The Women’s Support Center (WSC) launched in 2010 as a program of the Tufenkian Foundation, together with USAID and the Armenian International Women’s Association (AIWA). Within two years, the program expanded as it grew in reputation and demand. Beginning in 2013, WSC was able to register as an independent NGO in Armenia, while continuing close collaboration with the Tufenkian Foundation.
Addressing the need
Domestic violence and abuse have a high occurrence in Armenia, as documented by several groups including Amnesty International (which has estimated its occurrence in 69% of all relationships). In response, WSC strives to create a safe and confidential environment for healing and recovery — a place where abused women receive support, empathy, and the knowledge that they are not alone in their struggles. Women are provided with practical learning about domestic violence, as well as counseling that bolsters self-esteem and confidence. The Center offers a hotline, walk-in services, legal and psychological counseling, representation in court trials for criminal, divorce or child custody, training sessions, assistance in dealing with police and social services departments, as well as assistance with setting up new lives for the survivors and their children.
The Center currently runs the only specialized domestic violence shelter in the country, which is in an undisclosed location for safety reasons. WSC follows US-based procedures and methodology in running the Center and addressing DV cases. On a yearly basis, roughly 140 survivors receive socio-psychological and legal consultation, while 35 women and 42 children were given refuge in the shelter last year. After appropriate rehabilitation, most of WSC’s beneficiaries become economically self-sufficient and find work supporting their children. Approximately 80% of beneficiaries do not return to their abusive partner.
We are also happy to report that WSC has just opened a second emergency shelter for DV victims. Once again, the shelter offers a welcoming and safe environment for women and children who escape harmful home environments.
To combat DV effectively, it is necessary to have a holistic approach that also goes beyond direct assistance: The Center thus strives also to change popular myths and taboos regarding domestic violence and, more broadly, to influence the role of women in society. WSC works to uphold progressive values that promote political, economic, and social rights for women. Thus, it is involved not only in social work per se, but also combating larger, thornier problems of gender inequality, stereotypes and patriarchal values, so that women can live in safety, in peace, and as equals.
The Center takes special interest in advocacy efforts: simply by assisting women in need, perceptions on women’s rights cannot be changed; emancipation of both men and women requires much more. The Center pursues this in two ways: 1) by working together with various government agencies for systemic change to protect victims and advance women’s rights in Armenia. 2) together with other accomplished NGOs, trying to raise awareness among young women about positive values and healthy families based on relationships of partnership, not control. In this, WSC strives to help women achieve their potential as valuable members of and contributors to the Armenian society. As such, the Center is a proud member of the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Women, an ad hoc alliance of feminist, social work, and advocacy groups.
WSC’s hotline number in Armenia: 099-88-78-08