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“Armenecoop” – a social enterprise in Dilijan providing employment for women with young children

The women’s social enterprise “Armenecoop” has been officially registered in Armenia since 2018. It provides opportunities for unemployed women aged 20-30 with young children to develop different skills through multi-disciplinary courses and to involve them in sewing and pattern work. The unique aspect of “Armenecoop” is that women attend the courses and come to work with their kids, and, while they are busy, a nanny employed by the social enterprise looks after the children in a care room that was created and furnished in the “Armenecoop” office within the framework of the EU-supported “Cooperation for Social Impact” project. This project aims to support social enterprises in Armenia to overcome the consequences of the pandemic and build resilience to similar crises in the future.

Most of the women involved in “Armenecoop” are from the city of Dilijan and the neighbouring villages of Haghartsi, Teghut, Gosh, Khachratya, Aghavnavank, and Hovk. Aida Athabekyan, the founder of “Armenecoop”, says that she understands very well the challenges of raising young children and realises the importance of assisting unemployed and new mothers in accessing the labour market.

Aida Athabekyan was born in Dilijan, later went to Yerevan to study and work. She has been involved in the public sector since 2016, when she returned to Dilijan with her husband to use her potential in the development of the community. Since 2017, Aida has acquired an interest in social entrepreneurship after completing various public, social, and charity projects in Dilijan. The lack of opportunities in the labour market for young unemployed women in Dilijan and surrounding communities gave her the idea to create “Armenecoop”.

“Women do handicrafts, and we have various products, some of which were the first to get the “Made in Dilijan” label”, says Aida. Dilijan hosts thousands of tourists who want to buy local products, and this label indicates the local origin of the product and raises interest among visitors.

One of our most attractive products are environmentally friendly pencil boxes that are sold not only in Armenia but also in Georgia, Lithuania, Italy, and the US. We plan to have a greater presence in the EU market in the future. “Armenecoop’ offers its customers two main products: cloth bags and cloth pencil cases. The latter is a completely new product, a waterproof cloth bush, which is our invention.

This innovative pencil box is sold with 12 pencils, an eraser, and a ruler. Boxes are very practical for children, they are light, colourful, waterproof, and environmentally friendly, because the raw materials are natural wood and high-quality fabric. I would especially like to emphasize the representation of our products in Tbilisi, Georgia. In the centre of the city, there is a market for products made by social enterprises, where only Georgian products are presented. However, “Armenecoop” products are the only ones from another region that are showcased there as well. We got to know them within the framework of the EU “Social entrepreneurship in Armenia and Georgia” programme and, as a result, we cooperate and sell our products”.

“Armenecoop” has achieved great results over the years, and every year it gives 20 women with young children from the Dilijan community the opportunity to develop skills and take their place in the labour market.

“I can proudly state that approximately 80 women have been involved in the programmes and courses of “Armenecoop””, continues Aida, “and almost all of them have found work in the community. The main goal of our programme is to provide employment directly and indirectly for women with young children and to impart knowledge about modern, in-demand professions to enable them to find work in various institutions. At the moment, we have three female employees at “Armenecoop” who come to work with their kids. This is an unheard of model in Armenia, which has proven its effectiveness in our daily routine. Depending on the volume of orders, we can engage up to 20 women to perform temporary work. This approach is very encouraging, because it is difficult for mothers with young children to combine childcare with a 9:00 to 18:00 schedule. But they can participate in the programme for a few hours or half a day, do some work, and get paid, while the babysitter of the enterprise watches their children. In addition, their involvement in “Armenecoop” gives them work experience and confidence in their own knowledge. As a result, women are confident in their abilities and can find work”.