The participation of women in Armenian politics is nothing new – in the early-20th century, Armenia first granted women’s suffrage, elected women parliamentarians and appointed women ambassadors. Yet, in Armenia today, women represent less than a quarter of the National Assembly and even smaller percentages in executive and high-level government leadership roles.
Several women aspirants representing a variety of sectors, including government, technology, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), have stepped forward to strengthen women’s influence and leadership. Through NDI’s Katarine Women’s Leadership Program, these women aspirants have learned a variety of skills relating to public speaking, message development, policy development and campaign management. The women aspirants have utilized these skills to effectively communicate in their current remote work, including when writing targeted speeches on behalf of members of Armenia’s National Assembly.
When the COVID-19 pandemic restricted the opportunity for in-person gatherings, the women participants quickly adapted, shifting towards online learning and networking techniques. In addition to participating in skills-building webinars, Katarine School participants have held virtual meetings with women members of Armenia’s National Assembly and, through those conversations, further developed their networks and explored opportunities for politically active women in Armenia. The Katarine participants met with Sona Ghazaryan, a member of parliament from the My Step faction, and Naira Zohrabyan, a member of parliament from the Prosperous Armenia faction. Candid conversations with the MPs covered the gender-based challenges women representatives overcome to generate political change. While MPs Ghazaryan and Zohrabyan each offered a different perspective, both women MPs had similar overarching messages: women do not need to compete with each other to succeed but are instead stronger when supporting each other. They emphasized that, when working together, women leaders in Armenia have a better chance of succeeding in male-dominated structures, regardless of their political affiliation or background.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has raised additional challenges for women who wish to become involved in politics, the opportunity to meet with prominent women leaders, such as these MPs, in an online setting has been a galvanizing force for participants in the Katarine program. Many of these women hope to run for political office in the future and look to women MPs as examples to emulate in their future political careers. Even as in-person networking activities have become more difficult, these politically active women have proven adaptable and committed to expanding their political skill set and building a stronger network of engaged women leaders.
Watch the meeting with MP Naira Zohrabyan here.
Watch the meeting with MP Sona Ghazaryan here.