“I don’t like when women do abortion, I’m against it. I only earn 1000-2000 drams from an abortion, while with each delivery, I get 15000 drams” (Gynecologist, Vayots Dzor, 2018).
The women of Vayots Dzor marz deliver their babies either in Yerevan or the comparatively closer Masis town’s hospital. It is mostly financially challenged women who deliver in Yeghegnadzor or Vayk as a last resort. One of the most important issues of the marz is the lack of hospitals and good specialists. Women’s Resource Center NGO was on a women’s march from September 17 to 21 in several communities of Vayots Dzor Marz. WRC was presenting their general impressions from the campaign in the marz at “Article 3” club.
Only 2 hospitals and 1 health center operate in the marz. Not all rural communities are equipped with ambulatories (health points). Only Yeghegnadzor and Vayk hospitals provide obstetric services. Women from remote villages are often unable to reach the center of the marz and deliver at home or on the way to the hospital, in the car, which often may lead to serious health complications.
Anoush Poghosyan of WRC states that in their conversations with the local doctors and women, they found out that uterine myomas are the most common health issue women face. “The women were complaining that the surgeries for uterine myomas conducted in the hospitals of the marz imply complete removal of the reproductive organs. While in Yerevan, there are specialists who only remove the fibroid parts. In Yerevan, this surgery costs 600.000 drams, a huge amount for us. That’s why women who live in the marz prefer the cheaper surgery in the marz hospital, amounting to 200.000 drams, however women aged 30-40 are deprived of their reproductive organs as a result.”
The women’s march also revealed that people mostly do not resort to contraceptives. The main contraceptive method is interruption of the penetrative sexual act, which is known to be an unreliable means against conception. Since not all rural communities have drugstores, people are unable to buy condoms. Poghosyan states that despite the fact that all the ambulatories were supplied with condoms in the framework of some international aid projects, not everyone is able to receive them for free, because the pharmacies do not maintain principles of confidentiality.
For example, in the one of the villages they were told how ridiculing rumors spread that “this and this person is consuming a lot of condoms, probably badly needs them.”
Abortions in the marz are normally conducted surgically and not through medications, as there is a lack of respective medicines. Unlike the other marzes, it seems boy-preferring abortions are not so widespread. It is noteworthy that the locals report few abortions due to the fact that there is a widespread infertility. In other words, whatever the sex of the fetus, people decide to bring give birth to them.
Anna Hovhannisyan, another WRC participant of the women’s march mentions that in three of the Vayots Dzor villages, Rind, Chiva and Arpi, the number of people suffering from cancer is exceptionally high. Only in the past year, 20 people were reported to have passed away of cancer in Arpi village. WRC have drawn the attention of the Ministries of Nature Protection and Health on this issue. The locals have their own explanation for the high morbidity of cancer, that being the quality of their drinking water.
WRC carried out a similar campaign in Gegharkunik Marz in 2017. Researchers of the organization state that unlike Gegharkunik marz, the attitude of men towards women is better in Vayots Dzor. While in Gegharkunik one would see women doing hard labor in agricultural fields, in Vayots Dzor this kind of labor is equally distributed between men and women.
Another distinction is the value of education for women that is more prioritized in Vayots Dzor marz. While in Gegharkunik women may be barred from going to Yerevan to receive higher education as if she is not allowed to live there alone, adults encourage the higher education of girls in Vayots Dzor. Despite receiving education, women do not go back to the villages due to lack of jobs or other types of occupation there.
Low incidence of domestic violence and early marriage is reported for this marz. However, women are forced to remain silent on many issues due to shame.
“Here the word ‘shame’ is attached to every single context: ‘it’s a shame, don’t wear that; it’s a shame, don’t do that; it’s a shame, don’t speak…” (Vayots Dzor, Shatin, 2018).