Supporting survivors of violence against women and girls in post-war Armenia
"After [the abuse], your life isn’t over; you have a life to live.” – A young woman survivor of violence supported by the Women’s Support Center.
The 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war in Armenia caused a humanitarian crisis. An estimated half of the region’s population, approximately 90,000 people, mainly women and children, were displaced.
In response, the Women’s Support Center, a women-led organization twice funded by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund) began a project to support women and girl survivors of violence, especially those who are displaced or otherwise marginalized.
The project provides comprehensive multi-sectoral services and economic empowerment activities, and raises awareness about violence against women and girls.
Helping displaced survivors of violence
Internally displaced women and girls face a heightened risk of violence, including domestic violence, due to the uncertainties and lack of access to services associated with displacement.
As the impacts of the war unfolded, the Women’s Support Center quickly adapted its work to help survivors of violence and women living in collective shelters scattered across Armenia, including by:
- offering immediate material support, including shelter and psychological services for displaced women and children;
- transforming the Center into a hub where essential goods for women and children in need were stored and distributed; and
- raising awareness among internally displaced women and girls about domestic violence and available services.
Since the project began in April 2021, it has reached almost 800 women and girls, 450 of them internally displaced, from several regions, and has offered five of them shelter.
A displaced woman referred to the Center said:
“I have seen a lot of changes in myself thanks to the Center and to the specialists… I learned that a woman isn’t just born to take on chores or made to feel guilty about everything. Rather a woman is also a person who has rights and who should be protected.”
The Women’s Support Center also scaled up its economic empowerment programme as the post-war economic crisis heavily impacted women. The programme offers vocational and business training, micro loans and employment assistance to women survivors, helping them to find employment or start their own business.
Ani Jilozian, Director of Development at the Center, explained the importance of such programmes:
“Economic dependency is among the strongest predictors of a survivor’s decision to leave or return to an abusive relationship”.
The COVID-19 pandemic also exacerbated violence against women and girls. During Armenia’s lockdown, the Women’s Support Center registered a 50% increase in hotline calls. With support from the UN Trust Fund, it maintained its support services by moving most of its training and services online and offered remote counselling and legal aid to survivors of violence.
Mildred Garcia R., Capacity Development and Operation Manager at the UN Trust Fund, explains:
“As civil society organizations adapt to rapidly changing environments and growing challenges, the UN Trust Fund is supporting them in enhancing organizational effectiveness and resilience, by providing core, flexible and long-term funding as well as capacity to strengthen their operational systems, all with feminist principles and values.”
Read the interview with Ani Jilozian, Director of Development at the Women's Support Center on the UN Trust Fund's Medium here.