Gohar Shahnazaryan of Women’s Resource Center, Armenia
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Gohar Shahnazaryan is Co-Founder of longtime grantee partner Women’s Resource Center, in Armenia. Women’s Resource Center provides women’s rights trainings, has a sexual violence hotline, and provides counseling and other services for survivors of sexual violence. Women’s Resource Center also advocates for changes to critical laws that impact women and girls – in 2014 the Armenian parliament adopted amendments that Women’s Resource Center prepared and advocated for to change a law on sexual violence.
How has Global Fund for Women’s support helped your group make an impact in women’s human rights?
The Global Fund gives more than financial support. It has made a tremendous impact by helping us strengthen the skills and abilities of our organization. For example, we published an annual report for the first time this year. This was very important for us because for the past 10 years, we had tried to publish a report and we never managed to. But with Global Fund’s support, we put together all of our activities to show our impact.
Through the support of Global Fund, we also have been introduced to different women’s groups and networks. We are part of the South Caucasus Young Women’s Network here in our region and, with Global Fund’s support, we’ve managed to strengthen this network.
What do you think makes Global Fund for Women unique?
Unlike many other international organizations and donors, Global Fund is flexible and this is so needed for women’s organizations. Very often we can’t predict what is going to happen, especially in countries like Armenia where the political situation is unstable. Since women’s organizations receive less funding from donors generally, it is great that Global Fund for Women is so flexible to allow us to change our priorities. We know we have the support of Global Fund because the team really knows the situation on the ground.
We began working with Global Fund on a project for young women and girls. But last year, we started receiving threats and Global Fund allowed us to meet more immediate needs. We were really paralyzed and shocked when threats and intimidation started last year against women activists and women’s rights organizations in Armenia, including against us. Many of the threats published our photos online and in publications and accused us of sexual perversions, and labeled us with defamatory words for teaching young girls about sexual and reproductive rights. Elvira, one of our young women who worked with teenage girls through the project with Global Fund, was attacked a lot. Her photo was posted on Facebook with horrible accusations. We slowed down on that project because it was really a sensitive topic in our community and it was too stressful and emotional for our young women that had been working with these girls. When this happened, Global Fund connected us with Urgent Action Fund to help us get immediate funding for security. It was amazing that we were able to get other support from organizations that we wouldn’t have been able to access if it weren’t for Global Fund for Women.
On Global Fund’s Facebook Group for the Europe and Central Asia region, we post news and share different activities that we’re doing. It’s a great opportunity for all of us to stay connected and to know what is going on in our region and around the world, otherwise we don’t have a chance to know about everything that is happening.
Global Fund also works with women in conflict areas, which is very important in our context because Global Fund is willing to support women in Nagorno-Karabakh – it’s a very unknown, unsafe, unrecognized place in Armenia where no international organizations want to be. Global Fund is the only women’s organization that I know that is there supporting women’s initiatives. We have been working in Nagorno-Karabakh for the past two years with women who have been affected by the conflict and have developed their capacities so now they can apply to Global Fund directly. This is one of the unique things about Global Fund – among many others.
How do the grantee partners fuel the success of Global Fund for Women?
It is very important that Global Fund supports organizations all over the world. We feel that we are becoming part of a bigger, global women’s movement. Through the successes that women’s organizations are having on the ground in different regions, it’s a great opportunity for all of us – including Global Fund – to feel a part of this global movement.
The feeling that we get from Global Fund is that it’s our common success, that our joint efforts are successful. It’s not about the success of one organization or one country or one region, it’s the women’s movement.
What are your hopes for Global Fund for Women’s future?
It’s very important to continue its great work. I wish that Global Fund will have more resources and opportunities in different regions. There are so many issues that we would like to cover but we don’t have enough resources to do everything. There’s a great need to work to protect women’s human rights and recently it’s becoming very important to work on that because, since last year, there were a lot of threats and attacks on these women – including ourselves.
It is important for Global Fund to be on the ground and to be part of the movements on the ground. We also hope that Global Fund’s flexibility can continue and can come from the needs of the communities – and change direction when it needs to.
I hope that for Women’s Resource Center together with Global Fund, we can continue our work with young women in particular because we saw how much of a difference we can make through adolescent girls for the future.