Bringing Armenian grassroots voices to international arenas: Interview with the Coalition to Stop Violence against Women


TW: The article mentions death and violence against women.

Group of five white women sitting at a table and discussing

In 2010, Zaruhi Petrosyan, a 20-year-old woman, died due to severe beatings perpetrated by her husband and mother-in-law. In response to this tragedy, a coalition of ten civil society organizations was formed to end the many horrific forms of violence against women and girls. The Coalition to Stop Violence against Women (the Coalition) has since become an active force of advocacy for a violence-free society and gender equality in Armenia for the past decade.

Funded by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, the Coalition is implementing a multi-pronged project interlinking service provision, primary prevention and advocacy to support and protect women and girls. A coalition uniting 10 non-governmental organizations working with women and girls in Armenia, including women and girls living with disabilities and lesbian, bisexual and transgender women. The Coalition meaningfully engages women and girls across all 11 regions of Armenia in the design and implementation of its project.

During the 16 Days of Activism, we talk with Tatevik Aghabekyan, President, on the Coalition’s work to drive institutional reform through civil society engagement in international accountability processes.

Your project aims to identify gaps in response and improve accountability systems to better support and protect survivors of violence. How would these improvements help prevent violence against women and girls?

Women and girl survivors of violence in Armenia face harmful social norms and gaps in protection laws and policies, such as specialist support services, not to mention the protracted impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Nagorno-Karabakh war, all of which lead to underreporting of violence and especially violence against women and girls at risk of being left behind.

We believe that this can only be addressed through institutional reform and a well-functioning multisectoral system. This means comprehensive support services, awareness raising, empowerment trainings, capacity building, court monitoring, and media engagement.

How has the project contributed to strengthening Armenian legal and policy environment in preventing violence against women and girls?

Strengthening the Armenian legal and policy environment can play a crucial role in preventing violence against women and girls. By implementing comprehensive laws and policies under the auspices of international laws and monitoring bodies, Armenia can create a framework that promotes accountability and protection for survivors.

A strong legal and policy environment also amplifies a clear message that violence against women and girls is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in Armenia.

One of our project activities includes equipping members of the Coalition with knowledge of women’s rights advocacy within the UN monitoring bodies, particularly the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW A collaboration with the International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific), the training created an opportunity for Coalition members to explore the functions and role of CEDAW Committee but also other UN monitoring bodies.

Our members not only gained insights into the CEDAW Committee’s mandate and its reporting process, but also how to effectively engage with the Committee and lead advocacy activities to hold State accountable. For several civil society representatives, it was their first time learning certain concepts and procedural developments. Many shared that they would use the knowledge gained in their advocacy and participate in the next CEDAW reporting process.

How has understanding CEDAW and monitoring bodies informed the Coalition’s policy advocacy?

The training facilitated the Coalition members’ acquaintance with inner workings of the Committee’s review and recommendation processes which is believed to greatly benefit the country reporting mechanisms. More specifically, this examination of the Committee’s guidance will allow the members to discern specific areas requiring improvement in advancing women’s rights within the country. With this understanding, Coalition members can better tailor their advocacy strategies and initiatives. They can prioritize issues highlighted by the Committee, utilizing its recommendations as a comprehensive framework to guide their advocacy efforts on a national scale. By aligning their work with the Committee’s recommendations, the Coalition members can effectively champion substantial changes, policies, and actions to advance women’s rights in Armenia.

For example, the Women’s Resource Center, a member of the Coalition and also a UN Trust Fund grantee, has worked closely with key government agencies to strengthen gender-responsive approaches to handling cases of violence. Their experience working with social workers, investigators and health professionals has contributed to their advocacy plan for legislative changes for better and more competent support services to survivors.

Check out our In Focus page on the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence 2023.

To learn more about the prevention of violence against women and girls, check out our Learning from Practice series and explore the 10 identified pathways to prevention: click here.



UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women

The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women is the only global grant-making mechanism dedicated to eradicating all forms of #VAWG.