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.