The youth of Sisyan yesterday and today…
In 2014, the city of Sisyan was recognized as the first youth capital of Armenia.
What did the local youth get out of this? What problems were solved? Which are the problems that remain pressing? Eritasard.am talked about this and other issues with president of Helsinki Group NGO Lilit Hakobyan, president of “Will, Justice, Unity, Courage” NGO Mariam Torosyan and president of the Social Development NGO of AlMar Katya Babayan. Eritasard.am: Sisyan has been recognized as the youth capital of Armenia. How did this change the lives of youth? Lilit: This led to major changes in the city. The youth became active. Citizens created many NGOs, which carried out many programs that helped make youth more actively involved in social life. The city opened the only park for youth and held several local and international meetings with the youth of Sisyan. Mariam: Until then, if you wanted to gather a group of youth in one place, you would hear the following phrase: “What can we do? Nothing is in our hands.” Now, they are certain that everything is in their hands. There is not even a need to gather the youth. They are always ready and have established many official and unofficial clubs. A culture of dialogue between the youth and the authorities has been established in Sisyan. Whereas it used to be difficult to trust the youth to do certain jobs, now they are responsible for an entire event and are very trustworthy. Katya: Being recognized as a youth capital made the youth of Sisyan very active. They became engaged in various programs and had the chance to turn their ideas into a reality. Eritasard.am: You are always in contact with the youth. What are the urgent issues? Lilit: Today, the youth of Sisyan face a very serious and urgent issue, that is, unemployment. Unemployment is so high that the youth of the city leave their hometown for abroad in search of jobs, or they stay in the city and remain idle. Mariam: Over time, the loss of motivation becomes the first issue for any person, and one can see that the youth of Sisyan lack motivation. There is a need to organize regular meetings with artists and political figures, or simply successful businessmen. These meetings will provide the opportunity to create until the next meeting. There are many problems, but I believe the lack of motivation lies at the core of all the problems. Katya: Employment is an issue for the youth of Sisyan. Eritasard.am: They say the major issues in Armenia’s provinces are unemployment and the lack of information. Does Sisyan also face those issues? Lilit: I already gave the answer to this question in my previous comment. Mariam: Unemployment is a problem in not only the provinces, but also in all parts of Armenia. However, very often the problem is not the lack of jobs, but the lack of appropriate jobs. Government officials say citizens should create their own jobs, but the economic situation of the Republic of Armenia is very unstable, and starting any business is very risky. There are no jobs because all the jobs within the state apparatus are taken. As they say, ‘they get hired and then go on pension’, and the jobs within the private sector are not enough. That’s why after graduation, even the young person having returned to Sisyan with pleasure returns to Yerevan after a while, or somewhere else to work, or to advance in his or her profession. Katya: There is unemployment. There are also informal training centers where one can take professional courses. Eritasard.am: The issue of choosing the right profession is a current issue in Armenia. A young Armenian’s choice becomes an end in itself, and he or can no longer, say, use the education that he or she has received. This is a bigger issue in the provinces, taking into account the lack of jobs. Is your NGO involved in solving this issue? Do you provide the youth with guidance in professional orientation? Lilit: The mission of the Helsinki Club of Sisyan NGO is to protect human rights, raise awareness and keep people away from violations of the law through courses or discussions, or other ways. Therefore, our organization is not involved with the youth’s professional orientation. We might be involved later, taking into consideration the unemployment indicator. We’ll also start providing guidance, but not at the moment. Mariam: The issue of assistance in professional orientation is an issue that remains unsolved. Many schoolchildren follow the trends, or pay heed to advice from parents and friends and choose professions that don’t make them happy and that make working become like being in prison. My parents urged me to become an economist/programmer, and I did, but I wasn’t excited about working with numbers and computers. So, I started teaching, and now I’m studying to obtain my second Master’s Degree in teaching. However, not everyone has that opportunity. Here is where the issue of unemployment comes to play. True, our NGO carries out its activities in the Tchambarak district, but we haven’t stopped providing consulting for professional orientation and organizing meetings with people of different professions. They are very exciting and effective. Katya: Our organization is mainly involved with solving issues related to nature protection and a healthy lifestyle. Eritasard.am: What is your NGO mainly involved with? Have your programs led to positive outcomes? Lilit: As I already mentioned, our organization is mainly involved with protecting human rights and preventing violations of the law. We have held many events that have helped raise the youth’s awareness and help them apply their knowledge in daily life. For instance, about 2 years ago, we carried out the Interactive Elections game during which the youth had a chance to govern a community and hold elections of local self-government for a day. Mariam: The major objectives of “KAMK” youth NGO are to organize the youth’s leisure, solve the issue of employment, lift the spirit of patriotism and help the youth integrate into society and politics. If we don’t ensure employment after implementing our programs, then the skills and knowledge of the participants have served as a basis for them to find jobs more easily. The programs helped the youth form a main group that directs youth clubs. Having consolidated youth is a great achievement. Katya: Our organization has held courses on waste management that lead to the desired outcome over time. Eritasard.am: Youth in the provinces often complain that there are not many places for leisure. How do you fill that gap? How socially active are the youth of Sisyan? Lilit: It’s safe to say there are no places for leisure in Sisyan. However, from time to time, we try to fill that gap with youth reunions and various youth events. Mariam: Before Sisyan became the youth capital, I would also complain, but today, Sisyan is truly ‘living’, regardless of all the socio-economic issues. Cultural life is thriving (songs, dances, chess, painting, theater). To have and to be able to protect all that in a small city like Sisyan is truly a heroic deed. If our youth think two or three cafes are not enough, what would they do, if there were no cafes at all and if there was on dilapidated park in the entire city? We simply need to learn to appreciate what we have and think about ways to create new things. Katya: The views on places of leisure vary in different cities. Sisyan has a culture home, music and painting schools, as well as a gym and a sport school. Each organizes its leisure in a different way. As for NGOs, they are active. The youth are involved in different programs and actions. Eritasard.am: What are the current or future programs? Tell us about them, please. Lilit: Currently, our NGO is holding the “We Are Together” program, which is aimed at extending a helping hand to disadvantaged children and children with disabilities with the help of kind people. Mariam: My NGO is in a worse condition than Sisyan, that is, in Tchambarak in which, being close to the border, the youth face all the key issues that Sisyan used to have years ago, including lack of unity, consolidation and self-confidence, and I always joke and say, ‘After Gyumri, it is Tchambarak’s turn to become the youth capital of the year so that that city can also rise, like Sisyan.’ We simply need to work on that. After all, I have won once. Katya: We don’t have a program now, but we’re getting ready for a New Year’s event that will be called “The New Year Through the Eyes of Children”. Satenik Khachatryan