News • Eastern Europe
July 9, 2021
CDL action update: Supporting women entrepreneurs in Armenia

As one of our first Capacity Development Lab initiatives, we are delighted to announce the immense progress we are making with an action in Armenia with AGBU Europe!

‘Harnessing diaspora expertise for women entrepreneurship in Armenia’ is the second CDL action to get underway. The action is run in partnership with the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) Europe, a pan-European diaspora organisation devoted to upholding Armenian heritage through educational, cultural, social and humanitarian programmes. CDL is supporting AGBU in its Brussels and Yerevan offices to implement efficient and sustainable diaspora mentorship programmes for women entrepreneurs in Armenia.

Why focus on women?

All around the world, women face multiple barriers to becoming successful leaders and entrepreneurs, including expectations to fulfil domestic roles, limited financial independence, and lack of access to knowledge, tools and networks to successfully run a business.

Armenia is no exception, and the case for women in Yerevan and surrounding rural communities has been worsened by the six-week Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020, ongoing political instability, the COVID-19 pandemic and an economic crisis in the country. For many women entrepreneurs in Armenia this has led to drops in sales, severe difficulties in maintaining a livelihood, and even business shutdowns.

Empowering AGBU and Armenian women entrepreneurs

To address these challenges, AGBU launched their Women Entrepeneurship (WE) programme in 2017. As a part of this Program, AGBU offers a comprehensive educational course enriched with interactive lectures, business plan development tools, marketing techniques and taxation trends. Women Entrepreneurs graduate from the program fully equipped to meet the challenges of the business world.

This programme has helped more than 250 women start or scale up their business, thanks to support via the diaspora’s knowledge, sectoral expertise, networks and capacity for innovation. With a CDL action, we aim to take these contributions to new heights by helping AGBU improve the efficiency and sustainability of their diaspora mentorship programme, which connects the talents of the Armenian diaspora with women entrepreneurs in Armenia.

The action includes knowledge transfer events, a Training of Trainers, a guidebook and more. For full details about EUDiF’s support role, see the activities, step-by-step methodology and intended results in our action info sheet:

EUDiF and AGBU met to discuss the sustainability and communication aspects of our CDL action together

First steps

Since the launch of the action in June, we have successfully organised two on-site training sessions. In early June, 12 women entrepreneurs gathered in AGBU’s Yerevan office for a session on hospitality and tourism with diaspora mentor Greg Guerguerian (Belgium). A few days later, another batch of 10 women entrepreneurs joined our second diaspora mentor Gayane Khodaveerdi (Italy) for a training session on fashion.

Ani Khachatryan, who owns the Cherry Garden Boutique Hotel in Yeghegnadzor and is part of the current cohort of AGBU’s WE programme, participated in the first session on how to create restaurant menus and shared how insightful the experience has been for her:

“[The] session on creating menus and managing the kitchen was very informative and we had a great discussion, as well as exchanged our opinions and experiences. The most important was that we got to meet with a fellow businessman from another country and we will try to apply his experience and advice to advance our businesses.” – Ani Khachatryan, participant in AGBU’s WE Programme

The two diaspora mentors also found the experience equally enjoyable and fulfilling. Greg, who flew from Belgium to join Ani and the rest of the workshop participants in Yerevan, shared:

“Today was amazing. I got the chance to meet some very talented women entrepreneurs. It was very good to speak to them since we are in the same field – restaurant, hotel, and tour business owners, and we all have similar questions, paths, doubts, and passions. I was very happy to participate in this programme and I am looking forward to carrying on doing this. Thank you for this opportunity.” – Greg Guerguerian, diaspora mentor on hospitality and tourism

The first two mentorship sessions signify a promising start to a fruitful relationship between EUDiF and AGBU. Our diaspora mentor Gayane Khodaveerdi, who led the training session on fashion, shared her commitment to the programme and excitement for our CDL action’s future activities:

“Being part of the AGBU Mentorship program is a deeply enriching experience. The Armenian Diaspora is given the precious opportunity of sharing expertise with enthusiastic and hardworking participants. Both the mentors and the participants have the chance of learning new aspects of the realities they belong to. As a result of this exchange aimed at sharing the know-how, also the diaspora can come up with new business ideas for new projects in Armenia. AGBU has truly found the best way of connecting the Armenian Diaspora with local entrepreneurs in Armenia.” – Gayane Khodaveerdi, diaspora mentor on fashion

Under this action, we have five more sessions (one in-person and four online) planned for July, touching up on a wide variety of topics, including the export of products into EU markets. AGBU has selected a great line-up of diaspora mentors to deliver these training sessions and is connecting them with women entrepreneurs in Armenia through technical and logistical support from EUDiF.

We are  currently accepting applications for the CDL and Diaspora Professionals 4 Development (DP4D) mechanism. Read the guidelines and make sure to submit your innovative ideas by 16 July, 11:59 PM CEST!

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