A CHAT WITH THE YOUNGEST FEMALE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT IN ARMENIA:
BY: SARINE SOGHOMONIAN
Crack open your Armenian history books and get ready to make an addition to your list of iconic women, because there’s a fresh force in Armenia’s political world, and she isn’t backing down any time soon. Sona Ghazaryan is a 26 year old powerhouse. Last year, she was on the frontlines of the Velvet Revolution protests. Today, she serves as the youngest female parliamentarian in Armenia. Utilizing her wit, determination and passion for equality- she’s working to ensure a fair and democratic future for Armenia. Ghazaryan aims to represent the voices of Armenian women. The very voices that she believes “…guaranteed the peaceful transition of power” during the Velvet Revolution.
While the revolution marked the transition from old to new, frete and fair; narratives of protests and politics still discern the valour and involvement of Armenian woman. This is perpetuated by the continued absence of gender diversity and equal treatment in Armenia’s government and society. As a member of the MyStep party, Ghazaryan expresses her solidarity with movements that recognizes the role of the woman beyond the image of mother and mannequin.
‘GENDER-BIAS IS ENGRAINED IN ARMENIA’S SOCIAL PSYCHE’:
Ghazaryan explains that despite great changes in the new governance, gendered-bias is still engrained in Armenia’s social psyche. A main perpetrator of these damaging stereotypical notions is Armenian media. Stereotypical state-financed soap operas and textbooks (that were propagated and manufactured by the previous regime) continuously broadcast gender roles as the status quo. Ghazaryan cites scenes in popular Armenian shows like “Doon Pesa” and “Lav Yereko” as examples. These shows aim to popularise, romanticise and dramatise gender roles. They perpetuate the archetypal notions of what a man should do, and what a woman shouldn’t. The normalization of these ideals becomes hard to fight against when the general population has grown accustom to it over their lifespan.
She explains that textbooks introduced to Armenian children in the first grade tell stories of women taking care of their homes and children, while their fathers are at work. Rarely do characters in academic textbooks deviate from the gendered notion of the ornamental and house-work oriented wife.
While a mother’s work is one of the hardest and most fulfilling in the world; a woman’s maternity is not her only given quality. So, let this revolution trigger the liberation of the Armenian woman, beyond the construct of the doting mother and wife.
the new framework:
“I am delighted to announce that the Ministry of Education and Science is now working on a framework to make public school textbooks more gender sensitive.” This includes introducing a new line of textbooks that take into consideration the impact of gender roles.
THE IMPACT OF GENDER BIAS ON DEMOCRACY:
Ghazaryan emphasises the importance of women’s active participation in social, economic and political life. According to the world index, Armenia is ranked 103rd among 142 countries in regards to female political participation. Due to the country’s dense gender roles, Armenian women typically aren’t encouraged to pursue careers in government, business, law, etc. While these attitudes are beginning to evolve at a quicker pace, support from the government in the form of policies and grants could be a solution in providing honest opportunities for Armenian women to succeed.
Female political engagement is an indicator of a nation’s democratic process as it secures each person’s rights to participate freely in society. Armenia’s deeply rooted socio-cultural attitudes have shaped its democratic and political process (or lack there-of). The system is an exclusionary obstacle for female participation.
“After the snap parliamentary elections on December 9th, the number of female parliamentarians increased: 32 female deputies out of 132, which makes 24% of the whole parliament. The number of women in Armenia exceeds that of men. However, we are still significantly underrepresented in government, parliament, executive positions in companies and traditionally male-dominated professions,” Ghazarian says.
“It’s more than it used to be, less than it should be…we live in a society full of stereotypes, where social roles…are mostly distributed based on sex.”
recalibrating the male-centric system:
When the foundation of an institution has been paved by an ideology that holds no room for women, how are they supposed to engage within the male-centric system? When the picture of power is painted with the strokes of masculinity, how are women supposed to become active agents in political discourse?
Power operates with those who set the agenda, and when the agenda is culturally coded for male success (as in the Sargsyan regime), it is no surprise that a skewed perception of gendered roles is encouraged.
“We need more institutional solutions and a greater role from the state to build a gender egalitarian society…our team has the political will to face and resolve these challenges.”
The women are here, though absent from the political arena. Their voices are loud and are essential in paving the way for political change.