Unpacking the struggle: Insights from NAASR panel discussion on social justice in Armenia

Nelli Sargsyan and Ani Jilozian

BELMONT, Mass.—In a recent panel discussion titled “Women Up Front: The Struggle for Social Justice in Armenia,” held on Thursday, May 2, 2024, in Belmont, Massachusetts, vital insights emerged regarding the evolving landscape of feminist social justice movements in Armenia. Co-sponsored by Armenian International Women’s Association (AIWA)-New England, National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) and the Women’s Support Center, the event provided a platform for profound discussions on the triumphs and hurdles encountered in the quest for women’s justice over the last two decades.

Associate Professor Nelli Sargsyan of Emerson College adeptly summarized key points from various feminist movements over the last couple of decades, highlighting the intersectionality of the struggle around women’s rights with broader societal and environmental movements. Her analysis shed light on the interconnectedness of these struggles and underscored the importance of solidarity across diverse movements. Sargsyan also drew attention to the rising trend of surrogacy in Armenia, particularly among “hero-bearing” mothers who lost sons during the Second Artsakh War. Her insights added a nuanced dimension to our understanding of reproductive rights in times of conflict, sparking important conversations about the complex intersections of war, loss and reproductive decision-making.

Director of Development at the Women’s Support Center Ani Jilozian provided a comprehensive overview of the domestic violence landscape in Armenia, highlighting significant progress since the center’s inception in 2010. She emphasized the pivotal role of women’s organizations in offering comprehensive services, reshaping perceptions about domestic violence and advocating for legislative reforms. Jilozian shared the center’s specific contributions to institutional change through its advocacy efforts, regional domestic violence support centers and instrumental involvement in drafting amendments to domestic violence laws and the criminal code, which were recently passed by Parliament. She also emphasized the indispensable role of independent feminists and specialized women’s support services during the 2020 Artsakh War and subsequent forced displacement in 2023. These feminist-led initiatives provided crucial humanitarian aid to displaced families and created safe spaces where displaced women and girls could integrate into Armenian society, share their experiences of war and displacement, find solace, build community cohesion and access essential services including domestic violence services.

“Women Up Front” served as a catalyst for critical dialogue and reflection on the ongoing struggle for social justice in Armenia. The insights shared by the panelists illuminated both the progress made and the challenges that lie ahead, inspiring attendees to continue their efforts in support of women’s rights and gender equality.

For those who missed the event, the full panel discussion can be accessed on NAASR’s YouTube channel.

Lenna Garibian

Lenna Garibian

Lenna Garibian is on the Advisory Board of the Women’s Support Center in Yerevan.

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