In the framework of the project “Long-term electoral assistance to the election related stakeholders of Armenia” the Armenian Association of Women with University Education (AAWUE) has implemented activities aimed at increasing political participation of women in the 2016 Local Elections in five out of ten marzes (regions) of Armenia between April and September 2016. Following these activities, a wrap-up Forum “Women in 2016 local elections: new opportunities and perspectives for establishment of balanced democracy” was held on 19 October 2016. The participants summarized the results of local elections that took place on 18 September and 2 October 2016 from the point of view of women’s participation and pinpointed the perspectives of their active involvement in decision-making processes at the local level. In total, 60 persons, including females who were elected in communities of Ararat, Armavir, Gegharkunik, Lori and Kotayk regions, the Minister of Justice, Members of Parliament and representatives of the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development followed the invitation from AAWUE and Council of Europe.
Within the project about 310 women took the opportunity to improve their political and legal knowledge, to develop their skills of political leadership and to learn techniques of conducting election campaigns through the participation in either the regional training seminars or the women’s leadership schools. Out of those 310 women about 85 run for the local elections in five regions of Armenia, with more than 50 of them winning the elections, mainly as village councilor.
Despite this first success, participants remain realistic: “Being elected is just the first step. We need to change the culture in our communities: on the one hand, men should be more eager to accept women participating in politics. On the other hand, women should be more assertive and self-reliant” says a female village councilor elected for the first-time. One of the trainers of the leadership school adds: “Political participation is a continuous work. The elections, indeed, start the next day after being elected since whatever you do as a mayor or councilor will affect whether you will be re-elected or not for the next time. For a woman it becomes even tougher since she needs more energy to prove constantly that she is the right person for this position”.
The trainings of AAWUE though did provide to the participants a good preparation for this challenge: “The leadership schools helped especially the new female candidates to re-assess themselves, to find leadership traits in themselves that they can use when meeting with the constituency. Some women who were somewhat doubtful at the beginning of trainingseminars were more willing and ready to self-nominate for the local elections at the end. They also understood the importance of right campaigning and its specifics as well as work with local journalists. Moreover, the trainingsessions were effective in the sense that we had an opportunity to share our experiences, raise issues that we had not thought about before and look at community problems from different angles” describes a female village head re-elected for the third time, who participated in the Forum.