By Gayane Mkrtchyan

One night three years ago after hard beating, Hasmik Khatchatryan gathered her courage and ran away from home to save her life and stand up for her rights. A mother of two, Hasmik was married for nine years and was subjected to domestic violence by her husband throughout the entire period.

Hasmik found care and support at the Women’s Support Center in Yerevan who helped her through her hospitalized treatments, divorce trials, and departure from native village, Gandzak in Gegharkunik Marz.

After the divorce was final, Hasmik left Gandzak with her parents and kids and moved to Yerevan. She started a new life trying to overcome various psychological traumas and social problems. She started to work at the Women’s Support Center, and with some financial assistance from the Middle East Foundation launched her home-made traditional desserts that she prepared herself. “Gradually, I became financially independent, ventured to stand on my own feet. I was paying my rent, taking care of my children and I was finally happy”.

Hasmik, having gone through thick and thin, through trials and tribulations, was determined to continue her university education. “I studied at the University until the second half of the second year and dropped out in 2006. I didn’t even take my exams, as I was pregnant by then and my husband didn’t allow me to attend classes. I was heartbroken. I did very well at school and all my childhood goals depended on receiving a good education. But I never gave up. I kept dreaming of the time when I would continue my studies and have the profession of my choice,” says Hasmik.

In Summer 2016 Hasmik resumed her studies. “I thought that no matter what, I am going to save 20 000 drams every month to pay my tuition fees, and at the same time I was also looking for a scholarship,” Hasmik thinks back.

This past month AGBU granted her a full scholarship to continue her education in Informatics and Computer Science at the Gavar branch of the State University. “It seemed like an immense weight dropped off my shoulders, this was a big, and unexpected opportunity for me,” says Hasmik.

The scholarship awarded by AGBU was a great help to Hasmik.

Talar Kazanjian, Executive Director of AGBU in Armenia, points out that “Education is very important for our organization and we believe in its value. Throughout its long history AGBU has granted scholarships to university students and nurtured generations of educated and successful Armenians,” says Talar Kazanjian.

There is also a different angle through which AGBU views the scholarship provided to Hasmik Khachatryan. It falls in line with the new AGBU strategy in Armenia, through which it aims to contribute and participate in the changes and improvements brought into the social sector in the country. AGBU thrives to empower women and help raise awareness about sex selective abortions and combat gender based violence.

“Hasmik has lived through family violence, she has gained freedom, stood up for her rights and created an independent life for herself and her children. We believe that Hasmik can become a role model for those who live in similar conditions of abuse and whose rights are violated. They can learn from her how to say no to violence and break out of the mentality of the abused,” says Talar Kazanjian.

AGBU also believes in the necessity to educate the diaspora about the social issues and challenges facing women in Armenia. “In this sphere as in many others, AGBU is ready to serve as a bridge between the Diaspora and Armenia. We would like to offer the diaspora Armenians opportunities to participate in the positive changes brought into the field of women empowerment in Armenia” points out Kazanjian.

Hasmik is a changed woman. “I have so many plans, but I cannot achieve them without education. A person without education is a lost person for me. Now I am more than confident. Education is a treasure, the greatest weapon a woman can possess especially in the most difficult moments in one’s life. I am grateful to AGBU, their support has been so vital for me and my family” says Hasmik.

Hasmik Khachatryan remembers that three years ago she would burst into tears when people asked her about her future plans. But now she has one answer: The sky is the limit.




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