By Gaiane Khachatrian
Comprehensive Health Education: Training the Trainers at Public Schools of Armenia
October 16, 2015 – In collaboration with the Mayor’s office of the Department of Education, AIWA San Francisco, sponsored a workshop on Comprehensive Health Education for the Educators teaching the “Healthy Lifestyle” a required subject at the public schools of Armenia. Nearly 30 teachers (male and female) from various schools in Yerevan gathered in the Erebuni district to participate in this interactive workshop focusing on the various topic within health education.
The workshop was led by Ani Jilozian, a public health practitioner who has worked extensively in the field of women’s sexual and reproductive health. She received her master’s degree in global public health from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. As a Fulbright Scholar, she led a qualitative research study that evaluated the social influences that impact abortion and contraceptive use in rural Armenia. At the same time, she also worked with the Women’s Resource Center to evaluate the sexual education curricula in schools across the country. She has managed educational reproductive health program, which has served several hundred women in rural Armenia. Currently, she works with victims of domestic violence at the Women’s Support Center and continues to lead workshops on the topic of sexual and reproductive health and rights both among adolescents and women.
The teachers who attended the workshop left with ample resources, including a manual and handouts, to be able to facilitate comprehensive sexual education in the classroom. AIWA San Francisco, will continue developing such workshops in Yerevan, and will expand its reach to the regions of Armenia in the future.
Working With the Educational System in Armenia
September 2015 – A team of 3 professional women representing AIWA San Francisco in Armenia, collaborated with the Arabkir Hospital to revise the sexual education portion of the Healthy Lifestyles curriculum/teacher’s manual. The draft document has been submitted to the Ministry of Education in Armenia. If the new curriculum is adopted, educators at public schools will receive a revised manual that will include topics on comprehensive sexual education, such as sexual hygiene, the menstrual cycle, sexual anatomy and physiology, breast health, sexually transmitted infections, family planning, informed decision-making, sexual rights, discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, and sexual violence, among other relevant topics. The revisions are based on internationally recognized standards, and the language in the manual is culturally sensitive and appropriate for Armenian youth.
Since its inception, AIWA San Francisco strongly believed that an approach must be taken at a policy level to improve the lives of women and girls in Armenia. For that reason, the organization is supporting comprehensive sexual education reform, which is known to balance gender roles and expectations, delay sexual initiation, reduce rates of STIs and unwanted pregnancies, and challenge the cultural tolerance of gender-based violence.
Supporting Leadership Skills Development among Teens in an Environment that Promotes Healthy and Active Lifestyle
AIWA San Francisco continues to partner with the Women Resource Center in Armenia sponsoring educational programs at the Avedisian High School, and Levon Mirijanyan School # 155 in Yerevan. Prior to implementing the initiative, the WRC team introduced the program to the teachers, parents and students to ensure everyone was comfortable with what was offered in the classroom.
The educational programs are designed to empower teens in public schools through helping them develop leadership skills, self-awareness, confidence, coping strategies and critical thinking skills through artistic, fun, recreational, and physical activities. To promote the girls’ well-being, self-care, and sense of purpose, the programs are developed with a holistic approach. “The girls are truly inspired and are enjoying every minute of the sessions,” says Elvira Meliksetyan from Women Resource Center, who leads the sessions. “They are very engaged and are motivated to learn more. That’s an indicative that we have been successful in our efforts of creating a safe environment for them to express themselves.”
Physical activities, including football sessions, meditation, and yoga classes, have been incorporated into the program to make it more vibrant for the teens. The program is enhanced to promote team-building skills. “Physical activities are important aspects of a person’s daily life,” says Sona Barseghyan, the Physical Education instructor. “This is a field for endless exploration of one’s abilities. Making sports a part of the girl’s routine will not only promote their physical health and well-being, but will also improve the psychological well-being. My goal is to see them enjoy sports and not be afraid of being on the field.”
The girls learn something new with every session. They have come to better understand themselves – their strengths, skills and abilities, and are continually encouraged to build on their strengths.