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.
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.
From June 27 to 5th of July together with JUB International from Netherlands we hosted the international training ”Gender Perspectives in Europe: 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. 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.
Republic 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!).
I 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!
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.
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.
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!