ARF Signals Return to Roots, Adopts Women’s Quota at World Congress

We are quick to criticize political parties in the Armenian world, which is always expected and often justified. However, it is very important we praise the good they do, when they do it. And “good” is an understatement when referring to the groundbreaking gender quota resolution that recently passed at the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) World Congress.

The party’s 33rd World Congress, which brought together 100 delegates and guests from over 30 countries to Artsakh in January 2019, recognized that more needed to be done to ensure greater female representation in the Pan-Armenian party’s decision-making processes.

The ARF World Congress is the highest authority of the 128-year-old political party, and only eight of the 100 in attendance were female. While this number was considerably higher than the 2015 meeting, it was still considered unacceptable by the majority who were in attendance.

The fact that the ARF has never elected a woman to its Bureau is also unacceptable, especially considering this is the party that led one of the most gender progressive governments in the world. The First Republic of Armenia (1918-1921) elected three females as members of Parliament, which was decades before much of the rest of the world, who at the time were debating whether to allow women the right to vote.

Many resolutions that were adopted at the 33rd World Congress symbolized the party’s readiness to return to its progressive roots, but none more so than this gender quota, which ensures the ARF becomes the first modern Armenian political party to adopt any sort of internal regulation that will significantly promote women to positions of leadership.

We are quick to criticize political parties in the Armenian world, which is always expected and often justified. However, it is very important we praise the good they do, when they do it.

The ARF resolved that, henceforth, all decision-making meetings (AGMs, Regional Conventions and World Congress) and bodies (Committees [Կոմիտէ], Central Committees [Կեդրոնական Կոմիտէ] and Bureau [Բիւրոյ]) must elect female delegates and members at a percentage proportionate with the representation of females in the respective meeting’s or body’s jurisdiction.

For example, if a region (Կեդրոնական Կոմիտէութիւն) is made up of 20 percent females, 20 percent of their Regional Convention (Շրջանային Ժողով) and 20 percent of their Central Committee (Կեդրոնական Կոմիտէ) needs to be female. This needs to be replicated at all levels.

Further, the resolution stipulates that the next World Congress must set a universal gender quota that will be applied across the board (for example, if that is set at 25 percent, then a minimum of 25 percent of all ARF decision-making meetings and bodies will be female, regardless of region).

The only reason that a universally applicable quota was unable to be adopted at this meeting was because some regions exist where women make up a very small percentage of the total membership. The stipulation on the next World Congress to adopt a universal quota means these regions have three years to increase the percentage of women party members.

To give some sort of an idea of what the ARF has to look forward to, it is a worthwhile exercise to hypothetically (and retrospectively) apply this gender quota to the most recent meeting. Had this resolution been passed before the 33rd World Congress, female attendance would have approximately been a minimum of 20 percent, which is more than double the eight percent that were in attendance in Stepanakert. Further, an ARF Bureau would have been elected with at least three women in body of 13.

And this is based on today’s numbers, which show that 20 percent of the global ARF membership is made up of women. With effort and trust from all sides, this historic gender quota should increase the number of women who join the party, and the 20 percent could therefore increase in time for the next World Congress. This is the party’s challenge for the forthcoming three years.

A challenge that should be made easier once a series of other resolutions adopted at the 33rd World Congress become known to the public. The ARF remains resilient on the right to self-determination of the Republic of Artsakh and on justice for the Armenian Genocide but has also re-committed itself to its grassroots, to its people.

The ARF, which is currently not represented in the Republic of Armenia’s National Assembly, adopted a bold strategy that will return its focus to the grassroots in an effort to become a viable alternative parliamentary force in the future. The ARF will stand for the rights of the worker, the retiring and the retired, the woman, the child, the soldier, the student … the citizen, the small business, and the environment. In short, the ARF resolved to double down on its progressive roots, which have helped make it the most successful Pan-Armenian political organization.


Haig Kayserian

Haig Kayserian is the Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of Australia, with a Bachelors in Media & Cultural Studies (Macquarie University) and is currently completing his Masters in Politics & Policy (Deakin University). He is a director at several technology companies based in the US and Australia and is an advisory board member at Armenia’s first technology venture capital firm.

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  1. To have greater female representation is an absolute imperative. This is a sound and timely resolution.
    But! is this the only important resolution that was passed?
    Wondering and waiting. When will the other resolutions become known?

    Vart Adjemian

    • How magnanimous of ARF for taking this huge step in allowing more of us women to join, and it only took them 128 years!!
      How about bringing up the party into the present instead of giving HRAHANKS and punishing members for criticizing the leadership!!
      I am proud to say, because of these antiquated policies, I am an EX ARF’r

  2. Dear Hourig,
    To be an Ex ARF”r cannot be a cause for pride. But deep disappointment and a huge loss that should cause great concern to the leadership.
    I totally agree with you. If the World Congress did not come up with a new platform and vision, and decided not to make any changes, my concern is that we are going to have many Ex-ARF’rs.
    Still waiting!!!!
    Vart Adjemian

  3. Action speaks louder than words. ARF also encourages freedom of speech for Armenia’s citizens, yet punishes it’s own members when they speak up.
    “The ARF will stand for the rights of the worker, the retiring and the retired, the woman, the child, the soldier, the student … the citizen, the small business, and the environment.” Rather than say what ARF stands for-tell us what ARF has actually done in the past 30 years to support what it stands for.

    • Vahak:
      “The ARF will stand for the rights of the worker, the retiring and the retired, the woman, the child, the soldier, the student … the citizen, the small business, and the environment.”
      Can anyone keep a straight face with above revolutionary mission statement ?

  4. Women could always join ARF.
    Is this telling us that more women and this gender emphasis will be the new “goundbreaking ” & connecting link to the electorate in ROA ?
    How does more women with titles create thinking for a new platform that connects with the youth of ROA ?
    Was this the second most important conclusion ( after the biggie of “new bureau”) from a gathering that included people who wanted party change and greater political relevance ?
    Was this the “groundbreaking” revolution in the ARF?
    Pashinyan had wished the Congress well and asked for fresh ideas.
    Is this one of the fresh ideas ?
    Like Ms. Kalebdjian and countless, countless others, I have joined a community of those who left because of antiquated policies.
    Now the women in the ARF can give “hrahanks” rather than the men.

  5. I could not keep silent when reading the unsubstantiated criticisms.
    The Armenian saying goes … “you can take a horse to the water to drink, but you cannot make it drink.” To all of those who want to insist that ARF has done nothing during the last 30 years, I could guide them to a list of things it has indeed accomplished. But what is the use? They will not see it, accept it, since they are unable, or don’t want to, for perhaps personal agendas, to recognize ARF’s achievements.
    Regarding those calling themselves ex-ARFs, and talking about Hrahank (հրահանգ), they are either ignorant or pretend to be, of the fact that decisions in ARF are taken bottom up, in ARF–meetings, by the militants, which is a very democratic decision making process. You won’t find it in other organizations. Once a decision is taken by the majority, it is applicable to all. The committees elected by the meetings, including the Bureau, are responsible for the implementation of those decisions. They are the operational executive body, responsible for interpreting the decision. They are accountable for their actions to the militants, meetings that have elected them. To change a decision taken by the majority, it needs to go back to the bottom up process, to the ‘meetings’. Criticizing a decision, specially using external, outside channels, like some have done, have been told to leave the party. In my experience, which extends over 56 years in ARF, those who have not understood this simple mechanism, have failed in their mission as members of ARF, and have become ex.s. I must add, I also have had my disagreements with some decisions of my party, or the implementation of it, and ‘knowing’, ‘understanding’ the above mentioned mechanism, I have been able to influence (over time) my party’s decisions.
    Finally, regarding women participation. This topic is not new on the ARF’s agenda. It had been the subject of discussion at militants’ and upper levels. Since experience in the civilized countries has shown that if a quota has not been assigned, woman participation remains dead writing on paper. Now, what is wrong of having a percentage as an objective? Why is it an object of sarcasm? Isn’t women participation important? And when natural selection does not work, isn’t an objective a must to have? Certainly there are other important decisions taken by the 33rd World Congress. Woman participation is one of them, that Haig Kayserian has chosen to discuss now. Rest assured, as I am certain, that others will follow.

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