Left to right: Madeline Schultz, Debra Schuler, Irina Yolyan, Anna Aleksanyan, Cathy Ayers and Cheryl Tevis Visit with Armenian Women

May 3, 2017 at Reiman Gardens, Ames, Iowa

Dave and Melanie Perry from Ankeny, IA developed an ongoing effort to support the Women’s Development Resource Center Foundation that was established in 2008 in Goris, Armenia. The center is now part of a network of several similar centers in Armenia. The Perrys are hosting two women from Armenia this month, Anna Aleksanyan, a program manager, and Irina Yolyan, a TV journalist. Dave invited us to visit with the women to share about each other’s activities.

The Women’s Center focuses on 1) women’s economic empowerment, 2) community engagement, 3) combating domestic violence, and 4) women’s political empowerment.

Cathy, Lori, Deb, Madeline, and Cheryl were able to visit with Dave, Anna and Irina.

Dave provided background on he and his wife’s work with the Women’s Resource Center (WRC). There are 45 US states that recognize the 1915 Armenia Genocide carried out by the Ottoman Empire. About 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives. Even with this loss, today the country’s population is 97% Armenian. Dave is working with Gov. Branstad to see if Iowa can become the 46th state to recognize the genocide. Anna and Irina visited Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds. (See ‘The Promise’ movie review.)

The two women attended the Iowa Women Lead Change conference last week. They enjoyed the inspiring personal stories. (See the recap.)

Irina has a BS in Elementary Education. She works as a regional news broadcaster. She says the status of rural women is a concern, as they are often looked down on. Rural homes and schools are poor. The country is mountainous; the people are religious and generally good natured.

Anna explained Armenia is a very agriculture oriented country about the same size as Iowa. They produce many dried fruits, vegetables and wines and do not rely on GMO’s, heavy machinery, or chemicals. Women do the hard work of farming. Most farms are small. Many men, especially educated men, leave Armenia to go to work in other countries. They often send money home. However, many children are being raised without a father present and homes are often multi-generational.

The WRC helps women earn money for their household by marketing the handi-crafts they produce. (See Goris Handmade on FaceBook.) They also provide business training classes. There is a huge need for lending or mico-loans, but women do not have that opportunity at this time.

Cheryl gave an overview of the IWIA organization. It is a way for women to support each other and gain information to help them with farm business decision making and improve their understanding of agriculture. Madeline showed our guests the five minute video of Cathy Ayers talking about how she is managing her farm to improve soil and water quality. (View here.) Madeline explained how Annie’s Project courses teach women about financial, human resources, legal, marketing and production risks and shared how we are working to support women farmers and women in agribusiness.