No ceiling: Three approaches to women’s leadership in Armenia

Nov 26, 2014

Women in local government at the outreach workshop bring the “oldie but goodie” knowledge to the new solutions

In Armenia, like in much of the world, we have a problem with glass ceilings.

Initially, our question was:

What prevents capable and respected women to consider entering local government? 

Field work indicated a number of interrelated structural factors: narrow gender identities, a fear of failure and reputation loss, lack of skills, prohibitive costs, perceptions of the role of community councils, and the lack of a support network.

But upon taking a closer look, we saw that we may be limiting our impact by targeting a very narrow demographic: women interested in having a political career.

The real goal is to increase the percentage of women in public office and empower them to take a more active role in community decision-making.

With this in mind, we have identified dynamics and initiatives already existing in Armenia that we will try to tap into, in order to encourage more women and girls to play that active role.

PROTOTYPE 1: Women-to-women mentorship

We will tap into the so-far unsolicited knowledge and expertise of successful women in Armenia and abroad, to involve them in supporting women in their community-based political and civic activity.

Our hunch here is that we may create a space where examples of positive deviance (read: women succeeding in spite of the environment) may inspire and spread. A two-pronged approach is planned:

  1. Mentorships: Supporting women already serving in local government through targeted mentorship by successful women leaders from other sectors.
  2. Facilitate meetings of the successful women in local government with “newcomers” – potential women social entrepreneurs, those looking to enter local government, and civil society activists. This model will support women who lack confidence and experience in civil society and public governance.

PROTOTYPE 2: Pay it forward: Crowdfunding for campaigns

To have a chance of reaching public office anywhere in the world, money talks.

Finances (or lack thereof) often act as a barrier to women taking part in the elections. Our team aims to support potential women candidates to de-risk the financial aspect of running for office by using a crowdfunding platform for resource mobilization to cover the election registration fee.

The UNDP team will benefit from existing local crowd-funding platforms such as Ayo and UNDP’s work in Croatia with Indiegogo.

If successful, this approach will be applied in advance of the nationwide round of local elections in 2016.

PROTOTYPE 3: Rousing local troublemakers

The hunch we are testing here is whether we could find a way to get to those on the edge of communities, and, by linking them together and channeling their energy, test whether this critical mass can catalyze more youngsters take part in decision making at the local level.

This three-phased approach includes:

  1. A week-long learning camp on the essentials of gender-sensitive & participatory governance. The engaged youth will be running a simulation mayoral campaign, designing models for participatory decision-making, transparent reporting to their constituency, and political communications.
  2. The camp participants will then engage in a lab to design action plans. They will receive advice from experts on existing approaches and opportunities, as well as different online platforms and techniques. We will use the DIY Toolkit’s ‘fast idea generator’ to stimulate the creation of new and ‘disruptive’ activities.
  3. What happens next? Backstopping the young people down the road and collecting evidence on the after-camp activities. One of the envisaged techniques for future action is the establishment of an open platform, where  young people can share their progress, achievements, challenges, and seek advice from one another.

Follow us as we proceed!

Do you have any ideas or similar solutions that have worked elsewhere?

This was the third of the three winning projects of UNDP’s regional Scaling Up Fund.


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