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“I want to show with my own example that a woman can and should be a decision-maker”: Nare Hovhannisyan

Nare Hovhannisyan is one of those persons, who always bring positive changes in any situation and anywhere. This is also true about the female beneficiaries at the Probation service program implemented with the support of the Women’s Fund Armenia.

Positive change starts in ‘small details’

In the building of the Probation service, as in all serious organizations, the atmosphere automatically makes you stretch and start breathing evenly, but in the room for the planned final event of the “Business Skills Development” program for the female beneficiaries of Probation service, organized by the Center for Legal Initiatives NGO, the atmosphere was completely different and warm. The beneficiaries, who had been participating in manicure and hairdressing courses for two months, were slowly gathering in the room.

The results of the program were apparent even before the event started:  women started making encouraging expressions appreciating each other’s work. “Your hairstyle is cool”, “Your nails are so beautiful, and the color goes with your skin”,- said women to each other.

 According to Nare Hovhannisyan, the president of the NGO, from the beginning the beneficiaries were constrained and had a certain prejudice about the actions to be taken, but thanks to Nare’s efforts it was possible within two months to create a small community of women, where they support, encourage each other and get closer to each other.

“Even if there are no serious, global changes in women’s lives in the future, I am sure that these two months will be remembered with love,” says Nare, adding that any positive change starts with things that at first glance seem “trivial.”

Starting with the small steps is generally Nare’s trump.

Lengthy and laborious path to systemic changes

Nare Hovhannisyan is a philologist by profession. She has worked in the service sector for many years. In parallel with her work, she has done volunteering as a result of which she understood what she really wanted to do and how she could make changes. Nare continued her education in the field of law, and simultaneously with her work and volunteering, in 2017 she founded the “Center for Legal Initiatives” NGO. During the first years of the organization, Nare was working on a voluntary basis, being involved in various monitoring groups to monitor penitentiary institutions.

“I have always wanted to deal with prisoners. This is an area that many people avoid, even the representatives of civil society. I decided to deal with the issues of women prisoners because, as we know, there is gender discrimination in our society, which is more evident in penitentiary institutions. Our society is very demanding towards women: when they know that a woman is a beneficiary of Probation service, they start pressuring, saying “What woman, or what kind of a mother would be in prison.” We are a more male-centered society. Patriarchal approaches justify men in all respects, including those who commit crimes. And in the case of women, the situation is very complicated. People are more demanding and intolerant towards women prisoners. It is more difficult for them to return to society. When I saw that the Women’s Found Armenia works with more targeted groups, I decided to advocate for the issues of women in this group. In this regard, we highly value our cooperation with the Fund”,- says Nare.

 In 2019, with the support of the Women’s Fund Armenia, Nare conducted a needs assessment survey, which highlighted the need to develop and implement a gender-sensitive policy. “Based on the results of the research, I think there is a need for a special approach and advocacy, taking into account the specifics of women, there is a need for special legislation,” says Nare.

Nare’s vision for positive change

Nare Hovhannisyan emphasizes that the implementation of programs is first of all based on the principle of making even a small positive impact on a person’s life. “Creating positive emotions in women who are imprisoned or in probation service means a lot to me. And the vision for change is to work with women in this group continuously. There is a problem with women prisoners: we see their needs, but they do not. They need to be brought out of that passive, conventional state, taught to be proactive. They should be the ones who change their lives, not let life change them. Many do not realize that they can change their lives. “We must be able to realize that a person needs to take positive initiatives in his/her life,” emphasizes Nare.

Politics as a tool to make changes in the community

Nare Hovhannisyan submitted a proposal to participate in the elections in the Goris Municipal Council taking place this year. Nare is the third on the list of the “Armenian National Congress” party.

 “I think I will be able to make a difference in the life of the community. Let it not seem immodest, but there is a huge need for women like me in the community, because in the community problems are always solved by men and they think that women just have to agree with men’s decisions. There are more stereotypes in small and rural communities. In politics, in public life, men are decision-makers. Women have no influence over the decision-making process. I want to show by my example that there is a woman who can change attitudes towards women’s participation in decision-making. In this regard, I am confident in my strength”,- says Nare, emphasizing that in the context of geopolitical changes, when the Syunik region became a border region, new challenges arose and she will do everything to raise the community and make them stronger.

According to Nare Hovhannisyan, if she does not have the opportunity to be involved in the work of the Council, she will continue her public activity to develop the region.

Interview by Yelena Sargsyan.