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Women at the frontlines of Covid-19:Women from NGOs and their new reality

COVID-19 pandemic that has plagued the world has created a new reality, has changed the nature of human relationships. Mass lockdowns and restrictions on mobility have made life difficult for all workers who continue their work during the pandemic. Among those people are women representatives of NGOs. Here is a series of stories about women / girls who continue their active work in spite of this pandemic, combining work and family life. To our mind, everyone should know about these modern-day heroines.

Siranush Davtyan, Sexual Assault Crisis Center NGO, psychologist-consultant

Siranush Davtyan, a psychologist-consultant at Sexual Assault Crisis Center NGO, says that their organization continues to work online, the hotline continues to operate 24 hours a day, which in turn contributes to women’s empowerment and, of course, the prevention of violence.

The news reports from all over the world show that the number of cases of domestic violence has increased these days. The Office of the Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia is conducting an awareness campaign (#դեմեմբռնությանը – eng. #iamagainstviolence) aimed at preventing violence against women and domestic violence. Therefore, the activity of the organizations operating in the sphere of ending violence is very important these days.

Siranush notes that her work schedule has hardly changed. “I have fixed the following: working hours are even longer than ever before, because every time I think this or that issue can be solved now and not left for the next day. I live with my parents, and most of the family duties are not on me, but on my mother, and she takes care of all our needs. ”

Siranush thinks that the pandemic has affected her daily life. “The scope of relations has changed, my contacts have narrowed, and as I am not that fond of online communication, almost most of my relations have been reduced. I’m mostly at home, which hasn’t happened before, because I’ve either been at work or been busy with business trips or other activities.” She does not like slogans, but during this pandemic she prefers to be guided by the following: “Everything is possible in life, no one is insured, but it is possible to get out of all these transformed and satisfied.”

Hasmik Gevorgyan, Women’s Support Center NGO, program coordinator

Another organization dealing with cases on violence against women is Women’s Support Center NGO. Hasmik Gevorgyan from this center mentions that the organization is operating with its former schedule, moreover, more intensely, as women are in a difficult social situation. The organization’s current work is aimed at improving the protection and social well-being of victims of domestic violence.

Hasmik says that the pandemic has made her daily life more tense and busier. “I am very strained now. I often have fears of uncertainty. ”

In order to combine work and family care, Hasmik takes care of the children or performs her home tasks in the first half of the day, if there are no urgent cases, and in the second half she is busy with work.

After a hard working day, she manages to relax only at night, after her children have gone to bed, and there is silence in the house. “I drink wine, mostly, and read.”

Hasmik’s motto during the pandemic is: “Everything is temporary. Have patience! ”

Karine Davtyan, Women’s Rights House NGO, president

Due to lockdowns and social distancing requirements women and girls are at higher risk for domestic violence and abuse of labor rights. Hence, the Women’s Rights House NGO continues to provide free legal advice through telephone calls and online service to both women facing domestic violence and women whose labor rights are violated.

Karine Davtyan, the president of the Women’s Rights House NGO, mentions that since the day of the declaration of the state of emergency, the organization has been called upon to address various issues, such as labor rights violations, problems with rented houses for women (for not being able to pay the rent), domestic violence (seeking asylum), and helping with online applications from the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.

The Women’s Rights House, in collaboration with other organizations, has been able to provide financial assistance to women who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and / or are currently unemployed. The organization has taken part in the initiative of the Shirak regional administration providing social assistance for families most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Women’s Rights House NGO team

Karine notes that now she is working with a busy schedule until late in the evening. “Moreover, now we are able to support our women even more, as in addition to telephone calls and online consultations, we continue to turn to international donors for financial support so that we can provide financial assistance to our beneficiaries to provide stable, sustainable support of food, utilities, rent, internet connection, women’s hygiene items, medicine, etc.”

For her, one of the disadvantages of working from home is sitting still the whole day without physical exercises, “because you’re quiet at home, you’re not in a hurry and dedicate yourself to your job.” “Sometimes, even by working from home, I don’t manage to eat regularly or adjust my meal time. I obey to restrictions on communication, not complaining about it, but trying to approach with understanding, because I clearly understand that thanks to those restrictions I may keep someone from being infected, and, of course I try to do the same for my family members, guided by the principle of not harming.

Karine says that she is not strained because of the stressful work schedule during the pandemic. “I just want to get everything done, I try to fit in with everything, when I’m doing my job, I’m calmer, and the tension goes away. And I really don’t know how to deal with my fatigue, I just ignore it, because the tension may increase even more if I sit still and do nothing.” Karine’s motto for these days is: “Don’t harm anyone, including your family members, even strangers.”

Ashkhen Babayan, Spitak Helsinki Group NGO, president

Ashkhen Babayan, president of Spitak Helsinki Group NGO, tells that due to the current situation, their organization too works from home. The organization provides legal advice and psychological services over the phone or on social media.

Due to the state of emergency, the work schedule has changed. About the possibility of combining work and family care Ashkhen notes: “It is very difficult to combine, almost impossible to work from home, because I have a small child. I work after midnight, when everyone is asleep.”

Ashkhen notes that the pandemic has had a profound effect on her daily life. She still hasn’t found any specific means of overcoming work fatigue and stress. Her motto is: “This will pass, too. There is no evil without good.”

Manush Maralchyan, Young Tavush NGO, president

Manush Maralchyan, president of Young Tavush NGO, says that their organization “works mainly from home and, if necessary, from the office.” “During this period, the process of improving the situation of women has become more difficult, as there is a need for home visits, referrals to state and non-state institutions, which have temporarily stopped working due to the pandemic, and this affects the protection of social rights.”

Manush notes that in the state of emergency, the notion of “schedule” has disappeared because “work and family affairs are intertwined, I have to work 24 hours a day (these days you just don’t have the right to tell the beneficiaries of your organization that it’s too late, we don’t work at this hour etc. ). I have to help my son with his classes and perform many other tasks, so it’s impossible to combine all this.”

Manush thinks that the pandemic has negatively affected her daily life. “I do not agree with the opinion that this is an opportunity to stay home, read books, do self-development etc., because if you have work responsibilities and you are not able to do them properly, all kinds of agreements and plans are postponed indefinitely, then that situation leads to excessive internal stress, which has a negative effect on your daily life ”

She says she has not yet found the means to deal with work fatigue and stress. And in the conditions of the pandemic, she is guided by the slogan: “Let’s overcome the existing difficulties with patience, not falling into depression.”

Zhenya Mayilyan, Real World, Real People NGO

Zhenya Mayilyan fom Real World, Real People NGO tells that the work of the organization has multiplied during the quarantine days. The working day sometimes lasts until 9p.m., especially during regional visits, when people living with HIV are given vital ARV drugs. In case of urgent cases, they also work on weekends.

“Our work has a direct impact on women. Due to quarantine, the possibility of free movement is limited, and ARV drugs are provided only in Yerevan, so many women living with HIV are unable to travel from the regions, sometimes even from Yerevan, to get AIDS CRC and receive ARV drugs. We support drug delivery. We receive the medicines which we somehow send them or take to them in person. We provide food and hygiene kits to women who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and have financial difficulties.”

Zhenya mentions that their organization has helped many women these days to get involved in the state’s economic support program. The organization continues to provide condoms, syringes, and alcohol swabs to people using drugs, including women. Packages of food and hygiene items were also provided to beneficiaries in need of palliative care.

She comments the following about the new work schedule: “I work 10-12 hours a day. On Saturdays and Sundays, we mainly visit the regions to deliver the ARV medicines to the beneficiaries. From the first days of the epidemic, I took my children to my mother-in-law’s house and I hardly see them. It is very difficult to combine work and family these days. Unfortunately, the family suffers. I mostly communicate with my children through video calls. They are very upset that we are so far apart.”

Due to the pandemic, the communication have become limited, the volume of work and its rhythm have changed. Yet Zhenya hasn’t found means of overcoming stress and fatigue. “Sometimes I feel like I don’t have the strength, but I console myself with the hope that this crisis will end soon and we’ll be able to rest,” says Zhenya.

Her slogan during these days is:“There is no time to be depressed, upset, weakened. It is necessary to act… “

Diana Karapetyan, Pink Armenia NGO, Volunteer Coordinator and Program Assistant

Diana Karapetyan says that immediately after the adoption of the emergency regime, their organization started working from home. They are trying to find alternatives to have a positive impact on the situation in the LGBT community. “We are using the online platform more, using new tools to bring it in line with the current situation. As Pink Armenia is a LGBT-based human rights organization, our work is aimed at improving the situation of LBT women. After the adoption of the state of emergency, Pink began to provide social assistance to LGBT people, including LB women, who are in a difficult social situation these days, taking into account the individual needs of each.”

The state of emergency caused by the epidemic has had its negative consequences. “The daily routine has changed. I started sleeping later and less. Naturally, physical activity is greatly reduced, the lack of which is felt from time to time, especially in the form of the lack of energy.”

Diana mentions that she avoids being physically close to her family because they are older and it’s stressful to be around them given the fear of infecting them. She is stressed of not being able to see them calmly because she lives alone and cannot visit them now.

As for the means of overcoming stress and fatigue, Diana says: “I try to take more care of my health or just avoid getting cold. I try not to leave the house, because even when I have to leave, I already feel stress from the preparations. I delight myself with delicious food, loud music and little joys.”

Diana is guided by the optimistic principle of “finding useful / positive aspects in the current situation.”

Naira Harutyunyan, “You are not alone” NGO, President

Naira Harutyunyan, the founder of “You Are Not Alone” women’s Support NGO, says that in the conditions of the pandemic, the organization faced certain problems, but did not stop its activities. “We are dealing with cases of domestic violence, and in crisis situations, women are becoming more vulnerable, and the need for our support is even greater.”

Naira states that she works 24/7, but does not get dissapointed by the restrictions and obstacles brought by the pandemic.

“I do my job with love and I don’t get tired. I’m an active kinf of person and don’tgive up. I often remind myself that I have no right to weaken and everything can be overcome, so I move forward.”

Naira’s motto for these days is:“Stay healthy. Everything is temporary.”

Anush Aslanyan, “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities” NGO for persons with disabilities, president

Anush Aslanyan, the president of “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities” NGO for Persons with Disabilities, forks from home as the rest, staying in touch with the beneficiaries either by phone call or via Viber. During this time, a large number of mothers of children with disabilities have applied to the organization for social assistance.

Anush says she has no work schedule. Beneficiaries can call at any time and on any day. She also speaks about the changes caused by the pandemic:“After an active lifestyle, I would rather say – a “crazy” lifestyle, this is an exceptional opportunity for me see my surroundings, to communicate with my family members. I started doing other new jobs that have always been a dream, but I didn’t manage due to the lack of time. And now, I don’t know why, I’m don’t have enough time again, even at home.”

Anush has found an excellent way of mitigating the work stress and fatigue. “I’ve come up with a new idea:a YouTube channel on the topic of “Disability Philosophy”. I am making videos and presenting disability in creative ways.”

You can find Anush’s videos on her YouTube channel.

Gayane Grigoryan, “Agate” Rights Defense Center For Women With Disabilities NGO, Head of Program Department

Gayane Grigoryan, a representative from “Agat” center, another NGO protecting the rights of women with disabilities, says their organization’s work has a direct and indirect impact on women, as the beneficiaries are mostly women. “The main target of our activities are women with disabilities. We are trying our best to make sure that the effects of the virus do not become irreversible. We try to provide financial stability for the employees, we are consistent so that the rights of our beneficiaries are not violated, we always keep in touch with them in order to try to understand what support and help they need.”

Gayane says she works with an overloaded schedule because besides working from home she has household duties. “Every worker has their own role, so that we can overcome this panic situation quickly and with honor, without stress or mental strain.”

Under the conditions of the pandemic, the daily routine of work has been extended. The work lasts until late at night, and phone calls are received even on non-working days. “If our work can be helpful for even one person, we should do it.”

On possible means of overcoming work stress Gayane tells the following:“Being a very optimistic person, I always try to calm down and understand the situation and the difficulties. Having worked in the public sector for many years, I have always felt tired and tense. I ran from city to city, from one program to another, from one course to another, so that I could manage everything right, on time and properly, and I always overcome stressful situations calmly, I don’t panic. Any difficulty and challenge can be overcome if there is a desire, faith and dedication.”

Gayane’s motto for in the current situation is: “Life sometimes serves us surprises we are not always ready for. We just have to be optimistic, determined, honest and believe in our mission and purpose, and everything can be overcome.”

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