Seasonal labor migration of men in an Armenian village has left women in control of the local administration body.
For two years now all members of the local council in Antarashen are women. The only man in the village administration is mayor Rafik Kharatian. In a country where women have limited representation in government bodies, the male official says working with only women in running the community is a lot easier.
“They understand things better, they attend the [council] sessions and really work,” says the leader of a community in Armenia’s northern Lori province, which is home to approximately 260 residents.
Outmigration of particularly adult male population is a problem common in many villages and towns in Armenia’s economically depressed northern provinces. In Antarashen, however, the sex ratio appears to be particularly extreme.
Kharatian, a man in his sixties, says he’d like to make presents to all councilwomen on the occasion of International Women’s Day, which is marked on March 8 and is a public holiday in Armenia. “But there is no extra money in the community budget for that purpose,” he regrets.
Residents in Antarashen say their village used to be prosperous during the Soviet times as they raised animals with valuable hides. In the post-Soviet reality and market relations, however, animal husbandry does not appear that profitable an industry, while the soil around the mountainous village is not fertile enough for farming. As a result, an estimated half of all community residents, virtually all working-age men, are now in Russia doing seasonal migrant jobs. Local families mainly live off the remittances wired back home by their male relatives from abroad.
Members of the all-women council of Antarashen complain that despite all their efforts they still can’t find solutions to even the most vital problems of the community where there is no school or kindergarten. The village situated some 16 kilometers from the regional center of Vanadzor does not even have a store of its own where the locals could buy essential goods. Antarashen residents have to walk several kilometers down a rundown road every day to the neighboring village of Lermontov to buy bread and other staples.
Sessions of the village council in Antarashen are held inside a dilapidated building, which hasn’t been repaired for two decades now. Only a relevant sign prompts that it is a local administration building. Guests are extremely rare in Antarashen and government officials do not normally visit this area. Still, the village’s head and several members of its council are affiliated with the ruling Republican Party of Armenia.