Yerevan, Armenia (April 1, 2014) – Zarik* is one of 50 women achieving economic independence through a Near East Foundation (NEF) pilot initiative that is helping survivors of domestic violence either find employment or start their own businesses.
“I would have never imagined I could support my three children by running my own business, and this project gave me the confidence as well as the resources to do that,” Zarik says of the opportunity she has received with funding from the Open Society Foundations – Armenia and private donors.
The Women’s Economic Empowerment & Advocacy initiative is the first of its kind in a country with a growing movement to address widespread domestic violence. Early results are showing it to be a promising model to help many more women survivors in the future.
Zarik learned of the NEF program at the Women’s Support Center, in the capital city of Yerevan, where she sought help to break free from an abusive family. The Center provided Zarik and her children with the legal, psychological, and social services to begin to cope and move beyond the violence they have suffered.
Without adequate resources to support their family, however, most women like Zarik have no choice but to return to their abusive environment.
Through NEF’s partnership with the Center, women survivors can choose to pursue one of two tracks to earn an income – secure a job or start their own micro-enterprise.
Zarik wanted to become an entrepreneur. Along with 10 other women, she participated in NEF training sessions where she learned how to conduct a market study and develop advertising strategies as well as other important business skills.
Participants also develop business plans and receive guidance from a coach who advises them through the start-up phase, helps them strengthen their business networks, and arranges visits to similar businesses to learn how these are viable.
Zarik’s vision was to establish a business knitting clothes and accessories for children and adults. She started her own home-based business in December, just in time for the holiday gift-buying season, and is earning $100 a month. She expects to make more as she refines her skills on the knitting machine obtained with project support.
Zarik credits this opportunity with giving her the practical skills to earn a livelihood as well as showing her that it is possible to start over. “This project has helped me start a new chapter in my life. Thanks to my new business, I will be able to provide for myself and for my children’s livelihood by doing my favorite activity.”
She continued, “From our meetings I saw that the other women and I have been through the same struggle and have to overcome the same obstacles. Knowing that we had NEF supporting us and looking out for us, we felt confident and believed in ourselves.”
*Zarik is a fictional name used to protect her identity.
Learn more about NEF’s work in Armenia
The Near East Foundation is a U.S.-based international NGO leading innovative social and economic development in the Middle East and Africa since 1915. For nearly 100 years, NEF has worked to empower citizens in disadvantaged, vulnerable communities. NEF field staff – all of them from the countries in which they work – partner with local organizations to find grassroots solutions to their development challenges. NEF’s “knowledge, voice, and enterprise” approach is helping build more prosperous, inclusive communities throughout the region. To learn more visit www.neareast.org