In October 2021, the “Right Side” Human Rights Defender NGO, with the financial support of the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, organized public educational campaigns for the representatives of the Trans LGBIQ community living in different regions of Armenia. The public campaigns were organized by the participants of the “Voice of Change” Youth Academy, who shared their knowledge and competences with their peers by promoting their involvement in youth work and civic activism.

With the support of mentors, the activists had mapped the topics to be discussed in advance, the participants, the venue, so that the series of meetings would be safer and more productive for everyone.

In October, the first meeting took place in Vanadzor, Lori region, uniting eighteen LGBTIQ people. During the meeting, the participants were informed about the ways to apply for competitive programs and scholarships and achieve success. The participants appreciated the meeting because they were not aware of the educational opportunities provided by international organizations, thanks to which young people living in Armenia could study and work outside Armenia. As a result of the group work, the participants developed a new project related to the education of LGBTIQ people and mentioned that by developing the idea, they would try to get funding in the future. The participants expressed their gratitude for the meeting and stressed the importance of its continuity, as they had a wish to achieve their goals.

Continuing the series of meetings, the next meeting was held in Kotayk region, which was attended by 21 LGBTIQ people. The topic of the meeting was “The situation of LGBTIQ people in the regions of Armenia. our further steps.” During the meeting, a number of issues were raised, which LGBTIQ people were facing in rural communities, they emphasized that they were trying to hide their identities in every possible way, silently enduing humiliation and pressure, so that not to be physically abused, not to lose the love and respect of their relatives. Many of the participants, sharing their personal stories, added that they wanted to make changes in their community so that people around them started to accept their identity and did not discriminate against LGBTIQ people, but they were afraid that they would not be accepted or would be misunderstood. The discussion was followed by an exchange of views and the development of further steps. At the end of the meeting, one of the participants mentioned: “Discussions in this format motivate us more, I feel strong when I see so many people next to me, please, organize such events for us often.” The meeting was inspiring and educational.

The next meeting took place in Armavir region, which was attended by twenty-three LGBTIQ people from different villages of Armavir region. The topic of the meeting was “Communication skills, overcoming obstacles.” Many of the participants were lucky enough to get acquainted with the activities of various NGOs in Yerevan and get involved in activism, but there were people who did not have the opportunity to go to Yerevan to participate in various educational events. So, it is important that NGOs focus some of their activities to the involvement of the representatives of the LGBTIQ community living in the regions in their work. Two of the activists who had participated in the academy tested their knowledge through role-plays, instructive examples, and shared their knowledge and communication skills with the participants. LGBTIQ people living in the regions expressed a wish to participate in the next academy, so that they, in their turn, could educate their peers.

Two activists living in Gegharkunik region had expressed readiness to organize the next campaign in Sevan city, during which they managed to unite twenty-six members and supporters of the LGBTIQ community. During the meeting, the participants spoke about security and self-defense. Security is a very important issue for LGBTIQ people living in the regions. We need to be more informed, fight together for the promotion of our rights, protect both ourselves and others. The meeting has been important for everyone, as each member of the community and each individual advocating for the community faces the issue of physical and psychological security.

Summing up the series of meetings, the last event was organized in Gyumri, which was attended by 17 LGBTIQ people. The meeting was focused on the ways to prevent domestic violence in the families of LGBTIQ people. LGBTIQ people talked about their personal life, presenting how they continued to live in their families by being discriminated against. The meeting with the activists was also attended by two parents of LGBTIQ people who accepted their children as they were. Parents talked about parent-child relationships, shared special skills for communicating with parents, and emphasized that they were always ready to stand by every person who had been abused. The meeting was emotional, but very important for everyone.

Dec 08, 2021 Armenia Yerevan

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