Future Today: Empowering women, youth and children for deepening democracy in Armenia
The FUTURE TODAY project is designed to enhance democracy in Armenia through the empowerment of women, promoting gender equality, strengthening youth and adolescent participation, ensuring inclusive engagement in all sectors of society and further expanding government accountability and transparency mechanisms. The project will work in an inclusive manner with children below 7 years and their parents, caregivers and teachers, girls and boys, women and men in 5 regions of Armenia. Some activities will be implemented on a broader national scale, while others will be concentrated in one or fewer regions.
The Future Today project is designed to build on the unique momentum of emerging citizenry and to nudge new quality and value of participatory governance - the right of every woman and man, including those representing marginalized groups, to participate in the democratic decision-making processes both at local and national levels and contribute to good governance and equitable development. The overall objective of the Project is to deepen democracy in Armenia.
The component "Increased trust in Government" will enhance open governance and broader civic participation. This component will build on the history of open government reforms in Armenia, expanding accountability and engaging new actors. The project will make sure that these initiatives are inclusive and available for all sectors of society. The project will help to implement Armenia’s Open Governance Action Plan 2018-2020 and beyond with oversight over its implementation from Armenian women and men and civil society organisations. This will be done through introduction of online feedback loops for public services, as well as empowerment of all segments of citizenry to act proactively.
The component "Deepening civic engagement in Armenia" will expand the understanding of participatory democracy and tools to engage as an active citizen; empowering citizens to become knowledgeable about national and local governance processes, including key aspects of the political and national budget decision-making process; and supporting accountability at national and local levels. Through this component, we hope to ensure that citizens and civil society, including young Armenians, aged 12-18, provide their expertise and views to the government in the process of policy design and reform implementation.
Actions advancing gender equality and strengthening the civic participation of women will provide access to early childhood education and care in local communities. The interventions will give women new opportunities to engage in and design activities based on their needs and that of the children in their community. In particular, the model of women’s resource centres will be scaled up, which has proven to be effective in engaging women in sustainable local and regional development. Programming will also support the professional development of women who care for children, including those who manage childcare and early childhood development services. The capacity of mothers, teachers and other caregivers will be improved in making informed (evidence-based) decisions about their families, especially child nutrition, and well-being; while also improving fathers’ involvement and participation. Efforts will be made to reach and include vulnerable groups and people with disabilities in this part of the project.
Future Today will offer social innovation programmes to girls and boys aged 12-18 years that will strengthen their resilience and enhance their potential. Through UNICEF’s global UPSHIFT methodology, we will cultivate the ability of girls and boys to identify community challenges, set realistic goals and develop social and entrepreneurial solutions in the form of products or services. UPSHIFT participants will learn and exercise 21st century skills, such as problem solving and critical thinking, communication, professional conduct and networking, and management of organizational processes.
Future Today was launched at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic challenged not only the healthcare systems in Armenia and across the world, but also impacted socio-economic situations and psycho-social well-being of people. It became essential to consolidate resources to alleviate the negative impact of the pandemic and potential crisis. Therefore, a part of the Project resources was reallocated for COVID-19 prevention and control in preschools, to measurement of the impact of the crisis, prevention of domestic violence and provision of psycho-social support to the most vulnerable groups in Armenia. More specifically:
UNICEF conducted an assessment of vulnerability of households to socio-economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic with a focus on families and children. The results of the assessment will inform response and recovery measures and contribute to joint UN Socio-Economic assessment. Activities for prevention, control and early detection of COVID-19 in preschools and development of relevant guidelines were also launched. UNICEF also embarked on providing psychosocial support to vulnerable families and enhancing the capacities of local social service workforce in provision of psychosocial support.
UNDP is set to conduct nationwide crowdsourcing for innovation to find solutions to challenges posed by the pandemic, focusing on labour rights. The crowdsourcing will also be applied to collect bottom-up signals of vulnerability in different areas. A virtual "Talk to…" series will feature "COVID-heroes" through teleconferencing who can inspire others by their action and innovation.
UNFPA will undertake a number of important measures to prevent and properly respond to domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, in collaboration with the Government of Armenia, including the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Police, and with the Human Rights Defender’s Office and the Coalition to Stop Violence against Women. Partners will produce and market a “Safe You” mobile application for women and make it accessible for persons with disabilities, including for blind people, through audio tools and artificial intelligence.