Over the past two years, more than 200 young Armenians have deepened their knowledge about men’s involvement in family care, positive parenting, and gender equality by participating in new EU-funded ‘Papa Schools’ in three targeted provinces of Armenia.
In Shirak, Tavush and Lori provinces (marzes), young people explored how best to increase the father’s involvement in child care and helped to improve their understanding of equal sharing of domestic work, during ‘Papa School’ sessions organised as part of the ‘EU 4 Gender Equality: Together against gender stereotypes and gender-based violence’ programme.
Young parents Karen and Anna joined the ‘Papa School’ in Lori before their first child was even born. Baby Areg is now ten months old, and mum and dad are well prepared to look after him. When Karen comes home from work in the evening, his first task is to give his son a bath.
“During the course, we learned how best to organise the care of a newborn baby, including bathing, nourishment, walks, and sleep. Another important skill we acquired was how to properly divide the responsibilities between the parents,” says 25-year-old Anna.
“To be a caring husband, it’s not enough just to take care of the financial needs. It’s about the equal division of domestic work and childcare. The course reinforced this fundamental belief I had,” emphasises 28-year-old Karen.
The young father says the ‘Papa School’ improved and strengthened his perceptions of what it meant to be a caring husband and father, and had a dramatic impact.
“The discussions we had during the ‘Papa School’ gave me confidence, and I decided to be present during childbirth. My wife was strongly against it at first, but after these discussions, she realised that my presence is necessary,” says Karen.
Anna continues: “It’s true that at first, I didn’t want Karen to be present at the delivery, but now I understand how much his presence helped me. In the case of the second child, I will insist that he comes. After giving birth, I was depressed, and thanks to Karen’s preparedness and support, we were able to pass that difficult period smoothly.”
Fear, anger and happiness. These were the feelings that Karen had while his wife was giving birth to their son: “You can’t imagine. You must see it with your own eyes to understand what a woman goes through giving birth to a child.”
Anna laughs and adds that Karen even taught her how to change the baby’s diaper. After the child’s birth, in addition to the five-day paternity leave prescribed by law, Karen took another ten days at his own expense to help his wife at home.
“Of course, it would be great if in our country we could be on paternity leave for a longer time and help take care of the newborn,” says Karen.
Anna is currently on maternity leave, but the couple has decided that when the baby no longer needs to be breastfed, the mother will return to work. They have also determined how to divide the child’s care: until the end of the working day, the grandparents will care for the baby, and after that – the father and mother.
“Being involved in family care is very important, and young Armenians should stop thinking it is not a man’s job,” says Karen.
Anna also notes that while many good Armenian values are essential for a strong family, some harmful stereotypes need to change. The young couple believes that time and effort are required for this change.
“This programme and similar courses play an important role in achieving these changes because people’s way of thinking improves and we acquire practical skills and knowledge. Such courses should be continuous to expand the number and range of persons involved and change attitudes. This will ensure that our families are healthier and our children live prosperous lives,” says Karen.
During 2021-2022, ‘Papa Schools’ were organised in Armenia by the Gyumri Youth Initiatives Centre NGO and UNFPA Armenia within the framework of the ‘EU 4 Gender Equality: Together against gender stereotypes and gender-based violence’ regional programme, funded by the European Union and implemented jointly by UN Women and UNFPA in six countries of the Eastern Partnership.
Author: Mari Mkhitaryan/UNFPA Armenia
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