27 October 2014, 15:03
342623 |

What Can Art Do to Empower Women?

We really like thinking about the possibility that through art, we can help make Armenia a better and safer place, not just for women, but for everyone. A recent forum on Oct 17-19 in the city caught our attention with creative community projects and demonstrations that activate your imagination, as well as your awareness.

The 3-day-long international forum was called “Free Space” and the overarching topic of was the “Democratization of Public Space and Empowerment of Women.” Hosted by an organization called Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, the forum took place in Karen Demirchyan Park.

One of the activities that took place was called “Respect My Space.” It was a public demonstration that involved participants, mainly women, who were given colored tape and marked, in whatever fashion they pleased, a space that they could have complete control over. It was an artistic twist on a serious issue in Armenia and across the globe: women’s right to privacy.

In plain view, on Mashtots Avenue at the entrance to the park, women of all ages and all backgrounds occupies various spaces on the concrete and on the grass. In their spaces, participants were free to do whatever activity they pleased.

Some decided to activate their creativity.

Some worked got some extra work done in their peaceful setting.

Some read books that had been provided by the activist groups, while others shared their space with others.

There were some men that even decided to take part in th event, and who were granted permission to occupy women's public space.

Passerbys were certainly caught off guard and that, in our opinion, was what made the event especially valuable for Armenia’s community: it disrupted the everday and a presented an alternative view of what is ‘normal’ or 'socially acceptable' and what isn’t. In our opinion, such is the power of alternative activism.

If women were approached by outsiders, they were told to respond by saying: Yes chem uzum khosel, hargek im taratskuh [I don’t want to talk, please respect my space.] After the event, there was a discussion where many women expressed the whole activity was empowering and revealing. Through the discussion men present were also offered an opportunity to offer their critique and reflections on the event. However, there were two men present at most during the discussion.  

We look forward to more events like these in Yerevan's community and perhaps with each occurrance, there will be a more equal balance of genders attending them.

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