Born in Koghb village, Tavush, Eliza Abovyan has understood since childhood that the main field of activity where she can express herself and bring positive changes is psychology. Having received her education in Yerevan and living there for some time, she returned to Tavush to contribute to the development of her community.
The problems and the fatal decision of a girl from a region living in the capital
Getting a higher education would not be possible without the support of Eliza’s parents. “We were five children in our family. My parents did everything for us. Despite the difficulties, including financial ones, they did their best to help us get a higher education,” she says.
During her years of study, Eliza faced many difficulties. “There are many difficulties for students from the regions. For example, you have many other tasks and responsibilities besides lessons. You must come home from university and deal with various household issues. As a result, there is not much time left for learning,” she says.
After graduating from the university, Eliza worked in the service sector for some time. “In the beginning, I worked in a building materials store, then in a bookstore. But then I realized that my life, my time was passing by, and I was standing in the same place. It had become a routine of earning money and spending it on clothes and meals, nothing else. So, I decided to return to my village and stay there for a while. And this decision was fatal to me. I fell in love, got married and found my favorite job,” says Eliza with smiling eyes.
After returning home, Eliza was invited by the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) to volunteer. Eliza is now a board member of the YWCA.
“My activities at the YWCA have been linked mainly with girls and women. Over the years, we have implemented various programs, from healthcare to legal programs. The organization also has a preschool for children, where I have worked as a psychologist,” she says.
Rural women’s problems
Talking about the differences between rural and urban life, Eliza notes that rural life doesn’t offer many opportunities for women. For example, in many cases, it is difficult to express yourself in the village, and just walking in the park can lead to various conversations.
“In many cases, you don’t want to go out for a walk, because people will immediately think that maybe you want to ‘show’ yourself, etc. Here, women and girls are more vulnerable, as men find alternative solutions. For example, a group of men can gather somewhere to go. It’s normal for society, but if women do the same, it will not be accepted by the same society,” says Eliza, adding.
“When you walk around the villages of Noyemberyan, you realize that there is nothing to do for young girls and women. If the family cannot afford higher education for their daughters, they marry after one or two years after graduating from school. I’m not saying that marriage is bad, but one of the reasons for early marriages, I think, is that there is no occupation for women in the villages.”
Cooperation with the Women’s Fund Armenia
The cooperation between YWCA and WFA started in 2020 in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights.
“In 2019, I was invited to Switzerland to participate in training on this topic. This was the first step in initiating our activities in this field. When we saw the Fund’s announcement on providing grants on this topic, we decided to apply,” says Eliza.
With the support of WFA, YWCA implemented its first project with teenage girls on sexual and reproductive health.
“Collaborating with the WFA was essential for us as it was our start and helped in strengthening our capacities. It was ongoing cooperation that allowed us to continue projects on the same topic for women of other age groups. We also appreciate that the WFA trusted us to make projects on such topics. I am delighted that there are organizations like WFA, which do everything to make a woman express herself. I can say that now we have friends whom we can ask for help on any issue.”
Eliza’s “recipe” for challenges and difficulties
Eliza thinks there will always be difficulties in our lives. The main challenge is to overcome those difficulties.
“We face difficulties at work often. At YWCA, we do volunteer work and we constantly search for organizations that may support our ideas. Sometimes it is very difficult to keep the organization without financial support, but we do our best,” she says.
Elisa has another job in addition to working at the YWCA and tries to maintain her work-life balance. She thinks that it is important to have support from the family.
“Even when I don’t want to attend an event due to childcare issues, my family always encourages me to go. It’s important to know that they believe in your strength and “force” you to be more active,” says Eliza, smiling.
Eliza considers humanity as her strong side. “I love people very much. Even if I’m disappointed and upset by some things, I still try to understand people. I feel good at the YWCA because everyone shares the same approaches and principles. Every step is taken for women and girls’ well-being, the protection of their rights, self-expression and self-development,” concludes Eliza Abovyan.
Interview by Yelena Sargsyan