‘Few people dreamt of the changes sweeping Armenia’

Spring 2018 was a historical time for the Republic of Armenia. It was when we brought democracy to our country following a non-violent, democratic, Velvet Revolution. For over three weeks in April and May, more than a million people throughout the country participated in mass civil disobedience against a corrupt and illegitimate regime, which had maintained power for over 20 years through falsified elections, abuses of administrative resources and convenient constitutional amendments.

Thousands of students, employees from factories, IT companies, non-governmental organisations, doctors and teachers took part, blocking metro stations, city squares, and major interstate roads. People on the streets were demanding the resignation of Serzh Sargsyan, who after ruling for 10 years as president was set to continue ruling as the prime minister as new constitutional changes went into effect.

On April 23, the impossible became a reality – Serzh Sargsyan resigned in the face of a growing national strike. On May 8 the National Assembly – still occupied by Sargsyan loyalists – reluctantly voted for the leader of the protest movement, Nikol Pashinyan, to become Armenia’s new prime minister. Within six months, in early winter, snap parliamentary elections were held – the first free and fair elections since independence from the USSR – and the revolutionary My Step coalition led by Pashinyan recieved 70 per cent of the vote. It was undoubtedly a year in which civic consciousness rose to the surface.

I am now the youngest female MP in Armenia, a member of the ruling My Step faction. Being 26 years old, I have had the opportunity to co-found and participate in two movements that brought change to my country. I had always been engaged in various protests against the former regime, never holding back to express my defiance towards injustice. Although I am new to institutional politics, I have always been engaged in civic activism, fighting for the rule of law, fair and transparent elections and human rights. With a background in civil society development and work experience at international organisations such as OSCE ODIHR, I genuinely believe that there is no alternative to democracy in my country.

Now in parliament, I am a member of the standing committee on European integration. Our committee is engaged in the implementation of the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA), signed in 2017 between Armenia and the EU at the margins of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels. CEPA is a framework for cooperation covering more than 20 spheres to be implemented by various stakeholders in Armenia and the EU. In our committee we are responsible for legal approximation and oversight of implementation.

As a true believer in gender equality, I also feel responsible for greater representation of women in all branches of government, for women’s empowerment and new policies that will create equal possibilities for equal outcomes for both men and women. After the revolution, the total number of female parliamentarians increased; however there is still much to be done, starting from changes in the electoral code to increase women’s quotas, making school books more gender sensitive and in general increasing the discourse on gender equality and its outcomes. For more than 20 years there was virtually no discourse on gender equality, and textbooks were overwhelmed with outdated gender roles.

To be an MP in these unprecedented post-revolutionary times is very challenging and humbling, yet at the same time it fills me with a great sense of responsibility – a responsibility to make sure the promises of our revolution are achieved. Of course, I have always been interested in institutional politics and in this sense it’s quite natural that I am now a policymaker in parliament, but even in my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined the changes that swept our nation during the revolution. But the hard work is only just beginning. It is now our responsibility to create the state we have always fought for, the state we have always dreamt of, and the state we have demanded to have for so long. For me, it is the honour of my lifetime to be a part of the political team of reformers that is turning a nation’s dreams into reality – one step at a time. Just as our revolution started with one man taking one step, so too will we seize on our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform Armenia into a strong, just, and democratic country. As the old saying goes, “You make the road by walking.”