On the heels of a successful October 2012 campaign to renovate a kindergarten in northern Nagorno-Karabakh, non-profit funding platform ONEArmenia has announced a new $21,000 campaign to close the 2013-2014 budget gap of a safe house run by the Women’s Support Center in Yerevan.
According to a study conducted by Amnesty International, nearly 60% of Armenian women experience physical abuse on a regular basis. Only half–29%, to be exact–of these women seek out help, only to return later–at a rate of 88%–to the very homes and families that abused them. UNICEF has reported that 31% of Armenian males and 22% of Armenian females justify this violence. “We started the safe house in 2012 because the need was so great,” said Women’s Support Center director Maro Matosian. “Every time we would refer someone to the existing shelter, they were turned away because there was no space.”
The WSC has provided services to victims of domestic violence since 2009. The Center has also engaged in the training of Yerevan’s municipal social workers and conducted round table discussions in Armenia’s regions with youth to raise awareness about healthy relationships and the negative impact of gender stereotypes and patriarchal values on Armenian society.
The WSC’s safe house is only one of two such spaces currently operating in Armenia. Because of the potential for pursuit by perpetrators, the safe house’s precise location is kept confidential and is not revealed to the pubic. It has the capacity to house and nurture up to 5 women and their children at any given time, with an average yearly impact on 30 women and about 60 children. In addition to providing a safe space where women can seek solace and reprieve from their harrowing experiences, the safe house employs social workers, legal counselors and psychologists who work with the women to slowly build up a sense of independence, potential and eventual self-actualization. Group therapy sessions, individual legal counseling and activities designed specifically for rehabilitation guide the women toward setting goals (for employment, divorce, housing, education, etc) and working toward realizing them. Their children are enrolled in school and monitored by the shelter’s staff. By the end of a maximum 60-day stay at the safe house, women are prepared to begin new lives with newfound self-reliance and confidence.
“That process is the first time in their lives when they take their destiny into their own hands,” said Matosian. “It is a very empowering thing. They have dreams of their own. They have goals of their own. And they start thinking of themselves for the first time.”
The funds raised throughout ONEArmenia’s campaign would cover rent, purchase of medical and infant supplies, and transportation and food costs for the next year.