From journalist to local official: an Armenian woman destined for the public good

Sisian Women Resource Center at its best

A journalist, and an active citizen of Sisian in southern Armenia, Srbuhi Grigoryan used to report on the news, covering many local government meetings. She got so involved that she decided to run as a local representative in a local council, also known as Avagani.

This was the first woman the council in Sisian admitted as a member. Although a few women ran for office, they never used to get elected. Srbuhi wondered whether men and even women would be interested in voting for her.

“In my town, people predominantly think that women are far from politics. I had no big team, no proxies in local precincts or representatives in election commissions,” she said.

Highlights

  • Currently, women represent 9.3 percent of all representatives in municipalities and local councils.
  • Within 2012-2016, the UNDP Armenia Women in Local Democracy project, funded by EU and SDC, supported 2000 women as active community representatives and local leaders.
  • Between 2012 and 2016, out of 831 females running for local office 146 were supported by UNDP. 97 of them were elected as mayors or local council members.

“But I was the first Avagani candidate in Sisian who prepared and broadcast a public service announcement,” she added. “I was going to schools, kindergarten, meeting people and presenting my programme to them.” Her background as a journalist, knowledge of common issues in small towns across the region, and support from local organizations paid off. Srbuhi was elected in October 2012, along with 406 other women in the country.

Through her work, and thanks to the support of international organizations such as OSCE and the European Endowment for Democracy (EED), Srbuhi founded and manages a foundation for women, helping them to advance their professional careers and participate in community affairs and politics.

To date, the center has helped 74 women to build their crafts, become business owners and take part in local politics. Thanks to the center, 10 women started their own businesses. Srbuhi also found sponsors for two students from disadvantaged families to help with their tuition fees.

“Key to success is also the creation of smart alliances. When I wanted to prevent a municipality from increasing kindergarten fees, I allied with other council members. We made a coalition and jointly advocated to do budget optimization and  avoid increasing the kindergarten fee,” she said.

“My love of Sisian and its people is impossible to describe. I inherited a mix of patriotism and diplomacy from my parents. One is inspiring me, the other is helping me to work with different people and to find the best solutions. I am lucky to enjoy the full trust, support and encouragement of my family in all these roles!”

Next year, Srbuhi will run again for office. She feels well prepared for new challenge, thanks to her newly-found experience as an elected official.

She says her focus will be on law enforcement, job creation and protection of the environment. “I dream of a time when our Vorotan river is returned to its original condition, where ecological problems are matched with solutions, and where fairness is the order of the day”.

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