History of WFD

Organization Overview

“Women for Development” NGO (WFD NGO) is a women-led, grass root organization based in Gyumri, Armenia. It was founded in 1997 on the initiative of several young women full of energy and desire to improve not only their own future but also to bring positive changes into the society. Throughout the 20 years of operation WFD has addressed issues in the field of Peace and Conflict Resolution Education, Community Development and Women’s Rights in Armenia.

 The main areas of WFD NGO’s activities refer to promoting peace education and peacebuilding in the Region, community development in Shirak province of Armenia and the protection of women’s rights.

Being one of the first to initiate Peace Education in schools of Armenia in 2002, WFD has hugeexperience in training teachers to conduct peace lessons; developing and providing methodological handbooks, didactic materials, constantly developing and reshaping the peace education program.  Due to long-term and fruitful collaboration with the RA National Institute of Education Peace Education was institutionalized in 2015, and is now taught as a mandatory topic at the class head’s hours.

 WFD NGO stayed focused on the needs of implementing community development projects in close collaboration with local municipalities of the rural communities in Shirak. For the first time, on the initiative and with the support of WFD NGO, 4-year development strategic plans were prepared in all the beneficiary communities in a participatory manner. Thanks to its hard and devoted work WFD managed to ensure the involvement of rural women in the decision making processes in their communities thus making their voices heard. WFD’s lifelong goal is to see the target communities as united and engaged institutions, which are able to work together to make positive changes locally.

How It Started

4-5 years had passed after the disastrous earthquake of 1988. Those were quite difficult years. It was psycologically very tough to adjust to the new situation, to see people waiting for humanitarian aid, eyes full of  daily problems, which seemed to have no solutions. Unlike most of the people, we were employed.
However employment itself was not sufficient to overcome the psychological difficulties. We had to do something more, we wanted to stand on our feet, use our potential and to support other women.

history3It was the April of 1996. We received information about an upcoming visit of women’s NGOs from Yerevan. The main purpose of this visit was to meet  socially engaged women in Gyumri. Jemma Hasratyan, President of the ”Association of Women with University Education” was also among the visitors.

She presented her organisation  established in 1995 and mentioned that wants to form a representation in Gyumri. She also suggested Armine Mikayelyan and me to join the organisation. That was the day, when Jemma Hasratyan became a guiding teacher for us. Each meeting with her was an opening for us, we were trying not to miss a single discussion or training. We were not afraid of the challenges ahead and wanted to invest our potential to make some changes in the society.

Promoting Development Locally 

The Gyumri branch of the “Association of Women with University Education” was formed and our first project was  the “Seismic Culture – a Look into the Future“.  It aimed to provide elementary school students basic skills for seismic protection.

Still as a member of the Association, in 1997 we established “Women for Development” NGO and brought together a few women with similar backgrounds and perspectives for the future. We were working day and night in a small room, which was provided to us by Sergey Nazaretyan, Director of the National Survey for Seismic Protection.

Years passed, WFD was addressing issues related to establishing a civil society  and protecting women’s rights. Throughout the past years, we have established collaboration and implemented joint projects with various NGOs, developed through capacity building and exchange of experience. Our experience in peace education has been presented at different international conferences and international educational networks.

Armine Mikayelyan had a great input in the activities of the organization and its international recognition. Due to her personal dedication, hard work and leadership characteristics, we are continuing our activities in Armenia and abroad, and trying our best to address local and regional problems.

Looking Ahead

The year of 2012 marked the 15th anniversary of Women for Development NGO. During the past years, we have tried to address the needs of the rural communities in the Shirak region. Our main goal in the communities is to raise people’s involvement in the decision-making processes locally. We seek to enable communities to address their problems through using local resources. In order to meet this goal, we work closely with local municipalities and communities.

Based on the alternative strategic plans developed with each beneficiary community, there are specific projects prepared by the community active group to address some of the major problems locally.
We see our communities as united and engaged institutions, which are able to work together to make positive changes locally.

Being one of the first to initiate peace education course for schools in Armenia, WFD has an experience of over 12 years in working with in service and pre service teachers, students and schoolchildren. It aims o provide students with necessary skills for non-violent conflict management.

WFD work meeting, December 12

We have combined best international practices with our experience and considered cultural and traditional features of Armenia.
WFD has developed and tested an effective model of peace education, which is already known in as “the Armenian model” of Peace education.

More than 20% of schools throughout Armenia have already integrated the peace classes into their curriculum as an alternative course. Considering the great positive impact that the peace education course brings to schoolchildren as well as teachers’ and parents’ feedback, we believe that the course should be launched in all schools of Armenia.

We are confident that introduction of similar values among younger generation in different countries can serve as a gateway towards achieving a better world, where everyone’s rights will be respected.

We are also confident that through mobilization and encouragement our communities will be able to overcome some of local problems, creating an environment of progress and stability.

Gohar Markosyan
Women for Development, NGO