Armenia is a small land-locked country situated between Turkey and Azerbaijan. Armenia considers itself more European rather than Southwest Asian. Armenia was previously a member of the Soviet Union; like many post-Soviet countries, it has historically had authoritarian rule. In 2018, the peaceful Velvet Revolution, led by Nikol Pashinyan, dislodged the historic elites and sparked hope of more democratic institutions in the country.
Armenia has experienced a robust economic expansion over the last few years with GDP growing at 7.6% in 2019. The growth along with low inflation has encouraged falling poverty rates from above 35% of the population living below the national poverty line in 2010 to around 23% in 2018. Unemployment remains relatively high for the region at 19% according to World Bank estimates. Agriculture is still however the largest employer, amounting to 44% of men and 31% of women, but other sectors are growing faster and entrepreneurship in particular is on the rise. Close to a third of both men and women identify as self-employed. Nearly 100% percent of firms in Armenia are reported as SMEs with 94% of those as microenterprises and they contribute to 66% of business employment. The majority of enterprises are in the service sector; however, a significant proportion of businesses are still operating in the informal sector with the majority of informal enterprises run by women.
Women entrepreneurs face challenges that commonly occur in the informal sector: providing services without contracts, lack of upfront payment for delivery of services, etc. This is compounded by the fact that women face more severe competition in the informal space with work that has lower profitability. Contributing to this is the fact there are more working age women than men in the country, however there is a significant gender gap in economic activity between men and women (52.5% vs 47.5%) favoring men. The government has acknowledged the challenges faced by women and has developed a gender policy with a focus on reducing socioeconomic inequality. Details on implementation is still process. There has been partnership with multiple NGOs and international partners to help encourage female entrepreneurship and provide women the tools to be successful. This has included programs funded by GIZ, USAID etc. CEED has contributed to creating a more inclusive entrepreneurial community with the “CEED Women in Leadership,” lean in circle launched in 2016 to provide a safe space to support women across different industries and sectors to learn and grow together.