Meet Dasha, a 2020 Changemaker Project Grantee and the co-founder of Armenia Without Abuse, which raises awareness about domestic violence in Armenia. Her team is in the midst of creating a documentary to be screened at local schools and community centers in Dilijan, with hopes of raising awareness about the issue. I sat down with Dasha last month to chat about her project and her growth as a changemaker.
Dasha is passionate about a number of social issues. She’s part of her school's sustainability council, advocates for animal rights, and now is leading the efforts of Armenia Without Abuse. But what’s been most influential in changing the perspective of her activism was the Changemaker Project’s online course, which covers dozens of issues from gun violence to mental health. Completing the course left her in awe. She heard the ideas of changemakers all over the world, engaged in friendly debate, and opened her eyes to the inequalities around the world.
Armed with this new knowledge, Dasha and her teammates set out to tackle domestic violence in Armenia, which she says is “one of the most important issues” in the country. It isn’t addressed enough by the government (particularly in rural areas), and as a result, women see it as “normal” to deal with. With the help of Armenia Without Abuse’s documentary, Dasha was on a mission to change this.
Before starting the documentary, the Armenia Without Abuse team met with their Changemaker mentor — a lawyer passionate about social justice. Dasha remarked that these mentor meetings gave her team the confidence and inspiration to grow their idea into a full-fledged project. Additionally, their mentor had insight on how to tackle this issue in a “more subtle and polite way.” In the team’s conservative, rural town, domestic violence is a sensitive issue. Far too often, it’s swept under the rug, and to this day, people are wary about discussing it. The advice of their mentor helped them to “not harm the community but do the best [they] can,” says Dasha.
Today, Dasha and her team are continuing their hard work on the documentary. They hope to screen it in local community centers, as well as publish it online for the world to see. Undoubtedly, the pandemic has posed challenges for the Armenia Without Abuse team, but they have persisted. They’ve interviewed a domestic violence survivor and one of Armenia’s most prominent women’s support centers and hope to uplift the voices of even more women affected by this issue.
For Dasha and her team, this documentary is just the beginning. They hope that after its completion, they will continue to raise awareness about domestic violence in their community and beyond.
Written by Emiko Rohn, a Changemaker Project Development Intern, Berkeley High Student, and founder of TeensVolunteer.org. Lately, she’s been interviewing Changemaker alums and drafting new blog posts. Keep an eye out for more content in the future!