Armenian Deputy Minister Visits Boston for Knowledge Exchange Initiative
Oct 7, 2019
Zhanna Andreasyan, the Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Affairs of the Republic of Armenia, recently concluded a week-long visit to Boston to examine best practices to address a wide range of social issues such as domestic violence, mental health, children services and poverty. The visit was facilitated by the Women’s Support Center (WSC) of Armenia, the leading NGO combating domestic violence in Armenia. Andreasyan was accompanied by WSC executive director Maro Matosian, WSC project coordinator Hasmik Kevorgyan and Lenna Garibian, the US project lead who coordinated the five-day itinerary in Boston.
The knowledge-exchange visit consisted of over 20 meetings with government agencies, NGOs, health professionals and university professors to provide a multidisciplinary approach to addressing social issues in Armenia. “The visit was incredibly productive and informative,” said Andreasyan. “It was a perfect example of how the Armenian government, NGOs and the Diaspora can work together to address problems in Armenia.”
“For issues like domestic violence, Armenia is at a similar stage as it was in the US in the 1970s,” said Matosian. “Armenians deny that domestic violence is a significant problem. They think it should be kept quiet and left for families to sort out privately. And yet so far in 2019 there have already been 16 Armenian women killed by their husbands or partners, whereas the last time there was a femicide in Cambridge it was over 10 years ago. The severity of the domestic violence problem in Armenia first needs to be exposed so that we can start producing solutions to the problem.”
“Besides the denial, in Armenia we also lack professionals in the field of social work,”added Matosian. “The model for such services is antiquated and the NGOs were practically doing all the field work. The Ministry for the first time acknowledged this situation and is partnering with the NGO sector to develop programs and services. This model is also present in all developed countries, and we saw how it also works in Boston. This is a very important step forward for Armenia, and during this trip we looked at various models and methodology that these non-governmental organizations were implementing.”
The Armenian delegation met with government agencies such as the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance (MOVA), the Cambridge Police Department (including Police Commissioner Branville Bard), CABHART (Cambridge, Arlington and Belmont High-Risk Assessment and Response Team) and the city’s Gender Based Violence Prevention Initiative. The delegation also met with several NGOs, including senior staff at Transition House (the first domestic violence shelter in Massachusetts and the second in the US), Jane Doe Inc., Economic Mobility Pathways (EMPath), Child Witness to Violence Project, REACH Beyond Domestic Violence, Children’s Advocacy Center/Family Justice and Emerge Abuser Education Program, among many others. The team also had two meetings with professors at Boston University’s Department of Social Work to discuss developing a curriculum to properly train social workers in Armenia.