indicated: human behaviors always have a source in society — I consider this very much to be the truth.  I think in Western Europe, the problem of gender inequality is less tangible than anywhere else in the world. In a practical sense, there are the same opportunities for both counterparts. However, on a more microscopical scale, the differences are evident. Many people here are obsessed with equating statistical values: women have to make up 50% of all Physics students, and so forth. The course in Yerevan taught me that these goals are surreal and surpass the goal: the goal is to alter the public mentality, not statistics. Logically, the issue also consists of verbal discrimination, but to be honest, that falls into an entirely different category than ‘gender issues’ itself. The role of discrimination based on differences is a lot greater!13533126_1215305758488768_1580205598643307528_n

A resolution should be a legislative element implemented in society to meliorate a problematic situation. I think the solution many companies have adopted is the best, survey both what men and women want, and tailor your regulations to that — it’s all about democracy after all. I think an understanding of how to appease two or more parties in negotiations would be one of the most useful skills, as this also helps to rule out the problem of discrimination itself (on a small scale).  I think the problem with public education in the field of gender issues in Western Europe is that it is focused mostly on the consequences for women. I, and many others, think the problem persists for both genders. Men can feel discriminated on the basis of their gender as well. The issue should be approached as something mutual/communal; not something merely problematic for women.

Gita Getaute Sveicare (Latvia)

For me the project was about kindness, tolerance, inner values and emotions. Before training I was confident about this topic. I was sure that I know all the indicators and signs that indicates belonging to specific groups or orientation (sexual or gender). In my region are a lot of situations about aggression and misunderstandings in case of difference (either way of thinking or sexual orientation and non-tolerant attitude). It was wonderful experience and opportunity to meet colleagues from different countries and sharing so big working range and categories. Thank you. Hope to have similar opportunity in future.

Roman Hajduk (United Kingdom)

A few months before I was attending another training course, where I needed to find and understand myself and that one became a good foundation for the training in Armenia. In Armenia  I received more experience, created new contacts and my network is bigger now.  I will be also back soon with my photography project.

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Santa Barbara – The Last Episode of the Famous TV Series in Yerevan

After several years of project experience and work with so-called difficult youngsters, adolescents with challenging behavior Armenian Progressive Youth NGO (Armenia) and Föreningen Framtidståget(Sweden) have recognized that often we speak about important world issues and try to influence global problems, but do not notice, that our relationship with the world very much depends on the relationship with our nearest people.
Santa Barbara is a Training Course aiming to show the importance of personal and family relationship in young people’s future by self-reflection
and making correlations between personal life and social and political engagement.

14409441_1277537758932234_4769751434154556979_oAmong others, the training contained study visits to NGOs in Armenia working on women’s rights. The visits made a great opportunity for the international participants to learn more about gender based violence in Armenia, and to share the situations in their countries with the group. Another session was focused on non-violence communication, which were both practical and theoretical exercises. Naturally, the schedule also allowed to dive into Armenian culture such as visiting the Pagan temple in Garni, which was followed with a traditional dinner in an Armenian family.

One of the participants, Laura Reisele from Latvia, said that for her the training course was about self-development and self-awareness, getting deeper into one’s personal issues, unsolved problems and conflicts which we can see and observe mostly in the family. During this week in Armenia we tried not just to explore others, their cultures, but also ourselves. ”I enjoyed our gender related discussions in order to tackle the topic,  life stories and the friendly atmosphere all around. It was a sincere place – cocoon – where from tears and happiness new butterflies learned to fly.”

Another participant, Iryna Azaranka from Sweden, said that  her main impression was that the course was very good balanced from the beginning to the end. It was just right amount of knowledge and sightseeing. “Also”, she continues, “I liked the involvement with the locals, img_6471when we had to really start discussions to answer the city game questions. Some of the methods used were very interesting. For an example on patterns of communications, it has already been useful in my personal life”!
She described that the group contained different levels of gender awareness, which from time to time was difficult to relate to. Furthermore, she highlighted that the sightseeing to the Armenian countryside and mountains were a magnificent experience. “For me it was a calming time and also time of insights”, she adds.

Mihai Lovu from Moldova says that the training course tought him about the differences between Moldova and Armenia in stereotypes and gender issues. He also adds that he will definitely remember the people from the training. Pedro Soares from Portugal also emphasizes that he will remember the participants and that the group was a very good experience.

 

 

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“CHALLENGE 2 CHANGE: GENDER PERSPECTIVES IN EUROPE” International project launches in Yerevan

June 26, 2016 – Yerevan, Armenia – From 27th of June to 5th of July Armenian Progressive Youth NGO and JUB International from Netherlands will be hosting an international training course in Yerevan bringing together 36 youth workers, youth experts, activists, community leaders, Civil Society Organization and NGO representatives from 14 European countries. During 8 days they will be discussing and tackling the key challenges and perspectives related to gender equality, women’s rights protection and advocacy in the European Union, Eastern Partnership and Caucasus region. The Training Course will unite participants from Armenia, Belarus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Italy, Latvia, Moldova, Poland, Spain, Russian Federation, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Ukraine.

The main aim of the project is to compare the realities related to gender equality and equal participation of women in political, social and economic aspects in the European Union and Eastern Partnership countries, share and exchange the best practices of civil society organizations in the field, promote the importance of gender equality in youth work and develop strategies for women empowerment and promotion of gender equality in Armenia and different European countries. During their stay in Armenia, the participants will exchange their skills and experiences on gender mainstreaming, gender discrimination, gender-based violence and gender-related perspectives in different parts of Europe. The project will be unique platform for sharing practices and exchanging experiences.

On July the 1st an International Conference “Gender Equality in Armenia and Europe: Challenges and Perspectives” will be held in the scope of the project aiming at bringing together NGOs, Civil Society Organizations, activists, community representatives, experts, academics who work for the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment in Armenia as well as the Eastern Partnership Countries and the European Union.

A keynote opening speech will be delivered by H.E. Mr. Piotr Antoni Świtalski, Ambassador, Head of Delegation of the European Union to Armenia The Keynote speech will be followed by guest-speakers from YSU Center for Gender and Leadership Studies, Women’s Resource Center NGO, OxYGen Foundation, Public Information and Need of Knowledge NGO, JUB International NGO, Oxfam Armenia, Society without Violence NGO and the Near East Foundation.

The main aim of the Conference is discussing the current challenges and perspectives related to Gender Equality in Armenia and other European countries and providing the participants a platform for networking and developing partnerships, good quality projects locally and internationally.

 

Gender Inequalities in the Armenian Labor Market

Young women in Armenia are disadvantaged with regard to their activity status, have a harder time than young men finding work and face a significant gap in pay. In spite of their higher educational attainment, young women have a much lower labor force participation rate than young men (36.8 per cent against 53.0 per cent for young men), and a significantly higher unemployment rate (36.6 per cent against 24.2 per cent, respectively). The occupational distribution of employment is significantly more varied for men than for women (Serrière, 2014).

In February 2010, the Armenian Government approved the Gender Policy Concept Paper and in May 2013 the RA National Assembly adopted the Law on Provision of equal rights and equal opportunities for women and men. Even though the share of women in the top-level positions in the civil service grew from 10.4% in 2007 to 14.0% by 2013, nevertheless, there is not a single woman among the Advisers to the RA President. Women still constitute a majority among the low-paid civil servants holding junior positions in the executive branch of government (AAWUE, 2014).

On May 20th, the Armenian Progressive Youth NGO in cooperation with “AIESEC in Armenia” NGO carried out a conference entitled “Women are breaking stereotypes”. The aim of the conference was to involve young people and youth organizations in public debate concerning women’s employment rights and to discover tools for the elimination of discrimination towards women in Armenia. Along with the speeches and reports of the guest speakers, APY volunteers represented a new social video “Women break stereotypes” that received a very positive response from the participants of the conference.

Discrimination towards women in the labor market were evaluated and discussed by the speakers. The concept of an existing social stigma about the role of women in the Armenian society greatly altering the possibility of women succeeding in the labor market was reviewed. Also, deficiency of awareness about already existing laws benefiting and empowering women was found to be a crucial disadvantage to women’s success in Armenia.

The speakers agreed that the most pivotal aspect in women’s empowerment and a way towards self-sufficiency – is obtaining an education. Supporting this idea Lilit Chitchyan (Program coordinator at the Oxfam Armenia) stated, “To be independent you need to be well educated”. One of the speakers was Zaruhi Postanjyan, a lawyer and a member of the Armenian National Assembly. In her speech, she shared her experience and challenges that she faced as a woman entering the Armenian political scene.

After two heated and extremely informative rounds of debate with the speakers, it was concluded that the most efficient ways to fight the existing discrimination problem in Armenia are increasing awareness about women rights among youth through social campaigns and raising kids with a different mentality. To support the idea, Zaruhi Postanjan stated, “Women and men should educate their sons and daughters about the existing matters of discrimination, as well as introduce daughters to their rights.”

In her speech Freedom fighter, Lieutenant Colonel Aida Serobyan encouraged young girls to follow their dreams and work hard towards their goals despite the strong women’s rights violations in Armenia. For the further encouragement, she shared her own success story.

The speeches of the conference were given by women from different socio-economical backgrounds and professions. Nevertheless, all of these women are certainly the ones that are breaking the stereotypes. The conference can be considered a major step forward in fighting against discrimination towards women, as it triggered a desire and motivation of many young women to follow their passion and act upon their goals, despite the difficulties.

Tamara Bezljudova,
APY Volunteer

Love means Love։ LGBTI Rights in Armenia

When I first decided to take up the responsibility to realize a project to support and protect LGBTI rights I also had to break the wall of prejudice, ignorance and fear in my surrounding. This is why it was quite hard to make a video about LGBTI topic. In Armenia fighting against discrimination and homophobia is an every-day struggle.

During the first step of this project I was thinking what could be the best way to show to everybody that homosexual people need to have the same rights as everyone else. That very day I was talking about this issue with an acquaintance of mine and he said: “why are you fighting for some else’s rights? It should be their job, not yours!”
In that specific moment the poem written by Pastor Martin Niemoller came to my mind:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak for me

So, why must we speak out for someone else’s rights? Why must we fight for someone else’s struggle? Why must we stand up for someone else’s battle?

The answer is very simple: just because we are all equal, just because we are all human beings and there should not be any discrimination. Everyone should fight for human rights.
Everything which is related to human rights concerns the whole society, and everything which is related to society concerns you too: a world without discrimination will please everyone. I don’t need to be a tree to fight against deforestation! I do not need to be black to believe that racism is one of the biggest illnesses in the society!

Starting from this logical reasoning it will be very easy to reach the second-level step: recognize that everyone deserves the same rights.

Fighting for the rights of a discriminated social group will let you know that no discrimination makes sense; you will understand that people are equally dignified and that diversity, when it harms none, must be supported and praised, and not hidden: it is a virtue, not a defect and it should not be hidden.

In Armenia the struggle of LGBTI people is quite hard: there are a lot of prejudices. Those prejudices bring fear, and fear brings violence. We must stop this vicious circle with knowledge.

Some information: in 1974 homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). In the first version of 1952 homosexuality was still a psycho pathological condition among the “Personality Disorders sociopaths.”
In 1968 it was considered a sexual deviation, such as pedophilia, cataloged among the “non-psychotic mental disorders”.

Finally, in May 17 1990 the World Health Organization wiped homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses, calling for the first time “a natural variant of human behavior.” Today this date is celebrated as the International Day against homophobia.
Homosexual, bisexual and transgender behaviors occur in a number of other animal species. Such behaviors include sexual activity, courtship, affection, pair bonding, and parenting, and are widespread; a 1999 review shows that homosexual behavior has been documented in about 500 species.

To be gay is not an illness. To be gay is not unnatural. To be gay is not immoral. To be gay is not abnormal.

This is how I came to the idea to make a short move about the daily life of a homosexual person. I want to show that there is no difference between “them” and “us”, because love means love!

Ester Violante,
EVS Volunteer

Let’s Talk – A debate on sexism, male chauvinism and gender-based violence

At least one in five of the world’s female population has been physically or sexually abused by a man at some time in their life: this is one of the most important data that all the society must deal with. On February 18th in APY office took place an interesting debate about three very “hot” topics not only in Armenia, but in the whole world: sexism, male chauvinism and gender-based violence.

The three of them are very connected to each other, the main reason is that our culture, education, traditions taught us a way to think which is basically not more appropriate nowadays. During the debate a lot of people start a “little revolution”: the simple act to join a meeting and talk about these topics is very important to make the first step of change into the society: that’s how the peaceful revolutions are always starting.

Sexism can be a belief that one sex is superior to or more valuable than another sex. It is the prejudice or discrimination based on sex or gender, especially against women and girls. During the slides-show, we had the chance to discuss about some advertisement pictures which we found very sexists: in some pictures women were mistreated, or showed just like men’s objects. Someone of the participants of the debate claimed that maybe some behaviors that we consider as sexist ones are instead just “funny” male jokes, but after a little discussion we concluded that it is not just about silly jokes or behaviors, it is about the prejudice that underpins the sexist culture.

Why is it so dangerous for the society? Because everything that we think, that we say, that we do can make possible some sexual harassment, abuses or discrimination. The male chauvinism is simply the belief that men are superior to women: these men patronize, disparage, or otherwise denigrate females in the belief that they are inferior to males and thus deserving of less than equal treatment or benefit. It comes from the patriarchal society, which imposes different roles for each gender. No one from the group agreed with this mentality: everybody asserted that this way of thinking is outdated and very shameful. Although one of the boys said that even the religious tradition brings a lot of examples in which the female role is lower comparing with the male role: during the marriage ceremony the groom “takes” the bride as his own property, and this could be seen as a sexist tradition.

During the discussion we came to the idea that even if the ritual is outdated, the most important thing is the intention of the groom and the bride to be equal, and to have the same opportunity and treatment. We asked to ourselves: how can we reach this important goal for the society? Here is the answer, from different points of view: Education plays an essential role: it should eradicate these two dangerous ideas (sexism and male chauvinism) from every child’s mind, otherwise they will flow very easily into the third and most dramatic problem: the gender-based violence.

When schools ignore sexist, racist, homophobic, and violent interactions between students, they are giving tacit approval to such behaviors. And the society will pay the dramatic consequences: “Violence against women” as a synonymous of gender-based violence is understood as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women and means all acts of gender-based violence that result in physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women. The debate was very lively at this point and the result which we reached is that violence against women is not just a “women issue” but it is an issue that concerns all men, and not just the perpetrators. Everybody could give an example in which he or she was involved in this topic.

Personally I can tell the story about my neighbors’ fight: when I’ve heard the punches I called the police, they should protect the victims of violence. One boy told us that when he saw a boy beating his girlfriend he immediately interposes himself to stop the fight. These are very simple but effective examples that we should take in consideration every time we see violence around us.

Some slides reported the important data about gender-based violence: around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused by a man in her lifetime. If we want to stop this shame nobody should justify any form of violence against women by saying that this mentality is rooted in cultural institutions, traditions, beliefs, norms and practices. There is no justification for violence. Stop thinking sexist, make your own revolution, prevent violence!

Ester Violante, 
EVS volunteer in APY