Many important events in the life of 32-year-old Christina Baghdasaryan happen spontaneously, as she says, “They happen when I need them the most.”
One such case was the choice of profession. “Until the 8th grade, I was not sure about what profession to choose, but I had thoughts that I should become a psychologist. My father wanted me to become a lawyer, and I agreed with him, but deep in my heart, I knew that something was wrong. Then, I was not admitted to the law faculty but to the psychology faculty. In the first semester, it was very difficult for me to accept this fact, but then I fell in love with my profession,” she says.
Christina says that the years of study were full of difficulties related to financial issues and the fact of being from the region. “Separation from my family was very challenging to me. I found myself in the capital at the age of 17, without any relatives. I had never been away from my parents before”.
Christina continued her education at the International Scientific-Educational Center of NAS RA, receiving a master’s degree.
Focusing on women’s issues
Christina started her career at the Women’s Rights Center NGO, working for 3 years with women and children who have been subjected to domestic violence in the Shirak region. These years predicted Christina’s activities in the future.
“In our country, women decide to receive psychological support when, in fact, “the knife has reached the bone”. In the first years of my career, I realized how much lack of awareness we have in communities. The most interesting thing was that, during the consulting visits, women always said that everything was fine in their first year of marriage. This comes to prove the fact that domestic violence does not happen immediately. There are stages that women go through until they find themselves in the status of a victim,” says Christina.
Christina remembers the cases when psychological support brought serious changes in the lives of many women. “We had a woman who was in terrible condition. Her husband’s parents had helped her run away. She overcame everything after receiving psychological support and moving to a shelter. She started to work, then got married again.” Christina thinks that the best way to prevent domestic violence in Armenia is through education, starting from kindergarten to school.
The period of great achievements and the creation of INTRA
“When I finished my work at the Women’s Rights Center NGO, I had many ideas and thoughts. When I got married, I promised myself that I would not work anywhere else and that I would create something of my own. I did not miss a single training or course,” remembers Christina with a smile.
Christina also appreciates the support from her family. “I really appreciate my husband’s support. He believed in me more than I did. He motivated me with all my ideas. When I had many ideas but I didn’t know where to start, my husband told me to open a Facebook account, and that’s where it all started,” she says.
For some time, Christina had been organizing professional discussions and meetings on an online platform. Then, she decided to organize an offline event in Gyumri, and this is when the story of INTRA began.
Collaboration with the WFA
Christina mentions that the WFA always appears at the right time in her life. “The Fund has played a crucial role in my life. Intra became an organization because of the first program implemented with the support of the WFA. I saw the Fund announcement about organizing a three-day course on project writing. We then learned that we could apply for a grant. Before applying, I had thought that it probably would not be accepted because I was pregnant, and at the end of the program, I would be in labor. But the WFA approved the project. The trust, willingness, and selflessness of the WFA were simply invaluable. The working style of the Fund is really aimed at empowering and supporting women. In the case of the WFA, all this is not just nice words; it is the reality. I am convinced in this by my own experience.“ says Christina.
INTRA’s first program, funded by the WFA, raised awareness of domestic violence among orphan girls and girls from socially disadvantaged families. The second program supported by the Fund was “Psychological ambulance,” an emergency program to provide social and psychological support to single and vulnerable mothers during COVID-19.
The organization is currently implementing the program “Improving the mental state of women in the prenatal and postnatal period” in the Shirak region with the support of the WFA. It will contribute to the regulation of the emotional state of women in the prenatal and postpartum periods and to the prevention of postpartum depression.
Christina appreciates the trust and lack of control during the collaboration with the Fund. “If the Fund had not had such approaches, I don’t think we would have succeeded. WFA’s horizontal collaboration approach with partner organizations is, I think, the best collaborative approach that other donor organizations should take as a model. Such a credible, inspiring work style makes organizations more willing and committed to using their full potential in implementing projects,” says Christina.
Christina’s vision for positive changes
Christina considers her strongest side quick thinking in times of crisis and finding alternative solutions. “For me, any crisis is a process of seeing and creating new opportunities in my life. I use my ability to look straight into the eyes of the truth. I analyze the situation from all sides and move forward,” says Christina, adding that her second strong point is her desire to learn. As for the organization, the strength of INTRA NGO is not being afraid of competition and showing a cooperative approach.
It’s important for Christina to overcome stereotypes in life. “I think my own example can be the most inspiring and encouraging for other women. When they see that you can combine family and career, you destroy the limitations that are in their minds, which prevent them from doing or creating something.”
According to Christina, not giving up always brings changes. “You should never give up when you have a clear goal and you know where you are going. When you believe in yourself, the people around you and the whole world will believe in you. All external changes start from the inside,” concludes Christina.
Interview by Yelena Sargsyan