On September 28, 2017, the Heinrich Boell Foundation South Caucasus Regional Office, together with its partners, the NGO Public Information and Need of Knowledge (PINK) and Society Without Violence (SWV) organised a Wrap-up Stakeholder Meeting of the EU-funded Project “Solidarity Network for LGBTI in Armenia and Georgia”, which was being implemented since early 2015 in the two South Caucasus countries. հայերեն
The event was opened by the EU Project Coordinator, Anne Nemsitsveridze-Daniels, who gave a brief run-down of the entire three-year action and the results, outcomes, and outputs it entailed. She described the different activities and their progress in Georgia and explained their correlation to similar activities conducted in Armenia. The floor was then given to Ekaterina Dorodnova, the Head of the Political, Press and Information Section of the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Armenia, who reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to the protection of the human rights of all groups and the significance the EU places on such initiatives as the one being conducted by HBF and its partners in the two countries.
Representatives of the partner organisations, Nvard Margaryan of PINK Armenia and Armine Karapetyan of SWV, talked about the progress of the lobbying efforts of the LGBTI rights guideline document, titled “Realising the Human Rights of LGBTI People in Armenia”. The comprehensive document, which is the result of the coordinated work of a number of key civil society actors engaged in human rights and gender equality issues, media representatives, and LGBTI community members (who were an integral part of the strategy design process), was presented to the wider society in December 2016. It constitutes an evidence-based strategy stemming from the recommendations of two unprecedented studies published by PINK Armenia and SWV in 2016, which explore homo/bi/transphobic societal attitudes in Armenia and analyse the legal situation of LGBTI persons in the country.
Based on the guideline document, targeted policy briefs were drafted and sent to respective state institutions and CSOs with official requests for meetings, a number of which have already been conducted, e.g. with representatives of the ministries of Health and Education of Armenia, as well as the Human Rights Defender. Specific points pertaining to each of the areas of concern (health care, education, human rights protection) were discussed with the target agencies and various agreements were made to continue streamlined cooperation.
At the event, the project partners also presented the summary of the activities conducted by each of the two organisations since the commencement of the action, including the two studies themselves, the strategy/guideline document design process, capacity building trainings for CSOs, LGBTI activists, initiative groups, and journalists, capacity- and knowledge-building study tours conducted for Armenian stakeholders to Tbilisi and for the EU project team to Sarajevo, the development of a documentary film discussing the LGBTI rights situation in Armenia and Georgia, as well as public service announcements focusing on key issues faced by the LGBTI community.
The partners particularly focused on the positive results of the small and micro grants projects which have just been finalized within the framework of the larger Action. The small and micro grants scheme contributed to the promotion of the key recommendations given in the two studies mentioned above. Among the projects, there was a photo exhibition titled “Our Love is Real”, which involved photos of trans couples, and a photo exhibition implemented by Rights Side NGO, “Reading Colourful Literature” project which involved public readings and discussions of literary works that feature LGBTI characters and focus on LGBTI issues in various contexts, pre-visibility events for the LGBTI community in Vanadzor and DIlijan cities through community empowerment and capacity building trainings for the community and journalists.
The event was then concluded with a discussion on sustainability measures and future prospects after the conclusion of the principal EU-funded action. Ideas shared regarding sustainability included the follow-up meetings and continued cooperation with state agencies, such as the Ministries and the Human Rights Defender, in the areas of health care (advancing state-mandated legal gender recognition measures for trans* and inter* persons, doctor-patient confidentiality, awareness raising and trainings for medical professionals/first responders on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity), education (homo/transphobic bullying and discrimination, the use of incorrect terminology and gendered images in textbooks, etc.), justice (regulation of hate-speech, SOGI-responsive anti-discrimination legislation, tackling discrimination in employment and diminished employment opportunities for LGBTI people, combating discrimination and abuse at penitentiary institutions). The sustainability of some of the small grants projects was also mentioned as having the potential to continue their impact, especially through an empowered and mobilised local community. Lastly, the set of articles on LGBTI issues in Armenia that have been produced by journalists as a result of a micro grants component allocated to media professionals was identified as an activity, that is likely to have an impact beyond the conclusion of the project.
It must be noted that, like during the previous event held in December 2016, after being approached by HBF with the relevant request, the Police of the Republic of Armenia was very active in allocating a number of officers to provide security for the event.
Following the final stakeholder event, a separate meeting was conducted with the project partners at the premises of the Heinrich Boell Foundation Yerevan Project Office in order to summarise the action and plan further steps of possible cooperation and support.