In recent years, NEF’s women’s economic empowerment program in Armenia has partnered with regional and local organizations to support survivors of gender-based violence. Participants in our programs receive business development and career training, and financial assistance, to help them start businesses, find jobs, and achieve financial independence.
When the COVID-19 pandemic led to economic shutdowns in Armenia and around the world, we reconnected with many of our former participants to find out how their careers and businesses were being impacted. We learned that many were experiencing immediate and unanticipated economic strife. Small businesses and employers were forced to close. Women with home-based businesses, like baking and sewing, saw a drastic drop in demand.
With funding from the Open Society Foundations – Armenia, and in cooperation with our local partners, NEF was able to provide rapid assistance to former participants in Armenia who were facing the greatest immediate need. Extending financial support to 32 women in Lori, Syunik, and Yerevan allowed them to meet their basic household expenses, including food, medical care, and housing. The support is helping them weather the crisis while they wait to reopen their businesses and return to work.
Shelter-in-place orders and isolation measures have increased incidents of domestic violence in recent months. Given the population we serve in Armenia, our team has also been focused on increasing local awareness of domestic violence services.
Experts fear that the COVID-19 crisis will threaten many of the development gains of the past decade. Helping entrepreneurs and small businesses endure is critical, perhaps now more than ever. Our stopgap support to women in Armenia is one approach among many that NEF will employ to help small business owners protect their working capital, business assets, and jobs and to support the survival of businesses that provide critical income and employment.