Photo Story: Berd Community
The March was designed as an awareness raising advocacy intervention action aimed at women’s empowerment and tackling post-war and post-crisis mental health issues.
The aim was narrowed down into two specific objectives:
1. Raising awareness and empowering borderline women on mental health by marching.
2. Bringing up women’s stories to the wider public by the art of storytelling.
The FYN team visited 16 villages of Tavush region and talked to local women and youth. The march lasted for 5 days between January 4-8 of 2021. In 16 villages (day 1/5: Nerkin Karmir Aghbyur, Tavush (Tovuz), Aygepar, day 2/5: Movses, Norashen, Choratan, Verin Karmir Aghbyur, day 3/5: Artsvaberd, Chinari, Aygedzor, day 4/5: Navur, Itsakar, Chinchin, day 5/5: Tsakhkavan, Varagavan, Paravakar) we have reached out to approximately 90 women, overall.
In result, we have developed 16 small stories on people’s voices, available on our social media platforms and in the web: www.frontlineyouth.net
Meet Meri. She comes from Nerkin Karmir Aghbyur village and lives in Yerevan for studying Armenian language and literature. She loves her village and dreams of working there and prospering her community. She adores her homeland, the nature and the great culture and history behind it.
Her biggest challenge is limited possibilities for self development. This is the only reason so far that can make her leave the village. Her desire is to break stereotypes and shift people’s minds for a bigger, better and brighter future.
Marine is 23, she is a school teacher and works in the borderline village. Graduating the school she left for Yerevan to study in the University. Now she is back at the school already as a teacher ensuring inclusive access to education for all. Normally, she would not consider leaving the village, but she confesses that she may consider moving if better opportunities for her career and future knock her door.
Shoghik’s beautiful family lives in Tavush village of Tavush province. Shoghik is a young mother who runs the household. She takes care of her brave daughter – Arpi and handsome son – Tigran. Her husband is in a military service that is why she is responsible for the household, home and children.
Because it all takes much time and energy, she never managed to pursue her career. She is interested in hairdressing and hopes someday to start her own business.
Ruzan’s family lives somewhere between Aygepar village and Berd town. Ruzan got married and moved from provincial center Ijevan to borderline village Aygepar. She confesses she never knew where Aygepar is located and how close it is to the border.
She has got three ambitious and progressive girls. They are the reason why the family moved for Berd, so that they could get the best possible education in the community. Meanwhile, the children love to have free space to play in their own house, and they prefer to spend the day time in the village. Thus, the family spends the night and the morning in Berd, and day time in Aygepar.
There is a liturgy in the Movses village.This is a powerful and symbolic event for the community. All villagers gather on Sunday in the churchyard to listen to the liturgy, meet and socialize with their friends.
The Movsestsi (who belong to Movses) youth and kids know how to organize their day, they have many sports and cultural clubs. The church, the school, the house of culture provide the children with some entertainment, it seems that they feel well satisfied with what they have. If they need something that is not possible to find or organize in the village, they know they can visit Berd.
Movses village has a flag, did you know that?
Our hero lives and grew up in Movses. He owns a kiosk (small shop) next to the Church, where he spends most of the day. When the Church was constructed and the village gained religious significance, our hero villager decided to create a flag that he could give to the visitors as a souvenir. We were also pleased to be gifted the flag, which in fact, has not only passed a cognitive significance, but also is a source of inspiration for visitors.
Meet our today’s heroine – Anna. This year her birthday present was a bicycle that she quickly learned to ride on their bumpy roads. [author, I doubt that even experienced cyclists could ride their bikes in this village, but for the local children it is an easy going challenge.]
She is mostly busy doing her lessons, cycling, playing with friends and family. Anna thinks about acquiring a modern profession and she believes that learning English will be an asset in finding a good job for the future.
Did you know that while walking in Choratan by chance you can meet two friends with the same name of Srbuhi and have a nice conversation to reveal that one of them is actually a popular blogger? Our blogger Srbuhi (aka Sia) uses her social media platform to share her life, to self-develop and ensure financial stability for her.
She is a fan of his community, she admires the nature of Choratan, but she is also very worried about the lack of entertainment places where she could have a nice time. She confesses that if she ever leaves the village, she will move for an urban community, where she will be able to attend fitness or yoga.
Or maybe we have reached out to a new attender for our yoga classes, haven’t we?
In Norashen, walking the streets you will meet people who will accompany you and invite you to their house, have coffee, talk about politics, the pros and cons of living in the village, complain a little about the monotony of the village life, but claim that they love their community and will stay there to make it a better place for the future generation.
Verin Karmir Aghbyur is the birthplace of our teammate Shushan. She has many memories of her life in the village. She remembers walking with her school girlfriend up to the nearby Norashen village, where they could participate in an English club run by an American volunteer. These english-lover kids later on pursued their careers and became influential change makers in their respective field and the community they come from.
While walking in Artsvaberd, if you ask where and how to meet the local youth, people will guide you to the sisters – Astghik and Aspram.
Well let’s go.
The elder sister is a teacher both in Artsvaberd’s and neighbouring Norashen’s school. The younger sister is still studying.
Talking about youth activism, they told how they had organized themselves to advocate for the election of a young village mayor, and how much they were inspired by their big step towards the change. It is sad that right after the role of the village mayor was decreased due to the territorial administration change. In result, their elected young mayor of the village resigned. Obviously this is a success story on the role of youth political activism and their direct impact on the management system of the village, which still needs to be talked about.
Our guide in Chinari village is 9-year-old Ani. She was happy to tell us about the peculiarities of his village in her sweet words. We walked around the village, she showed us all the families where there are young people, we visited a young family where the youngest representative of the village lives – Monte is just two months old. We were amazed with the nice and yet serious speeches that Ani were delivering to us, so she explained that it’s her duty to study hard in school to be this clear in her words. By the way, Ani wants to study for a doctor and return to the village cause she can not imagine living anywhere else but in Chinari.
The young people in Navur village are active, they used to participate in advocacy courses, they have even started their environmental initiative a while ago but got paused because of the lack of resources. In order to get some financial support, they are eager to learn more on fundraising and project writing.
Seems a nice collaboration could be undertaken in Navur village too.
Itsakar is the last village on the way to Yerevan through the Metsapor Mountains. Unfortunately, this road is not currently used as a main transit between the cities, so hence, visitors do not usually pass through the village. The village has only a secondary school, so high school students have to travel to Navur every day. 3 out of 7 students in the 12th grade of Navur’s high school are from Itsakar. As our companion mentioned, these students are not active in everyday life but she remembered the phrase ‘If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain’.
So we went ․․․ Well agreed to activate each other.
It is sunny in Tsaghkavan. In the heart of the village, life is active – old men are talking about politics while playing on backgammon, boys are all in football and young women and girls are walking and chatting around. We have talked with two sisters – Luiza and Liana. Turned out that it is not only in the village but also in their hearts that life is blooming. They were so excited to initiate something for their village that we agreed to cooperate and organize it together.
Varagavan is at its height. The locals said that the young people mainly gather in the village center. But in the afternoon working day the village center was empty, even though it was a vacation. Varagavan is famous for the Nor Varaga Vank (monastery), which is a place of pilgrimage for the whole community. You would hardly visit Shamshadin with no notice of this mysterious monastery that watches you almost on the way up and down a whole mountain. We also fulfilled our vow and promised to return with a larger staff.