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Artsax women defend their rights for “gender self-determination”

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#1 Em



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Posted 16 April 2008 - 04:14 PM

"Hearth Holders, Plus . . . : Artsax women defend their rights for “gender self-determination”

By Naira Hayrumyan
ArmeniaNow Artsax reporter
Published: 11 April, 2008

At the beginning of this school year principles in Stepanakert received a very strange order from Minister of Education Vadik Khachatryan forbidding female teachers from wearing trousers to work. The minister explained his oral instruction by a wish to ensure the teachers’ appropriate moral image.

But the teachers did not share the minister’s views on morality and declared that they are not going to follow his instructions. The order raised noisy protest and almost turned into scandal. The minister was taken aback and trying to justify himself said that he did not mean trousers, but meant provocative clothing.

It has never been clear what the minister intended, but it sure that he did not base his judgment on contemporary thought. Women in Artsax have changed, having survived war, famine, bitterness of losses and equally shared all the hardships of post-war years with men.

“Gender” life in provincial Stepanakert changed since the outbreak of hostilities when Artsax’s demographic balance changed drastically. From 1991 to 1994 3,100 people died 1,137 of whom where from Stepanakert. These people had wives, fiancés. According to statistical data, the men and women ratio in Artsax is 47-53 percent respectively. In Stepanakert with population of 40,000 and more than 5,000 unmarried people older the age of 30, 1,500 of whom are men.

Julietta Arustamyan’s dream is to open a women’s center in Shushi.

Women left without support of men had to take their cue from complicated conditions of war to be able to feed themselves, their children, keep the house. Things weren’t easier for women whose husbands were by their side either, as it was hard to earn their living in those circumstances.

“My husband was at the front, and then after the truce was concluded he stayed in the army,” tells Lyudmila Sarkisyan, who is trading in clothes at a market in Stepanakert. “His salary was very low, it was impossible to take care of two grown up sons with it. The city was ruined, enterprises didn’t work, I don’t even have higher education. So I decided to take up trade. It took me a long time to persuade my husband, and finally went to Sadakhlo (on the border of Armenia, Georgia and Turkey ), brought goods and started selling. And so until now that’s what I am doing. My husband helps me, goes after goods himself.”

Sarkisyan’s family moved to Stepanakert from their village in 1984.

“When my husband and I moved, it was a quiet provincial town where everybody knew each other by sight, where girls where not allowed to go to cafes or wear pants,” Sarkisyan recalls. “‘Business’ women-those who could earn their own living- were known by sight in the town. There were many single women too. Whereas now there are only unsettled women around, who have nobody to take care of them and have to earn their living on their own.”

Working as a business woman in Artsax is no more a surprise to anybody. The National Assembly has 33 deputies, 4 of which are women. Two out of 11 minister’s chairs belong to women- Narine Azatyan is the Minister of Social Affairs, Narine Narimanyan is the Minister of Justice. About half of the judges are women.

The moderate number of women in administrative bodies is not conditioned by somebody hindering or forbidding them to take up politics. The majority of women prefer to have more time for their families, children

Despite the mostly preserved patriarchal system the gender issue is not strongly felt, and family has not lost its meaning to Artsaxtsies.

The overall opinion is that Artsax in gender terms harmoniously combines patriarchy, emancipation processes, physical needs and segregation of duties.

“There is always a possibility for professional growth,” says an employee of one of the state institutions Anahit Avagyan.

“My chief is even asking me to take up a higher position. But I resist. I have a husband, 3 children, an elderly mother-in-law. They like home-made food, pastry. We like to spend our evenings watching TV. Is a job worth sacrificing all that for?” she says.

Some people think that gender equality in any country depends on the development of household appliances.

“I used to waste all my free time from work on housework. I had to clean, cook, do the laundry by hand. My husband and I constantly argued. Now I have an electric meat grinder, washing machine, dish-washing machine. In other words, the same work that would take me my whole evening, takes me an hour now. I have spare time for fitness, internet, and my husband and I even go out for a walk sometimes,” tells a nurse, Aida Adamyan.

In 2004 in Shushi Harmony NGO was founded. The founder Julietta Arustamyan says that the main goals of the organization is struggle for peace and women’s rights, Artsakh women’s spiritual and professional improvement, as well as organization of cultural leisure.

“We have a dream to open our own women’s center in Shushi where women could spend nice and useful time. It will be possible to get free psychological and legal consultation there, attend, say fitness club or dancing class, needlework class etc. Many of our women could have jobs at our center,” says Arustamyan.

Svetlana Petrosyan has been heading a state institution in Stepanakert for many years.

“I have a family, but I can assure you that there are no barriers for women in Artsax. Any woman is free to have a career, given a desire,” Petrosyan says.

Edited by Em, 16 April 2008 - 04:14 PM.

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