Democracy – beyond the market

Democracy – beyond the market

Throughout the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Richard Swift finds a
new breed of activists are struggling for sustainable democracy.

Eleanora Manandyan – social justice worker

Eleanora explains how her agency for helping poor youth in Armenia got its
name quite simply. ‘We face a severe psychological problem here in Armenia.
Everyone will tell you they have no hope, no belief in the future. “New
Armenia” gives the idea of hope.’

The agency does casework with young people but its ambitions go well beyond
that of a Westernstyle social agency, fundamentally challenging the corrupt
political oligarchy that runs her country.

As a former student activist herself, Eleanora is enthusiastic about
building a network of pupil councils throughout Armenian high schools to
empower youth. She talks despairingly of the aid money that disappears into
a black hole. ‘Money for schools is stolen. Electricity privatization money
disappears. Enough money is given to fund 20 HIV education centres, [but
only] 2 get funded. And if anyone gets close to this problem they disappear.
‘ She quotes a police inspector who told her in confidence: ‘It is possible
to solve all Armenia’s problems in 24 hours – put all these oligarchs in
prison and put their money back into the state budget.’

Eleanora doesn’t let her frustration overwhelm her. ‘We must create new
hope. Our only hope is to work with children.’