Yovanovitch said political and economic reforms in the country will not produce desired results as long as Armenian women remain underrepresented in all branches of government and political structures. “Political systems in which women take leadership roles in politics and in government have lower levels of corruption,” she said.
The diplomat was speaking at a conference on women’s role in Armenian politics that was organized in Yerevan by the U.S. National Democratic Institute. The two-day forum brought together representatives of women’s organizations and some of the few women holding high-level positions in Armenian state institutions, notably Culture Minister Hasmik Poghosian.
Armenia -- U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch at a news conference in Yerevan, 23Mar2011.
Poghosian is one of only two female members of Armenia’s government. The number of women in the Armenian parliament is not much larger.
Yovanovitch complained that throughout her three-year diplomatic work in the traditionally male-dominated country she has frequently heard views that a woman should primarily look after her husband and children, instead of engaging in political activities. She said failure to use women’s intellectual potential is a “crime.”
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, some prominent participants of the conference insisted that there are no specific hurdles to greater female activism in Armenia.
“All the opportunities are in place [for women,]” claimed Arevik Petrosian, a member of the Armenian Constitutional Court who previously served as deputy parliament speaker. “I don’t think there are political impediments to women’s activities in the political arena.”
“I see negative attitudes not towards women but intellect in general,” said Karine Danielian, a former environment minister. “That is, there is no demand for knowledge, education and intellect. If there is such demand, women will automatically get everywhere.”