For a young woman, going into politics in Artsakh is by no means easy. Sometimes one feels one is dealing with the proverbial dragon who grows two heads for each one you chop off. The challenges are not about education or professionalism, and it isn’t your ambition that matters, it’s the public perceptions.
At work, I often face situations in which you have to fight every step of the way to prove that you aren’t just good at fulfilling a traditional female role, but also have knowledge about things like preventive wars. It’s important to point out that these stereotypes are common among women as well as men, almost to the same extent. It would thus be unfair to put the entire blame on men.
I would like to share with the readers of the Caucasus Institute blog a stereotype-peppered story that happened to me recently.
At the Office of the Head of the National Assembly, we had an Armenian intern from Spain who quickly integrated into Artsakh society. In the framework of a project dedicated to developing the capacity of young women, he mentioned my work and initiatives, and offered to organize a meeting with me. We met the next day, and the project participants’ first reaction was, “So, you are the Anush that Levon told us about? From what he said about your work, we expected you to be twice older and bigger.”
Sometimes you can laugh such things off, and sometimes you cannot. However, if you have principles and determination, you build an immunity to stereotyping, gossip and other not-so-pleasant stuff. Still, immunity is not enough: to get the same results as a man, a woman has to work harder, achieve greater personal development and know a lot more. In a nutshell, she has to stand out from among men in order to aspire to a position that a man could reach with much smaller efforts. So rest assured that women who succeeded in politics or business are more professional and educated than their male counterparts, because unlike men, women have to prove that they are good enough in terms of personality as well as ability.
Besides, one must not forget that politics is a public activity where people pay attention to a person’s appearance, clothing, family, friends, and surroundings as well as their professionalism, knowledge and experience. This is the reality in almost all countries regardless of their level of democratic development.
I am sure that attitudes will gradually change provided that more women engage in politics.
Auhtor – Anush Ghavalyan, Advisory to the Head of the National Assembly of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
The posts by young Karabakhi women on their engagement in social, economic, political and cultural life in Karabakh are prepared in the framework of a project on Building Capacity for Societal Engagement in Nagorno-Karabakh implemented by the Caucasus Institute in partnership with Armavir Development Centre, Civil Society Institute and INTRA Mental Health Centre.