We need to help mothers to be strong. When you have a strong mother, you grow up to be strong too!
UNICEF, in partnership with Source Foundation, provides psychosocial and rehabilitation services to children with disabilities and their parents displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh
Anush Ayvazyan is an athlete, a table tennis professional, an apprentice businesswoman, a tailor, a strong and beautiful woman from Nagorno-Karabakh, and, above all, Daniel's mum. “Daniel used to have motor skill issues; however, we have overcome it. I say that with confidence because I work a lot with him. We follow all the instructions from specialists who have helped me learn how I can continue his therapy at home,” says Anush. “As soon as the war started, we fled to Yerevan within two days and since November, we have been attending Source Foundation’s center. So it’s been four months, and both Daniel and I have fully benefitted from all of the services at the center with UNICEF’s support.”
Anush and Daniel spend most of their time at the centre five days a week. Daniel attends sessions with various specialists from a speech therapist, psychologist, ergo therapist, to a special pedagogue, adaptis training, running and music therapies. “In these four months, Daniel is already able to follow what I’m saying, communicate with me and with other children. This is completely new for us!”
Through a joint partnership, UNICEF and Source Foundation have supported 25 mothers with children with disabilities in Yerevan who have fled the war in Nagorno-Karabakh. The center has a small area where the mothers like to meet for a chat, to support each other in difficult moments and share useful information. While the children are in sessions, mothers can get psychosocial support themselves or do other work at the center or outside.
“My work is here. I work at the sewing workshop in the Foundation and hence spend most of my day in the same building with Daniel. I love my job very much, but more so I love my colleagues,” said Anush.
She has restarted her small endeavor of creating hand-made hair pins and accessories. “Agape is my page on Facebook where I display my works. Before Daniel was born, I was a lecturer in Nagorno-Karabakh. After his birth, I was so consumed with child-care that I could no longer continue working. I was struggling, it felt like I was standing on the edge, and that my life will always be like that, and I could do nothing.” Then one day, Anush saw unique hair accessories online and got inspired to start her own design. “And so I started making handicrafts with a tiny amount of money. It was just very unusual that a mother of a child with disability can “start a business” or do something other than childcare.”
Working has helped Anush rehabilitate and look ahead, but she also credits the psychosocial services provided by UNICEF and Source Foundation.
“This job helped me overcome the stress from the war little by little. But most of all, it’s been Arpi’s support from the Foundation that was life changing. I came here in a very bad condition, consumed with challenges around my child and the war. Arpi is the psychologist at the Foundation who helped me, so we started meeting for an hour twice a week and that’s when everything started to change for the better.”
Anush also took part in the on-the-job training at the center to brush up her sewing skills. “My hands have already gotten used to leather and other materials. We sew ottomans and mats. The mats have been helpful for children not to slip in the wheelchair. I have struggled so much with that and could not imagine that the solution was there, and I could actually make it myself in Armenia,” says Anush with pride.
“Working on my idea of “Agape” helped me realize that I can, in fact, do something. My baby was in a worse condition at that time, but my faith in success and persistent work paid back. Having overcome this truly horrendous time in my life also helped me to grow,” said Anush. “I now realize how work is important for women to grow stronger. We must be strong to be able to help our own children. In no way should motherhood or disability lead women to think that their life is over. I work with love, I enjoy doing a good job and improving my sewing skills.
Anush will soon return to Nagorno-Karabakh and has many plans. But above all, she highlights the importance of mental health and resilience. “If a mother is in a good mental state, then the child will surely only benefit from that. Mothers need support, including psychosocial, some room for themselves, some caring attention and self-care. If mothers have this support, they will have all the energy and ability to contribute to their children’s development and achieve success.”
On the International Women’s Day, March 8, many women are given flowers and hear nice words. But it’s also an occasion to talk about women’s rights, perhaps the right to work as a key to growth and development of the household, of the community and the economy. Who would have thought of not sending their daughter to school today? That was the case a hundred years ago. Today it’s time to further empower women through work, through equal pay and decent working policies.
Recalling her personal experience, Anush sums up:
“A strong mother is a must, it’s the basis of a prospering family. And if that foundation is laid correctly, then both mothers and children will be able to overcome the difficulties and thrive.”