The Government of the Republic of Armenia has made a decision to donate land areas in Ararat province to the Armenian Caritas (a charity organization), where the organization plans to build a “Children’s City”. The project involves the construction of a “city”, with programmes aimed at children’s care, health, upbringing and education.
Around 600 children with disabilities and young disabled people, together with their families, and children from families considered to be socially vulnerable will live in the “city”. In addition, services provided will benefit another 8,000 people from other regions of Armenia and the capital. The basis for the Children’s City is the model of a real city for “grown-ups”, with dedicated infrastructure: a kindergarten, elementary and secondary schools, a hospital, a sports complex, laboratory and other facilities.
According to the project, the construction of special “cities” for children is a worldwide practice that was first implemented in Italy after World War II. The model of a 70-year-old project reaches Armenia in the 21st century, 15 years after the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and decades of disabled people’s struggle for independent living and inclusive education. The project clearly contradicts the country’s Constitution, the CRPD, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and a number of other policies and programmes being implemented by the Armenian Government.
The project will be implemented with the direct support of the Governor of Ararat, Garik Sargsyan. While presenting details of the project, he stated:
“Children are the heirs and immediate successors of our achievements, the future of our country. We must do everything possible to ensure their carefree childhood and the right to live a happy, comfortable and safe life. Together with the Caritas Charitable Society, we have concentrated all our efforts to bring the project to life. As a result of discussions, we selected two suitable plots and presented the project to the Council of Ministers, after which it was approved by the government”.
According to the Governor, the construction of such a complex for the children of Ararat province will contribute to the reduction of child poverty, development of opportunities for the socially vulnerable children, provision of education, self-expression and inclusion in society. Construction of the “Children’s City” will start this fall.
Caritas Armenia will share more information about the project mid-September, after the vacation of the organisation’s director, at a press conference.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs of the Republic of Armenia has already expressed a negative opinion about the project and presented their proposals to bring the project in line with the idea of inclusion. A number of DPOs, NGOs and other stakeholders have also criticized the project, since the day it was published. They have already started a campaign “Against Isolation” to fight against the implementation of the project. As for the next step, a press conference will be held to present the NGOs’ appeal to the Government to stop the project.
This article was contributed by SKARP NGO, a member of ENIL in Armenia. ENIL is supporting SKARP in trying to stop the construction of the “Children’s Village”.