On March 7, the non-governmental organization "Real World, Real People" launched the FEMINA 2023 Women's Forum first time in Armenia with the support of the United Nations HIV/AIDS Joint Programme. The forum was attended by about 70 participants from diverse backgrounds and was dedicated to Zero Discrimination Day, observed annually on March 1. The event aimed to address the challenges faced by women living with HIV and those who are vulnerable to the virus. The theme of the forum, "Nothing for us without us," underscored the need to include the voices and experiences of women living with HIV in efforts to improve their situation.
Throughout the forum, attendees discussed potential solutions to these challenges and explored avenues for their implementation. The forum commenced with opening remarks from Zhenya Mayilyan, President of RWRP NGO, and Roza Babayan, Head of the Armenian Office of the UN Joint Program on HIV/AIDS. Babayan emphasized the importance of such events in addressing gaps in the sector and developing effective solutions.
Following the welcome speeches, Elena Kiryushina, Policy, Equality and Gender Expert of the United Nations Regional Office for HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, delivered a presentation on the gender aspects of the HIV epidemic in the region. The presentation was followed by a panel discussion featuring Anahit Muradyan, Chief Specialist of RA MOESCS General Education and Extracurricular Program Development and Implementation Department; Astghik Berezovskaya, Administrative Officer of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria Program Coordination Team at RA Ministry of Health; and Nvard Margaryan, a researcher and expert in the field.
The panelists shared their insights and experiences on the challenges faced by women living with HIV and those at risk of contracting the virus. They also discussed potential solutions and interventions to address these challenges. The panel discussion provided a valuable opportunity for participants to engage in meaningful dialogue and exchange ideas. Following the panel discussion, Zhenya Mayilyan, President of RWRP NGO, delivered a speech in which she presented the organization's annual report on cases of violations and discrimination against people living with HIV in RA. The subsequent speakers in the panel discussion were: Davit Melik-Nubaryan, Coordinator of CCM Armenia Working Group; Sargis Ohanyan, Lawyer at RWRP NGO; Lilit Khachatryan, Global Fund Program Coordinator at RA MoH; and Heghine Yeganyan, Assistant to the RA Human Rights Defender. Attendees had the opportunity to raise their concerns and engage in discussions with the panelists. Women living with HIV were also present at the forum. The second part of the event focused on the vulnerabilities faced by women living with HIV, as well as those who are part of other marginalized groups, including injection drug users (IDU), lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LBT) women, women with disabilities, and survivors of sexual violence. The speakers included Mariam Mkhitaryan, a researcher and expert in the field; Karine Aghajanyan, Project Coordinator at Pink NGO; Anush Gabrielyan, a social worker at SACC NGO; and Gayane Grigoryan, Head of the Department at Agat NGO. The Femina 2023 forum also featured the presence of renowned photojournalist Nazik Armenakyan, who showcased her photo stories of women living with HIV to the forum participants. She spoke about the creative process behind the photo project and shared her impressions of working with the women involved. The final segment of the Femina 2023 women's forum featured a unique opportunity for attendees to engage in the "Human Library" project. This project allowed participants to communicate with a woman living with HIV, learning about her personal experiences and the cases of discrimination she has faced.