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Let us struggle for equal rights and representation of women

It has been more than 95 years, since the International Women’s day is celebrated on March 8. It was born in 1909, due to protests of American women working in textile factories. And on March 8, 1911 the German socialist Clara Tsedkin organized International Women’s Day, which was accompanied by demonstrations and marches in Germany, Austria, Denmark and other European countries. In 1977 the UN officially declared March 8 as International Women’s Day and which is celebrated in various countries of the world, including Armenia. March 8 symbolizes struggle for political and social rights of women, for recognition of their rights and opportunities in equal competition with men and deciding for the subsistence of their states and societies.


Discussions about the rights of Women and gender equality are accepted with grumble and cynicism in Armenia. Be aged or young, man or woman, people generally insist that there is no issue of women’s rights in Armenia, and that all human rights, independent to the gender of the individual, are declared in our Constitution and are endorsed by all the laws. But there may be two approaches to the equality: yes, the first is to reject gender discrimination by the law and guarantee equal rights by the legislation, and the second approach is the actual implementation of those laws and equality of opportunities (or the so called equality of outcomes), which is guaranteeing such conditions that men and women will have actual equal and just participation and representation in the political, civic, economic, social and cultural sectors, at all levels.


Equality does not mean resemblance: gender equality has wrongly lead to the way of thinking that women should decline from their inner and outer feminine characteristics, act, think and dress like males, and the other way around, men as women. On the contrary, the real meaning of equal and just participation of men and women is that in social, economic, cultural, political and civic aspects of life, in all sectors the true values of the men’s and women’s roles be balanced and equal representation and special issues related to both genders be equally spoken and defended. This is a guarantee for the harmony, true solidarity and static development of our community, our society, our nation.


Women compose more than half of the citizens and inhabitants of our state, therefore justice, human and national rights require that they should have equal opportunities of raising and defending their special issues at all levels and strategies of political and social decision making: issues, that are the most related to the existence, security and development of our state, society and nation.


Linking the issue of violation of women’s rights to African countries or Islamic communities is principally an incorrect way of thinking. With various extents this issue exists in all states and societies and to a great scope, also in Armenia. Isn’t it the Armenian reality that women are avoiding having children, even so more than one child? Isn’t it an issue of national security in Armenia that we have become an aging society (in 2005 only around 37000 births have been registered in Armenia, which means a decline of more than 50% compared to the 80000 births in 1990*)? And at the same time we are expecting to have a flourishing Republic of Armenia populated mainly with Armenians, an Armenian state in Nagorno Karabagh, and moreover, one day return to Western Armenia and rebuild it. The relation between our abovementioned aspirations and the defense of women’s rights and their actual self-realization is inevitable. Today our country is not properly defending women’s rights in the workplace, without actual guarantees that after childbirth women will not lose their jobs and that for certain years she will be able to coordinate her job and taking care of her child, and that after maternity leave she’ll be trained in her profession, that she assumes full valued, prestigious and responsible tasks, that she has enough state protection for taking care of her underage children and for securing their health and education. It is necessary to assure equal pay of men and women having similar qualifications. It is also necessary to create equal conditions and opportunities for men and women to acquire qualifications of similar levels. Unemployment of women is also an alarming issue: the majority, around 70.4%**, of those looking for jobs is women and so on…


… Who can and should raise such issues and demands, if not women and with the solidarity of aware men? How can women achieve it without being fully, equally and justly represented in the social-political life, in the local self-governing bodies, in the National Assembly, in the Constitutional Court and at other high-ranked offices and decision making bodies? The lone efforts of civic and non governmental organizations can not be enough. A representation with equal proportionality in the National Assembly, the ministries, local self-governing bodies, as well as in the administrative bodies of economic and other institutions and major decision making bodies, at first through quotas, and later by civic consciousness.


It is also necessary to educate women to be strong, daring and self-confident, to consider themselves an equal candidate for functioning in the abovementioned sectors, for publicly raising and defending the important issues of our society and state, for decision making.


It is the responsibility of each of us, members of our state and society to educate such citizens, who will be aware of and respect their differences (among which that of gender) and with it their equal rights and opportunities.


* * *


Women are and have always been the strong foundations of our nation with their high common sense, thoughtfulness, endurance, prudence, and at the same with their clear, flexible and many-sided thinking and organizational abilities, with their determination, and virtuous characteristics of putting themselves aside for the communal interest, self-defense and solidarity. Yes, Armenian women are all these and even more, as well as their ESSENTIAL and irreplaceable values in the realization of the past, present and the future of Armenian history, even though sadly their NAMES have not been registered and not remembered along with individual heroes… It’s a SHAME and even STRANGE… Only women strengthened by these characteristics can give birth to and educate full-fledged human beings and Armenians. These women can also shape real men and in harmony with them create just, solid and emerging Armenian individualities, families, communities, societies, nation, and state. In the most difficult and fatal moments of our history the Armenian family and nation have been defended by the women, as is testified by our reality in Armenia, the Nagorno Karabagh and the Diaspora. A Quantum Leap is necessary from the FORMAL and ARTIFICIAL RECOGNITION towards the authentic acknowledgment of VITAL and PIVOTAL value and role, thus securing and reinforcing the equal POLITICAL PARTICIPATION and REPRESENTATION of Armenian women in the democratic and socially just development, in ALL the high ranked national offices. Armenian women will be more RESPECTED and APPRAISED if instead of receiving flowers and candy they are encouraged and NOT INHIBITED from their 50% participation in the communal, social, state and national actual decision making offices and not “by self-deception of 5%, 10%, 15% or 25% participation”. And if more than 50% of the national population is women and their quality input is also more than 50% of that, then justice, respect of human and national rights and especially rational national and state security and development requires that Armenian women should be among the ranks of the DECISION makers. Thus they contribute their irretrievable characteristics and that only by 50% participation they will definitely subvert and improve the Armenian reality.


If WE do not PERCEIVE this fact and not be AWARE of it, then as a nation and state we will primitively take continuous backward steps. All of us and each of us as men and women, but mostly those men dominating the POWER in ALL the main levels, need to exert a great effort. Their awareness, commonsense, patriotism, honesty, genuine muscularity will be proved if they succeed in totally changing their mentality, behavior and unjust tradition and guarantee a 50% representation of women in all levels of power.


A challenge is thrown to them. But are they competent enough of taking that step in the current critical phase of the Armenian nation and its state building?! If yes, then they will realize the most powerful and courageous ACTION of Armenian history and that of the civilized world and will be remembered forever.


*The RA outline of the Concept for National Demographic Strategy, Yerevan 2006
**RA National Statistical Service, 2006, Yearbook






MARCH 8 - International Women's Day


Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (IDHR) non-governmental organization in Armenia congratulates all the women on the occasion of the 8th of March - International Women's Day.


The 8th of March marks the protection of and the struggle for the equal rights of women.


IDHR attaches great importance to the protection and development of women's rights and EQUAL involvement in political, civic, economic, social and cultural life worldwide and in Armenia particularly.


IDHR calls the authorities of the Republic of Armenia, all the Armenian institutions and the Armenian people as well, not to be content with recording women's rights merely on papers, but to take measures for de facto inclusion of women, to support and encourage them, through crashing taboos and the rooted beliefs. The 50% political representation of women should be accomplished in the name of justice, sustainable development and national security of the Republic of Armenia.


IDHR once again congratulates the 8th of March and calls the women to be more courageous, fight for their rights, to stand up for securing their full-fledged participation in the political, civic, economic, social and cultural life of the country. IDHR also calls the men to support women in their struggle, as manhood does not lie in strength, but in love, respect and mutual trust.


Let us stand up and struggle for noble goals!


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