Triumphant victors write history. And more often than not the triumphant are the more powerful past– the male. But just as history contains many times and many truths, it also contains many people—half of them women. The recent “velvet revolution” in Armenia, regardless of its final outcome, is one which will be written by her equally triumphant victor – the female.
Women’s involvement in the creation and reformation of democratic societies from past to present day has been essential to the peaceful process of change.
As I contemplate the role of women in social, cultural, and economic history, I realize ways in which the field of change has slowly evolved. Over the periods of different historical movements, women reformers directed their activities into areas, which were merely an extension of their domestic and traditional roles. They taught school, cared for the young, the poor, the sick, and the aged. They tended to the home. They conducted their lives according to a value system indoctrinated and defined by male dominated society. As their awareness expanded, they began to turn their attention toward the needs of others, namely women. They began to take a stand for female higher education; they spoke of prostitution, of moderation, and organized women for abolition of slavery. But it wasn’t until much later that their awareness grew to recognize the need to raise their subordinate place in society. Perhaps it was the restrains of their male counterparts and the oppressive “rule” of patriarchal society that gave way to the women’s rights struggle and the winning of suffrage and the institutional and organizational history of women’s movements. Whatever the cause, a movement becomes a revolution when someone feels the pain. And it is usually those who are subjected to subordination, who are marginalized, who are least able to bear it who hurt the most. It starts with one person. Eventually that single one person becomes two and three and then multiplies to become a large percentage of the populace. Soon, everyone begins to feel it, and the outrage of the people is loud enough to rock a nation.
I am reminded that it is the quality of great leaders and the ability to solve problems, that enable a people to live peacefully with faith and hope for their children and their grandchildren. Theirs is the desire to live in a fairer society, where citizens live with dignity and where nepotism and corruption do not lead to extremes of social income inequality and poverty. Per official statistics, over one third of Armenians live in poverty and the country’s population has declined below 3 million due to both emigration and a shrinking birth rate. After two decades of discontent and anger in a morally bankrupt kleptocracy, could the nation have held onto another year of the same? No!
I have the greatest respect and admiration for the women who stood in frontlines and next to and behind the people of a nation that felt the pain and the need to implement a more democratic and just system of governance; a system which recognizes and respects the rule of law and the human rights of Armenia’s citizens. People took to the streets and squares in Yerevan, Gyumri, Vanadzor, and smaller towns and villages throughout the country. There was kindness, tolerance and courtesy in their unwavering determination for change. More and more women, young people, and disabled people, became involved in the protests. I marveled at how their patriotism was manifest by each of their talents, gifts or abilities. Some took to the streets with their musical talent, others with their gift of dance, some with voices that rose as sweet as the Gregorian chants, while others who were disabled and served within their homes took to clanking pots and pans to participate in the rally to take action. This civil awakening of a nation systematically and smoothly proved that strength is in solidarity. The bravery of both women and men who courageously stood up to protect a nation’s survival is self-preservation at its best. It’s Patriotism.
Women activists have a history of not always being welcome in public offices and key decision-making forums. We have seen that all too often. But women are no longer the oppressed and vulnerable. Their actions and voices speak with and for an entire nation.
How will historians record this movement, this “velvet revolution”?Simply put, to overlook or minimize women’s role in the making of a robust, healthy, prosperous nation would be unpatriotic. We must all become triumphant victors…in a Nation of Equity.