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Christine, Provides Mutual Aid to other People with Disabilities

44-year-old Christine Kirakosyan has been working at the “Agate” Independent Living Resource Centre as a mutual aid and mentoring coordinator for seven months. She is actively involved in the programmes implemented by “Agate” Rights Defence Centre for Women with Disabilities NGO with the support of the European Union. The NGO currently administers three projects with EU funding: “Towards an Inclusive Armenia”, “I can break stereotypes in my community”, and “STRIVE for a better future: communities and civil society resilience in Armenia”. Recounting her journey, Christine says that the centre transformed her life and helped her fully integrate into Armenian society.

“Agate” changed Christine’s life

I live in the village of Voskehask, the region of Shirak. I have been using a wheelchair since I was 19 years old, and living in the village is challenging for me, as its roads are not adapted for wheelchairs. Though, cities in Armenia are also inaccessible to us.

I don’t consider myself an introvert, but the environment made me so. Some years ago, one of my friends told me about the activities of “Agate”, and I decided to visit the centre with her. At the centre, I met the founder, Karine Grigoryan. I was very impressed with her.

I felt that “Agate” is a place where people with disabilities can be tempered, educated, informed, and fully integrated into society. I have been “Agate” beneficiary for over ten years and have been working at the Agate Independent Living Resource Centre for seven months.

At “Agate”, she helps other beneficiaries with disabilities

Since I have a disability myself, my job is to share my experiences with other disabled people, to discuss obstacles and how to overcome them. I talk to the beneficiaries of the NGO, advise them, and give them information so they can become independent as quickly as possible. For me, the philosophy of independent living means that we, people with disabilities, educate others, so they have the right to vote, to choose, and to make decisions, whether in their families or society.

We often encounter stereotypes about starting a family with a disabled woman. Most men and their relatives are not ready to accept a woman with a disability as part of their family. I would like to break this stereotype in Armenian society.

At “Agate”, Christine learnt to dream

“I go to work every day, usually by car. I cannot use a car on my own, but I have a personal assistant provided by “Agate” NGO within the framework of the Independent Life Resource Centre. Despite the inconvenience, I never deprived myself of the pleasure of visiting the Centre. I actively participate in almost all programmes of “Agate”, including the ones supported by the European Union. Maybe, in the future, I will move from Voskehask to Gyumri, then it will be easier to go to work. I am also planning to get a customised car to drive myself. That car shall be a turning point in my life…

I have many dreams, but the most cherished one is to help many girls and women with disabilities leave the house so that they are not isolated as I once was. Thanks to “Agate”, I have experienced success in being aware of my rights and participating in various programmes, and I want other women with disabilities to achieve the same and more.