Armenia: Susanna Vardanyan

When Armenia becomes a democratic, developed country, the topic of women’s rights will come naturally and habitually.

— Susanna Vardanyan

Susanna Vardanyan (born 1951) is an obstetrician-gynecologist by profession: she graduated from the Yerevan Medical Institute and has worked at the Institute for Family Planning and Reproductive Health in the city of Yerevan for over 25 years. She is also the founder of one of the first women’s organizations in Armenia, and a leader of the women’s movement in the country. She works for the prevention of violence against women and provides support to victims.

Susanna Vardanyan is the founder of not only the first women’s organization, but of the first NGO in Armenia. Led by Susanna, the Women’s Rights Center (WRC) focuses on “Breaking the Silence About Violence Against Women.” Its core goals are the prevention of violence against women and children, the defense of their rights, and the development and support of systems to counter persecution and violence against them. Their telephone hotline for women was the first such service for victims of violence in the entire country, and their Crisis Center and Women's Support Group (WSG) unite women suffering from domestic violence, offering therapy and talks where women share experiences, learning to find their own solutions to their situations. In seven years, the Center has been contacted for help by over 9166 women: 5321 were given psychological help, 3840 were given legal advice, and 86 were defended in court. WRC also works against the trafficking and trade of women, and is a member of Astra, the Central and Eastern European Women's Network for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. Astra, of which Susanna is a founder, too, is lobbying for safe abortions and better access to information on safe sex, abortion, contraception, AIDS, and sexually transmitted diseases. Susanna participated in the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, as well as in the NGO Forum in New York, and in 2002 was recognized for her work by the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights. Through Susanna and her team, the problem of violence against women has been acknowledged in Armenia. She has great plans for the future, working hardest on issuing a law on domestic violence, and the establishment of a state infrastructure: “When the law is accepted and the infrastructure works, I will be confident of real help for women.”

Women's Rights Center (WRC) Astra, Central and Eastern European Women's Network for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights