The Women’s Support Center: Offering shelter, offering hope

(Photo provided by Women’s Support Center NGO)

Armine* lived in fear of her husband for 20 years. After one particularly horrifying episode, she went to the police with her five children. They issued an Emergency Protective Order and immediately referred her to the Women’s Support Center (WSC) shelter. 

Armine was seriously impacted by the abuse. She had lost her desire to live and was barely able to meet her children’s needs, let alone her own needs. While at the shelter, she and her children began seeing the WSC’s specialists. Little by little, they began to smile and joke around. For the first time, Armine saw that she had a future, that all hope was not lost. 

(Photo provided by Women’s Support Center NGO)

With support from the staff, she was able to secure a job in her hometown. The WSC provided her with one month’s rent, clothes and household items to ease her transition. They also established contact with the regional administration and local organizations to ensure that moving back would be safe. Armine is now working and able to support herself and her children. Her children happily attend day care and school. They live modestly but happily – free from abuse, free to decide what their future holds. In her exit interview, Armine remarked, “I turned into a self-sufficient person thanks to the Center. The support they give you inspires confidence in yourself. After the abuse, your life isn’t over; you have a life to live.”

The WSC has been supporting women like Armine for over 12 years. In 2022, it provided comprehensive services to a record number of families–829 women and children to date. Of these, 176 women and children stayed at their safe houses for an average period of three months. 

Importantly, the women and children who stay at the WSC’s shelters are able to stay safe, regain their well-being, and overcome trauma as they access a number of services, including case management, psychosocial and legal counseling, legal aid, a variety of educational programs, and an economic empowerment program that helps them jumpstart new careers. These services give them the opportunity to reintegrate into society and go on to live abuse-free lives.

International standards require at least one shelter space per 10,000 people. That would translate to roughly 300 spaces in Armenia. But the reality is that the WSC is the only organization that offers specialized domestic violence shelters in the whole country. At any given time, they can accommodate 24 women and children. Given the increased demand for services, they are often at full capacity throughout the year.

The WSC recently launched its seventh annual crowdfunding campaign to offer safe shelter to women and children across Armenia who are impacted by domestic violence. The WSC hopes to raise $35,000 by mid-January, which would cover the costs of food and hygienic and household items as well as psychosocial and legal assistance for 50 families. 

(Photo provided by Women’s Support Center NGO)

*The survivor’s name was changed and personal details left out to protect her privacy and safety.

Ani Jilozian

Ani Jilozian

Ani Jilozian is a women’s rights advocate with a master's degree in global public health from the Icahn School of Public Health at Mount Sinai. Ani works as Director of Development at the Women's Support Center, the premiere domestic violence center in Armenia. In her role at the Center, Ani has led gender-based violence programming and published research studies that examine gender-based violence, women's sexual and reproductive health and rights, and gender politics in Armenia. She is also involved in high-level advocacy and has contributed to shadow and alternative reports.

1 Comment

  1. This is a remarkable organization that is literally saving life. It is sad that such a service
    is needed but we should all be grateful that it exists. This problem has been a stain on Armenian
    society for too long. Protecting and rebuilding the lives of these women and their children is a wonderful
    gift. Please support their efforts so these lives can be saved. The authorities have their punishing the
    perpetrators. This will serve to not only reduce the fear women feel but serve as a deterrent for this
    disgraceful and criminal behavior. God bless their efforts.

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