Armenian women find a recipe
for success in local politics

Women politicians in Armenia
UNDP Administrator Helen Clark meets Narine Geghamyan and other women leaders during a visit to Yerevan. Photo: UNDP Armenia

“When you are the sole woman representative in a community, and you need your voice to be heard and considered, you had better be knowledgeable and very prepared,” says Narine.

Narine Geghamyan was elected to the Avagani (the local council) in the Kamaris community of Armenia just a few years ago. A young woman, a teacher-to-be, and a world champion of Karate-do, Narine was prompted to run for election by members of her community, who then rallied to help her win a majority of votes.

Excitement and a little anxiety

Though excited by her new role, Narine initially felt anxious about the level of responsibility that her new status brought. The fact that she is the only woman in the Avagani also troubled her; she felt that the whole village would benefit if more women were involved in making decisions on community issues.

Highlights

  • Out of 6,164 local council members in Armenia, only 534 are women (8.6%), according to 2011 figures from the Central Election Commission.
  • Out of the 133 candidates who participated in UNDP-sponsored training events, 87 were elected to local government bodies.
  • In partnership with the EU, the project has conducted capacity development activities benefitting 1,180 women since 2012.

A joint EU-UNDP Women in Local Democracy project works to do just that: help women in all ten regions of Armenia to participate more actively in the governance of their communities.

The project helps women candidates prepare for local elections. Out of the 133 candidates that took part in the project’s pre-election training events, 87 were elected to local government bodies.

In advance of local elections, the project works at the regional level to identify and support women who have the interest and potential to engage in the political process. The women are then supported through training, consultations and networking events.

After elections, cooperation and collaboration with the elected women continue. Female heads of communities and local council members build their knowledge and skills in the areas of local governance, gender equality, gender-sensitive planning and budgeting, participatory governance and more.

With UNDP support, women serving in local government are better able to contribute to policy-making processes through regular dialogue with representatives of the central government, parliament and regional authorities. Finally, peer support allows female leaders to interact and exchange their experiences at inter-community and inter-regional levels.

Women in local politics in ArmeniaYoung women present their campaign platforms during a simulation exercise at a youth leadership camp. Photo: UNDP Armenia

Delivering for the community

“Immediately after being elected I felt unprepared and lacking relevant knowledge”, Narine says, “but participation in the Leadership School and thematic trainings helped me to quickly build up the competencies I required.”

Narine raised a number of concerns in the local government body, including issues of road maintenance, street lighting, garbage disposal and renovation of the village church. Through her efforts, many of these issues received timely attention, and in some cases, sensible and appropriate solutions. She is proud of having been able to serve her community.

Looking back, Narine recalls some frustrations along the way. Two years after her election, disillusioned with internal disagreements within the political party she belonged to, Narine considered resigning her post as council member.

Shortly after this experience, she had the opportunity to meet UNDP Administrator Helen Clark. Listening to Clark's experiences and the challenges she had faced in her own political career, Narine said she was inspired to never give up.

Narine believes that good governance and efficient service delivery are based first and foremost on devotion to the community. Beyond this, though, women politicians must have access to opportunities for constant learning if they are to be successful.

Today, Narine spends more time looking forward than looking back, and she feels optimistic for the future.

“I am quite lucky to have the support of my community, and the additional support in knowledge and development,” she says. “In five years' time I see myself as a knowledgeable and competent local politician, and, why not, the head of our community.”

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