What we do
Gender equality and women’s empowerment remain a critical development issue in Armenia: women comprise 52.2% of population in Armenia and 56% of those with higher education, still, leadership positions in government, in policy-making institutions or the private sector in Armenia are male-dominated. Due to their limited representation in leadership positions women have very little influence over policy decisions and development of solutions. While a 25% quota system is set to ensure women representation at the national level, they face distinct barriers to entering office both at the local and national levels. At the same time women have potential and appetite to engage in local development processes, and the local governance is a good entry point for women’s engagement in politics.
The local governance system is currently in major transition, with 52 enlarged municipalities. By its program introduced in February 2019, RA Government confirmed its commitment to territorial and administrative reform, as well as decentralization. Hence, it will continue and complete the Territorial and Administrative Reform in Armenia (TARA) along with supportive activities, including further decentralization of power to local self-government in a number of areas (e.g. primary healthcare, maintenance and use of intercommunity and inter-settlement roads, public schools, and delivery of integrated social services).
With progress of TARA the numbers of both women and men in local governance reduced, and the competition for local offices significantly increased. Currently the representation of female heads of communities is less than 2%, female community councils is 9.5% and in enlarged municipalities - only 5.6%.
Women’s potential remains widely underused and undervalued, thereby having an adverse impact on the country’s prospects for attaining sustainable development, gender equality and social justice. Due to their limited representation in leadership positions women have very little influence over policy decisions and development of solutions. Women have potential and appetite to engage in local development processes, and the local governance is a good entry point for women’s engagement in politics.
In UNDP women empowerment work we consider young people as enablers of development and democratization in their communities, promoters of gender equality and citizen participation in local decision-making as well as a support group for women leaders in the communities.
The “Women and Youth for Innovative Local Development” project is part of four-year strategic partnership framework between UNDP, GIZ and CoE and UNDP within “Improvement of the local self-governance system in Armenia” programme, which aims at strengthening accountability, effectiveness, efficiency and inclusiveness of the local self-government system in Armenia in a regionally and socially balanced manner.
The project is aligned with Switzerland’s Federal Dispatch on International Cooperation 2017-2020 and the resulting Cooperation Strategy South Caucasus 2017-2020 with its overall goal, and will be linked, where appropriate, with programs to come in the new strategic period of 2021-25. The first phase of the programme (2014-2019) is completed and the implementing partners – GIZ, UNDP and CoE now enter the 2nd phase of the program (2019-2023).
UNDP’s project will: (i) pilot three innovative municipal services which will be co-designed and monitored by citizens, including vulnerable/marginalized groups; (ii) further advance youth leadership; and (iii) continue to empower women at the local level through building on and upscaling the results achieved during the past years.
The project will contribute to the following results:
- Leadership potential and skills of women and youth in communities of Armenia are advanced for community development and transparent and accountable governance and
- Municipalities have delivered relevant services and incentives for citizens, the business environment and local economic actors.
The major activities of the project include:
1. Co-design, pilot and monitoring of innovative municipal sectoral services in enlarged municipalities by residents including vulnerable/marginalized groups.
2. Leadership advancement of active young women and men in the enlarged municipalities though empathy-building leadership models as enablers of local democracy and women political participation, as well as policy contributors; and
3. Capacity development of women in enlarged municipalities vis-a-vis community development processes and support institutionalization of their participation modalities.
Some results so far
“Women and Youth for Inclusive Local Development” project is the logical continuation of “Women in Local Democracy” (2012-2015) funded by EU “Women in Local Democracy 2” (2015-2019) funded by SDC and will add to the results already achieved:
· Vibrant network of more than 4 000 women formed and ready to contribute to more inclusive and gender balanced local governance in all 10 regions of Armenia. Capacity of elected women officials from communities as well as community active women (former councillors, young leaders, entrepreneurs) developed and their leadership advanced to strengthen local democracy in their communities.
· Increase in representation of women in local self-government in 2012 cycle of local elections (from 7 to 9%) and in 2016 elections (from 9 to 12%).
· A youth force of 132 women and men formed and trained on issues of local government and gender equality though “I AM the Community” youth leadership model. The graduates of the leadership model are united into Youth Club which actively raises community issues and contributed to bottom up policy making.
· In enlarged municipalities the project introduced participatory decision-making models: (i) SMS-polling citizen engagement tool installed in three cluster communities, covering 22 towns/villages; (ii) “Demo” Co-Design Lab, mobilizing stakeholders to co-create new solutions – in total six new online and off-line tools to strengthen direct democracy efforts in the community.
· The project served as a Gender Hub for the LoGoPro project and developed guide notes and research-based knowledge products to gender the RA TARA.
· The WiLD 2 project also supported the gender dimension of the Territorial and Administrative Reform through: (i) developed knowledge products for the MTAD and TARA partners on gender mainstreaming in TARA process; (ii) capacity development of 122 local governments representatives (84 male and 38 female) on gender aspects of local governance in the context of community enlargement.
· By collecting the evidence, the project developed set of recommendations for affirmative and support measures for gender equality at the local level, including advocating for 30% quota in consolidated municipalities.