Water management in ArmeniaWith 25.7 percent of the population living below the poverty line, the people of Armenia consider water a luxury. Armenians face daily water shortages and unclean water supply in their homes. Despite this, several groups are working together to improve water management in Armenia. Maintaining a stable supply of water is an important step in lowering poverty and improving the lives of citizens.

3 Efforts to Improve Water Management in Armenia

  1. Relief to Yerevan: The World Bank sponsored a $50 million project to make water more accessible to Armenians living in the capital city, Yerevan. Before the intervention, families would have access to water in their homes for approximately six hours per day, and the water was usually unclean. Now, 332,000 families in the capital have access to water for 21 hours per day, and thanks to nine new chlorination stations, the water is cleaner and safer. The World Bank also recognized the need to monitor the water supply to prevent waste, so they introduced a software program that oversees the entire network of pipes and water mains. The program makes it possible to pinpoint areas within the network that need renovation or attention to maintain a stable supply of water. This program could help thousands of Armenians if it were implemented in other cities, but so far, it has brought a sense of security and relief to Yerevan.
  2. Wastewater Treatment Methods: Before 2010, the wastewater treatment system allowed unsanitary water to contaminate agricultural lands, causing a jeopardized food supply and an increased risk of disease. In the village of Parakar, Global Water Partnership’s Armenia branch stepped in to reform the wastewater treatment methods. They chose a cost-effective technology that treats domestic wastewater so that it can be later used for irrigation purposes and vice versa. This allows water to be recycled and reused, promoting a message of sustainability. The treatment program also focused on public awareness of the new treatment technology, involving the community in the process which facilitated the plan’s success.
  3. Water Within Reach: Armenians used to have to travel very far to get potable water. Some families were forced to drive over an hour to get to the public tap, spending a large portion of their income on the expenses associated with this travel. The Asian Development Bank launched a project that aimed to reduce the cost of obtaining water by making it clean and available within people’s own homes, benefitting more than 600,000 people across the country. Having access to water in the home for at least 17 hours per day now costs $12 per month – significantly less than what it previously cost to make the drive to the public tap. This initiative marginally contributes to the decrease in poverty among Armenian families, and it improves the quality of their lives significantly.

The World Bank, the Global Water Partnership and the Asian Development Bank have changed lives because of their work to improve water management in Armenia. This is a small but mighty step towards decreasing poverty in Armenia.

– Katherine Desrosiers
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Living Conditions in Armenia

Armenia, a country nestled in the mountainous region between Asia and Europe, has faced many devastating blows in its colorful past and is, unfortunately, still dealing with the aftermath. Ever since the election of Nikol Pashinyan as Prime Minister in 2018, the country of Armenia has experienced an exorbitant amount of welcome change. However, recovering from years of corruption is not something that can happen overnight or at the hand of just one man.

10 Facts About Living Conditions in Armenia

  1. Riddled with dilapidated buildings, Armenia is still recovering from a 1988 earthquake. More than 30 years have passed, and the 517,000 people left homeless have had to live in dorms or single rooms. Many buildings do not have heating or cooling systems, so residents rely on burning wood as their source of heat. Over 50 percent of apartment buildings are due for renovations that will make them more earthquake resistant and energy efficient. Since 2015, Habitat for Humanity has provided housing to 4,323 families who would otherwise be homeless or living in broken-down buildings.
  2. Though there is a vast supply of natural water due to Armenia’s location in a mountainous region, the country has not yet achieved unlimited access to tap water, though about 99 percent of the population now have running water for twenty-one hours a day (formerly it was six hours). Companies like Veolia, which also deals with Armenia’s wastewater treatment, are responsible for the improvements in water accessibility and cleanliness.
  3. Attempts to improve health care brought about the Basic Benefits Package, which Armenia introduced in 1999. Under this package, Armenians are supposed to have access to state-funded health care services. However, the state pays out so little that patients end up having to pay out-of-pocket for services. Due to lack of funding, many people rely on home remedies or wait to see if symptoms pass before seeking out a medical professional.
  4. Educating the population about the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases has also become a priority. In 2004, the Center of Dermatology and Sexually Transmitted Infections, along with IntraHealth International, taught a course about the management of STIs for obstetrician-gynecologists and STI specialists. Since 2010, new HIV infections have decreased by 31 percent.
  5. Students have access to free schooling. While instruction is mainly in Armenian, schools teach English as a second language. The main public universities are Yerevan State University and the Yerevan Architecture and Civil Engineering Institute, whereas the American University of Armenia is a private university.
  6. Services for students with special needs are limited, so UNICEF is working to provide an inclusive early childhood education to all children, making sure to train school staff to accommodate those with special needs.
  7. The average monthly salary is 55,000 Dram, which is roughly $115 USD. In March 2018, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs of Armenia was drafting a new labor law to allow for open communication between employees and employers to discuss working conditions and overtime hours. The new law would also encourage the involvement of trade unions in negotiations.
  8. Armenia is one of many countries who participate in compulsory military service. Armenia drafts Armenian men to the army for two years when they turn 18. However, those pursuing higher education may defer their service until obtaining their Bachelor’s degree, at which point the government would require them to serve for three years. Many students complain that the required military service interrupts their education, making it difficult to return to school after this mandatory hiatus.
  9. Most Armenians welcomed Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan with open arms because he made them feel hopeful about their future. After his election, he pled with his people to join him in protecting their country, “We’re waiting for everybody! This is a new Armenia, where we do not shy away from military service, from where we do not emigrate, where we return – to incur their share of duty and duty for the sake of the future of Armenia.” Because of the trust they had placed in him, 320 citizens returned to serve in the army, 156 of which had previously evaded service.
  10. Upon election, Pashinyan called for the arrest of many corrupt government officials and filled the open positions with members who intend to drive Armenia forward. In addition, the government audited several businesses that had been working closely with the previous Republican Party.

With its history of corruption, Armenia was struggling to thrive in its war against poverty. Bearing in mind that it has only been a year since Pashinyan’s election, one cannot expect instantaneous improvements. However, these 10 facts about living conditions in Armenia point to positive changes in the future of its people.

– Sareen Mekhitarian
Photo: Flickr

nonprofits in ArmeniaSince Armenia has only been an independent country for less than 30 years, its economy has been slow-building. As of 2017, Armenia has a 29.8 percent poverty rate. The landscape of nonprofits in Armenia is a good example of how diverse strategies can contribute to the reduction of poverty. Here are the top five nonprofits in Armenia.

Top 5 Nonprofits in Armenia

  1. AGBU
    • What they do: The Armenian General Benevolent Union works to promote Armenian heritage around the world.
    • Who they serve: AGBU serves all Armenians by bringing attention to the country for its unique culture. At the same time, AGBU fundraises for causes, like Artsakh. Moreover, AGBU organizes women empowerment programs, work to improve medical care and support local farmers.
    • For more information, read about AGBU here.
  2. Eevah
    • What they do: Eevah aims to feed 33,000 hungry children around the world by 2020. The sale of handmade jewelry funds Eevah’s presence in Armenia. By combining creativity, fashion and charity, Eevah exemplifies how to utilize local talent to enact change.
    • Who they serve: Eevah serves children suffering from hunger around the world.
    • For more information, read about Eevah here.
  3. World Vision
    • What they do: World Vision identifies and eradicates root causes of poverty to benefit the lives of children across. To do so, World Vision empowers communities to become self-sufficient and sustainable.
    • Who they serve: To date, World Vision has helped over 200 million children in poverty. In Armenia, they focus on ensuring children live happy childhoods through programs enriching home and school life. Additionally, they put together clothing drives to provide warm clothes to families in need during the winter.
    • For more information, read about World Vision here.
  4. Air Serv International, Inc.
    • What they do: Air Serv provides safe transportation for people escaping vulnerable and dangerous areas. Accordingly, Air Serv transports them to humanitarian organizations for help.
    • Who they serve: In April 2019, Air Serv transported 1,061 passengers into relief spaces. They are present in Armenia and surrounding countries like Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Georgia. Moreover, they have worked with the World Food Programme to provide food to Armenia and its neighbors during times of war and conflict.
    • For more information, read about Air Serve here.
  5. ACDI/VOCA
    • What they do: ACDI/VOCA fights to implement capacity-building projects across the globe. Specifically, they focus on economic advancement to help communities thrive through local programs.
    • Who they serve: In Armenia, ACDI/VOCA has supported innovative growing projects for 60,000 farmers. As a result, these programs benefit local efforts and bolster the agricultural industry. They also supported programming to provide $7 million in loans to Armenian farmers.
    • For more information, read about ACDI/VOCA here.

A labor force migration, weak agricultural system and unemployment drive Armenia’s poverty rate. However, the creativity of local and global nonprofits help provide relief to the 29.8 percent of Armenians who live in poverty. These nonprofits in Armenia prove the many ways communities can benefit from the work of like-minded individuals who want to eradicate poverty.

Ava Gambero
Photo: Flickr

Infrastructure Projects in ArmeniaArmenia is a landlocked country in the Caucuses region, bordered by Azerbaijan and Turkey. Azerbaijan and Armenia have been in a state of frozen conflict since 1994 with things heating up briefly in 2016. Turkey and Armenia have been at odds for around 100 years over the Ottoman Turks treatment of ethnic Armenians throughout the history of the Empire, especially during the First World War. Due to these sour relations, the borders are closed. Armenia is forced to trade through the two other nations that it borders, Georgia and Iran. Many infrastructure projects in Armenia are focused on increasing the ease of the flow of goods between Armenia and Georgian Ports.

Armenia’s most important railroads used to be owned by a Russian company. Now they are in a state of disrepair. These three railroads run to Georgian ports where Armenian trade goods are then shipped to globally. However, further improvements to rail transport have been halted due to expenses. This has been attributed to lower than expected Russian investment in Armenia.

The World Bank

The World Bank has been working with both the government and private sector on infrastructure projects in Armenia. Due to a stagnant economy, much of this is not only aimed at improving the basic living conditions for Armenians but also at increasing job creation. By building and improving infrastructure, the government and the World Banks hopes to create jobs in the construction sector through government and private programs.

For example, in December 2015, the World Bank approved a $55 million local economy and infrastructure project. The project was aimed at both improving municipal infrastructure to increase the standard of living as well as to protect and sustain cultural heritage sites in order to boost tourism. The project end date is in 2021.

The European Bank

Infrastructure projects in Armenia are also funded by The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The EBRD has funded 171  projects in Armenia to the tune of 1.24 billion Euros since Armenia joined in 1992. Of the current 309 million Euros the EBRD is funding for projects in Armenia, 21 percent is going towards infrastructure projects. This includes improving municipal and urban transportation infrastructure.

This money is not only going to roads, rails and vehicles but it is also being invested in improving how commuters pay for transportation. This includes modernizing the ticket system. By making it easier and cheaper for people to purchase tickets for buses and trains, more tickets will be bought and fewer people will hop on for a free ride. The EBRD is also financing greener infrastructure projects in Armenia. At least 23 percent of the funding is going towards the energy market.

Paying It Forward

Despite the help with infrastructure projects in Armenia that the country is receiving to boost its economy and infrastructure, the nation is also giving. In 2015, the Armenian government donated 1 million Euros to the Eastern European Energy Efficiency and Environmental Partnership. Although Armenia also receives funding and expertise from this organization, so do many of its lost family of ex-soviet states. Armenia’s 2015 donation possibly went on to light homes in another country facing a similar situation.

Nick DeMarco

Photo: Flickr

AIDS in ArmeniaArmenia is a landlocked country sharing borders with Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran. Throughout history, this key location rendered Armenia vulnerable to the Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Persian and Ottoman empires. Most recently in 1920, the Soviet Red Army ruled the country until 1991 when Armenia regained its independence. The following year Armenia joined the United Nations and in 2001 it became a member of the Council of Europe. This is a country with a long, rich and complex history infused with religion, national strife, war and genocide.

Like every other country in the world, present-day Armenia battles a deadly condition: HIV/AIDS. HIV attacks the body’s immune system, rendering it vulnerable to other infections and even various cancers. Globally in 2017, 1.8 million people were newly infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). If untreated HIV results in acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). In 2017 AIDS took the lives of 940,000 people worldwide.

4 Facts About the Status of AIDS in Armenia

  1. In 2016, the World Health Organization recognized Armenia as one out of four countries that eliminated mother-to-child transmissions of HIV. Additionally, since 2010, new HIV infections in Armenia decreased by 31 percent.

  2. Although new cases of HIV declined within the last decade, AIDS-related deaths increased by 26 percent. Although there isn’t a known cure for HIV or AIDS, antiretroviral therapy (ART) can suppress the virus and prevent its spread to others. However, in 2016 only slightly more than one-third of Armenians with HIV sought out ART.

  3. There are ways to continue the fight against AIDS in Armenia. In 2017 there were an estimated 3,400 Armenians living with HIV or AIDS. One of the key issues surrounding AIDS in Armenia is that nearly half of Armenians with the virus don’t know that they have it. Preventative measures such as comprehensive and inclusive sex education, increased use of protection during sex and regular HIV testing are key in lowering the number of AIDS-related deaths and fighting AIDS in Armenia.

  4. Key populations most affected by AIDS are sex workers, LGBTQ+ individuals, people who inject drugs, prisoners and outbound migrant workers. These groups oftentimes face social stigma and discrimination which render them more vulnerable to contracting HIV. They also tend to have reduced access to HIV testing and ART.

For the last three years, Armenia has upheld its status as having ended mother-to-infant transmission of HIV. This is a massive success for Armenians and the fight against the spread of HIV and AIDS worldwide. However, there are many more steps that Armenia and other countries can take to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS and lower the number of AIDS-related deaths. Comprehensive sex education, access to condoms, HIV-testing and antiretroviral therapy are key in fighting this deadly condition. Additionally, combating stigma and reducing discrimination against vulnerable populations will greatly impact the prevalence of HIV and AIDS worldwide.

– Keeley Griego
Photo: UNFPA

Human Rights in Nagorno-Karabakh
In 1994, the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan signed a ceasefire agreement that many politicians hoped would put a stop to years of conflict between the two states. When the Russian tsarist regime collapsed in 1917, Azerbaijan and Armenia fought over control of the landlocked mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh, a region in the Caucasus the size of Connecticut. After the Red Army annexed the Caucasian republics to the Soviet Union, the Armenian-majority territory of Nagorno-Karabakh became an autonomous region of Azerbaijan.

Seven decades later, when the Soviet Union began disintegrating in the late 1980s, Armenian secessionists and Azerbaijani troops launched a war over Nagorno-Karabakh. The outbreak of violence claimed around 20,000 lives and created one million refugees. After the 1994 ceasefire, Nagorno-Karabakh declared its independence, but the international community continues to recognize the war-torn territory as a part of Azerbaijan.

Five Facts About Human Rights in Nagorno-Karabakh

The “Four Day War” in April 2016—an outbreak between the two warring parties that killed at least 200 people—ended more than two decades of ceasefire and put the human rights records of Azerbaijan and Armenia into the spotlight. Here are five facts about human rights in Nagorno-Karabakh:

  1. High-ranking Azerbaijani officials have spread hate speech and incited violence against the country’s Armenian minority, according to a 2016 Ombudsman Report. In November 2012, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev took to Twitter to declare that Armenia “is actually a colony, an outpost run from abroad, a territory artificially created on ancient Azerbaijani land.” Public statements like Aliyev’s violate Article 4 (c) of the U.N. International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, which bars authorities from promoting racial discrimination.  
  2. Azerbaijani forces ruthlessly murdered civilians when they invaded Nagorno-Karabakh on April 2, 2016. Soldiers shot the elderly, infirm and young, and the targeted shelling of residential buildings killed or wounded more than two dozen civilians, many of whom were minors. The Ombudsman found Azerbaijan in violation of the Geneva Convention of 1949, which delineates special protections for the sick, wounded and pregnant during war.
  3. While Armenia has instituted civil and political liberties since its independence in 1991, Amnesty International has called out the Armenian government for silencing journalists investigating the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. According to the report, Armenians show little tolerance for “unarmenian” views of the conflict, with individuals disagreeing with mainstream opinion labeled as traitors. In 2017, the European Court of Human Rights delivered 12 judgments concerning Armenia, 11 of which found the country in violation of the European Convention of Human Rights.
  4. With the exception of The HALO Trust and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which helps reunite family members who have gone missing in combat, the international community provides little support for human rights in Nagorno-Karabakh. Many NGOs know that entering Nagorno-Karabakh would make them ‘persona non grata’ in Azerbaijan, preventing them from returning in the future.
  5. Despite Azerbaijan’s threats, the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center—an organization that helps individuals with disabilities—has made substantial progress for human rights in Nagorno-Karabakh. Wars in the early 1990s and, more recently, in April 2016 injured many civilians, leaving some with physical disabilities; infrastructure for wheelchairs and medical facilities for treatment, however, were scarce. The Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center provides treatment for 1000 patients annually and supports therapists that travel to individuals who cannot travel to Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, to receive care. In 2017, the Center opened a department for children with autism.

Human rights in Nagorno-Karabakh will improve with increased stability. In July 2018, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced that he was ready to talk peace in Nagorno-Karabakh. A month later, Russia and Germany proactively offered to facilitate a settlement that would secure long-lasting peace. Once Armenia and Azerbaijan come to terms with the fate of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, it is hoped that humanitarian organizations will step in to monitor conditions on the ground and heal old wounds.

– Mark Blekherman
Photo: Flickr

ArmeniaIn Armenia, hunger has been a problem faced by its citizens since the country gained independence in 1991. However, through steady economic growth and the implementation of strategies from global agencies, the country’s hunger issue has been slowly reducing. Here are the top ten facts about hunger in Armenia:

  1. Hunger is closely related to poverty, as people that live under the poverty line tend to be the most food insecure. As of 2015, six percent of the Armenian population was undernourished. Hunger in Armenia tends to rise and fall as a result of the country’s economic stability. Since the global financial crisis of 2008, food insecurity in the country has almost doubled, as an estimated 16 percent of families were classified as food insecure in 2015.
  2. Armenia is a low to middle income, landlocked country that relies on imports for most food. Because of this, the country and its citizens are reliant on other countries for stability. When surrounding countries are in financial downturn, it takes a negative effect on Armenians as well. The country has had slow economic development since 1991 when borders with neighboring countries Turkey and Azerbaijan were established post-Armenian independence. Due in large to its slow economic growth, 29.4 percent of Armenians lived in poverty as of 2016.

  3. In Armenia, the effect of hunger is visible in two main ways: stunted growth and being overweight. Approximately 9 percent of Armenian children under five have had their growth stunted while 14 percent were overweight as of 2015. To some, it may be surprising that people can be overweight while still food insecure, but it is more common than one might think. Because many people who are food insecure are also impoverished, they tend to purchase food based on quantity over quality. This results in the intake of less-nutritious foods in low-income areas. In countries like Armenia, it has resulted in many of its poorer citizens becoming overweight.

  4. Armenia has reduced the country’s poverty rate from 54 percent in 1998 to 28 percent in 2008. After a brief rise and stagnation in the poverty rate, at approximately 32 percent after the global economic crises, the country’s poverty rate has again begun to fall.

  5. Organizations like the World Economic Forum and the World Bank are considering ways to reanalyze the causes behind Armenia’s hunger problems. More reasons for hunger, like education, health and labor, are being examined in addition to poverty.

  6. As Armenia’s hunger problem is examined from various perspectives, new solutions are being presented to combat the country’s food insecurity.

  7. One solution from the National Strategic Review of Food Safety and Nutrition is to apply healthcare, social protections and regional policies in order to reduce the disparities in hunger and malnutrition throughout Armenia. These policies will target hunger and food insecurity with strategies not traditionally used in the country.

  8. An additional solution is to raise public awareness about healthy nutrition and how to make better decisions about food choices. These public awareness and education campaigns would take place in remote communities where food education is not prevalent, giving way to unhealthy choices. The education campaign will also serve as a preventative measure against malnutrition and undernourishment by focusing on sustainable food choices.

  9. The solution to hunger and food insecurity in Armenia may be in the revision of policy that would protect the most underserved people. Part of this solution will include commencing vouchers to the unemployed, social assistance programs to children 3-5 years of age, as well as monetary and non-monetary plans to ensure nutritious food intake to beneficiary families of assistance programs.

  10. Armenia is a country still growing and recovering from many outside factors that have hindered the young country’s development. However, with newly proposed sustainable solutions and the promise of continued economic security, the country is beginning to address its hunger and food insecurity problem.

Armenia’s hunger problem is a complex and multi-causal issue. However, through steady advancement and changes to its economy and food programs, solutions are possible. These strategies are only a few of many to relieve hunger in the country. These top ten facts about hunger in Armenia are a brief way to understand a longstanding problem.

– Savannah Hawley

Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in ArmeniaThe great emphasis on education in Armenia could be attributed to the nation’s 1600-year-old history of literacy and its treatment of schools as the basis for cultural and political survival. Article 39 of the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia (1995) ensures the right to education for all citizens of the Republic. In recent times the government has tried to ensure gender-equality in education, health, power, decision-making and other areas as demonstrated by its strategic action plans.

While Armenia does display an impressive gender-parity in primary education, there are several aspects to girls’ education in Armenia which in turn impact the socio-economic and cultural standing of Armenian women. Let us understand some of these facets of girls’ education in Armenia.

Gender-Inclusive Education

Armenia has a 12-year school education system. Grade 9 graduates are required to move to a high school to continue their education or choose a Vocational Education and Training institution. At tertiary educational level, students choose either a general stream (humanities, sciences, etc.)  or a vocational stream (agriculture, construction, information and technologies, etc.). According to the World Bank, the Armenian government aims to incorporate its gender-equality agenda into the educational system. In 2011, the National Statistical Service reported a “universal enrollment rate among both boys and girls at the primary level and a 99.6 percent enrollment rate among girls” compared to “98.4 percent among boys at the secondary level.”

In a recent World Bank report titled, ‘Armenia Country Gender Assessment,’ it is reported that a dramatic growth of up to 57 percent among women in higher education occurred during the year 2012-2013. However, despite the growth in the percentage of women in higher education, the labor market still encounters a lower participation rate among women.

The researchers attribute this gap to the difference in subject-matter choices offered to boys and girls at the tertiary education level. While women are more likely to study the social sciences, health, education and other non-STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) subjects, men are more likely to choose STEM-related fields or vocational education, which in turn leads to better-paying jobs. These findings point to the  “aspirational (behavioral), informational and institutional” factors of the tertiary level of education in Armenia.

Women’s Representation in the Workforce

The Asian Development Bank reinforces that a gender-parity in enrollment rates in Armenia, from primary to higher education, does exist. However, despite the tendency for a larger number of women to acquire postgraduate education, they lag behind men in the labor market due to their choice of “traditionally female” domains of study. In addition, women more often tend to succumb to cultural pressures of marriage and family duties. Factors such as the quality of education, gender stereotypes, and school curricula have been found to also influence and determine many women’s decisions.

Armenia has a history of including gender-inclusion education that dates back to the 19th century; however, a survey conducted by the World Bank found that 54 percent of Armenian teachers hold the opinion that girls and boys should be treated differently, because “they are essentially different.” School-textbooks and curricula are also responsible for promoting stereotypical and traditional ideas of womanhood and serve to inadequately represent women, according to Iveta Silova, author of ‘Gender Analysis of Armenian School Curriculum and Textbooks.’ The study notes that Armenian language textbooks and literature rarely include or acknowledge the works or contributions of Armenian female writers and poets.

This omission of female authors limits “the scope of the country’s literary accomplishment to the work of men only.” Some of these challenges to girls’ education in Armenia ultimately leads to underrepresentation of women in political policy-making roles and the labor market, thereby perpetuating stereotypical female roles and causing a wide wage-gap between men and women.

Strategic Steps for Girls and Women in Armenia

The World Bank determined girls’ education across the world to be a “strategic development priority” that can lead to better educated and healthier women who are more aware of their socio-political and economic rights. This, in turn, can help build better communities and lift nations out of poverty.

The Armenian government has taken consistent steps towards ensuring gender-equality in the educational system. Its adoption of the Gender Policy Concept Paper in 2010 and the Law on Securing Equal Rights and Equal Opportunities for Women and Men in 2013 are prime examples of such efforts. The educational reform proposals by the government are aimed at “democratization of the education sphere…establishing gender-balanced representation at all levels of the education sphere…and supporting equality of women and men in society, social justice, and enjoyment of social freedoms.”

Measures are being taken to improve girls’ education and are aided by the continued efforts of the World Bank, the European Union’s support towards modernization of education, and the UNDP’s goals to ensure “inclusive and equitable quality education” in Armenia.

– Jayendrina Singha Ray
Photo: Flickr

Gender Inequality in Armenia
Armenia is just one of the countries around the globe that has been, and still continues to be, greatly affected by gender inequality. While women have recently been granted more rights, they are still struggling to close the gap of gender inequality in Armenia. Women struggle to keep their independence not only at home, but also in the work place where they have far less opportunity and make significantly less money than men. This gender discrepancy is especially noticeable in the rural areas of the country. Several organizations have come together to try and end this unfortunate issue.

Organizations Take Steps Towards Gender Equality

In late 2017, the organization NEF UK launched a project that will provide services focused on women’s empowerment and gender equality. NEF has recognized that when women feel empowered, they experience less violence at home and in the workplace. NEF UK hopes to help at risk women gain financial independence, while also advocating for survivors of domestic abuse.

Another organization working to end gender inequality in Armenia is UNDP Armenia. Since 1992, UNDP Armenia has created projects — such as Women in Local Democracy — to achieve the goal of giving women more of a voice when it comes to the country’s economic development. Women with more representation in the government and able to participate in decision making is huge when it comes to female empowerment. Instances such as this create an improved understanding of society, and helps women gain independence and leadership skills.

Women’s Resource Center of Armenia

Among organizations focusing on projects to end gender inequality in Armenia is the Women’s Resource Center of Armenia, the first organization of its kind in the country. Co-founded by Lara Aharonian in 2003, the company aims to create a safe space and sense of community for all women.

They offer a variety of programs, such as “No One’s Perfect,” for mothers with young children, and also hold gatherings where women can come and share their ideas and views in a protected environment. Along with advocating and supporting the women of Armenia, WRCA also works with Syrian and Iraqi refugees, and offers a wide range of free resources, including language classes and job training.

Armenian Women Overcome Obstacles

In late 2017, Armenia passed a law that will criminalize domestic violence. In October of 2017, a petition addressed to the Prime Minister of Armenia was proposed on change.org. The petition received close to 3,000 signatures from people all over the world in support of this law that includes the prevention of domestic violence, and keeping past victims protected.

Women in Armenia face many challenges. With the threat of violence, and less access to high paying jobs, they are born into a society that expects them to stay home and provide for their family; they often don’t have the opportunity for much more than that. But there are many organizations and people, not just in Armenia, but all over the world, that are in support of the empowerment of women.

Armenian women are now able to access schooling and jobs, all while residing in safer environments surrounded by people who support them. Armenia has shown growth and it’s expected that the women of the country will continue to gain empowerment and experience less inequality.

– Allisa Rumreich
Photo: Flickr

How the U.S. Benefits from Foreign Aid to Armenia
Ever since Armenia gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, it has shared a mutually beneficial relationship with the U.S. As a country attempting to recover from widespread poverty and corruption, the benefits Armenia receives from organizations like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are clear. Yet, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Armenia are significant in their own right.

Some of these benefits include increased stability and independence so that Armenia can resist Russian pressure and have closer ties with the Euro-Atlantic community. Both politically and economically, the U.S. has much to gain from cultivating greater stability and economic growth in Armenia.

Achieving Government Stability

Since Armenian independence in 1991, the government has struggled to maintain a stable democracy the Armenian people can trust. Fortunately, USAID is working with both the government and citizens to build trustworthy institutions that work for the people. By creating stability in the region, the U.S. benefits directly from Armenian foreign aid by gaining a trustworthy political ally in the region that champions U.S. ideals and supports U.S. goals. These are a few ways USAID is helping to achieve this goal:

  1. Media for Engaged Civil Public Project
    One of the backbones of a strong democracy is a trustworthy media that properly informs its public. This program plans to set up a healthy media as well as media watchdogs to prevent excessive bias.
  2. Engaged Citizenry for a Responsible Government Project
    USAID is helping to increase activity in local government and create an engaged public. Many Armenians are uninformed about their government or do not believe they can make a difference. This program aims to change that.
  3. Local Government Reform Activity
    By helping to decentralize the Armenian government, USAID is helping to create natural checks and balances in the system and give power back to local areas.

These are just a few of the ways USAID is helping Armenia achieve a sustainable government. The U.S. plans to give just over $3 million for “Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance” as well as “Peace and Security” in 2019. In return, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Armenia through gaining a strong ally in the region that is trustworthy and stable.

The U.S. Benefits from Foreign Aid to Armenia by Developing a Trade Partner

With greater economic stability in Armenia, the country becomes a reliable trade partner for the U.S. While GDP growth in the country has steadily been on the rise in recent years, there is still progress to be made. In 2019, more than $3 million will be allocated through USAID for the express purpose of economic development. Some of the ways USAID plans to use this money to help Armenia are:

  1. The Partnership for Rural Prosperity Program
    Despite consistent GDP growth, Armenia still struggles in the disparity between urban centers and rural areas. This project aims to alleviate this gap by providing economic opportunities to rural regions, improving access to markets and reinforcing infrastructure.
  2. Agribusiness Teaching Center
    This program aims to educate the Armenian public on agriculture and agribusiness while conducting research to help local farmers. As a hub for agricultural knowledge, this center will provide a strong foundation upon which to build an agricultural community.
  3. Tax Reform Project
    This program hopes to create a more accessible dialogue between the lawmakers deciding tax rates and the citizens paying them. It also hopes to reform the tax code in a way that makes it easier for citizens to start small businesses.

Through these programs and others, foreign aid to Armenia is helping to develop a powerful ally that can work with the U.S. as a mutually beneficial trading partner. Programs such as these contribute to a strong trade relationship between the two countries, with the U.S.-Armenia Economic Task Force being an indicator of how well the relationship has developed.

Overall, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Armenia are numerous and significant. By investing in the people of this developing country, the U.S. gains a political and economic partner while helping alleviate poverty and corruption.

– Jonathon Ayers
Photo: Flickr