Nora Elena Borse’s impression on Pro-Gender youth work in Armenia


Nora Elena Borse from Germany was one of the participants in the “PROMOTING GENDER-SENSITIVE APPROACHES IN YOUTH WORK ” project in Dilijan, Armenia from 07.08.2023- 16.08.2023. Below you can read our short Q&A with Nora who expresses her ideas and shares her experience with us.

What were the highlights for you? Were there any challenges or surprises that you encountered? 

The best part for sure were all the people. It was such an amazing opportunity to talk to so many people from countries I have never been in contact with before. Second of all, the whole program was planned really well and the APY team was extremely nice, approachable and helpful. The Vanuatu monastery stay was also beyond beautiful, Armenia was an amazing country and I learned so much. Honestly, everything was a highlight. The discussions were partly challenging due to opposing views, but that was also a good learning experience.

How did you find the discussions, workshops, and activities related to this topic? Did it provide you with new insights and perspectives on gender equality and related issues?

We all started on very different knowledge levels and I think that us Germans (with a few exceptions from other countries) had the biggest knowledge base from the start, because a lot of topics are already covered in our schools/universities or are more part of daily discourse compared to other nations. Examples of such topics would be different gender identities or sexualities. So regarding the workshops, I already had a lot of the knowledge. Nonetheless I really enjoyed the workshops and had many insights from the discussions and personal stories the other participants shared. That we are not all on the same level on information was also a great insight, since in our university bubbles sometimes too much is expected as a given. What was also extremely interesting was to hear about the current stand-point of gender equality in each of the countries and to learn about their unique challenges and hopes.

Please reflect on what you learned during the exchange. Were there specific skills, knowledge, or attitudes that you developed or enhanced as a result of participating?

I definitely improved my listening skill and the skill to accept and listen to opposing opinions calmly, collect my arguments and answer without overruling the other person or the other way around.

The aspect I am most grateful for is to improve seeing things not as black and white but multifaceted. I hope this makes sense, but I have never experienced this as much as in this exchange, e.g. someone makes a comment that might be perceived as sexist, but has just lost someone very close in the war/someone argues a bit to aggressively against a topic, but later shares a really intense family story relating to that/someone really struggles with basic concepts, but is also the first in the family to receive any form of education (even the first person able to read). I did already know how many things interact and how each person has a completely different background and I have also experienced this before, but never as much as here. I hope this makes sense, because it’s not so easy to express, but I am extremely grateful for the openness of all the participants and really learned to listen to get the „full“ story or at least more parts of it and not to judge, but nonetheless finding the balance to explain and defend my own views. 

I also noted down some of the methods, like creating art about gender in daily life (my group’s art piece really caused intense discussion) or forum theatre, which I am sure to use in the future.

Are you planning to remain active in the field of gender equality or related topics? If so, in what capacity? Feel free to share your aspirations and any plans you have for continuing your engagement beyond the youth exchange.

Definitely! Actually, during the exchange I got accepted to an internship where I am very sure I will be able to integrate a lot of the things I learned (in a foundation with focus on education). Further, I would like to share my knowledge with friends, family and acquaintances (and I already did a bit)  and also use it for a youth group I am a part of, where we also hold a workshop on gender equality.

Would you recommend Erasmus+ programs, such as this youth exchange, to your friends or peers? Please elaborate on why you would or would not recommend these programs. Your insights will guide us in refining the program for future participants.

100%! I already recommended it to so many people!!! It was beyond great!

I would recommend because 

– you meet amazing people, some from countries where it’s quite difficult to meet people from otherwise (for this exchange for example Belarus), some you’ll hopefully keep for a long time! 

– you learn so much (the content of the course, intercultural skills, cultural knowledge such as food, dance, .., about the country your visiting, about youth from around the world, about politics, about history, …) 

– it’s like a class trip for adults, you build such a great community -> for me it is also a great mixture between solo-travel (I can travel independent of whether my friends have time or not, but still I am never alone and meeting people is a lot easier compared to going completely by yourself) 

– the accommodation was great, the food was absolutely amazing, I would not be able to afford such a nice place or travel so far by myself

– it is free/very affordable if you stay a bit longer

– exploring regions, where you might not travel by yourself 

If you have any other comments, suggestions, or stories to share about your time in Armenia, please do not hesitate to include them. (Pic or Videos)

 I would’ve enjoyed an info pack with a bit of information on the topics for all of the participants that explained a few basic concepts (what does queer or bi mean, what is trans, …, maybe even a bit about gender pay gap or some other numbers regarding equality, ..) so we wouldn’t spend so much time during the workshop explaining basic concepts to single people. Besides that, everything was great. 

Favorite moments for sure included having all the meals outside, with the puppy Canello and talking to the other participants about their lives. Also, of course, the intercultural nights with a lot of nice food and dancing. 

The training was organized jointly by Armenian Progressive Youth NGO and Life Learning Development e.V. (Germany) under the Erasmus+ programme of the EU.