Building an engaging website

Manushak shares what she has been learning as an intern at HURIDOCS to develop a website for Women for Development, an Armenian NGO she usually works with.

By Manushak Mila Guilhem on

I’m Manushak Aslanyan from the NGO Women for Development (WFD), based in Armenia.  Recently I started an internship with HURIDOCS as part of the Open Society Human Rights Program and on this blog I would like to share what I learn and experience as I go along.

WFD has been working in rural community development, women’s rights, and peace education in Armenia for the past 15 years. The women’s rights and community development projects have been centralized in Northern Armenian, namely in the Shirak region. Whereas the peace education was initiated in Shirak region, and as for February 2013 has reached to around 20% of the schools throughout Armenia. I think this is an accomplishment for a local NGO.

My job as part of the WFD team is to link the problems of rural population to their potential solutions. For example, Manushak Nersisyan, a talented lady from Goghovit, who is handicapped from childhood, already has many orders to knit sweaters and scarves with traditional Armenian symbols. She will soon open a group to teach other girls and young women to knit. This will help them to make a living from their homes.

I always thought that having a proper presentation of our work on internet is very important, as it gives a voice to those we work with, like Manushak Nersisyan, and opens up space to share learnings. Moreover, it gives everyone interested the chance to follow our work and get in touch with us. On the other hand it also encourages the rural communities and helps to solve a part of their problems.

Creating a new website for my organization in Armenia

With modern technologies, it has become easier and faster for us to share information and we are happy to see that there are a lot of people who visit our webpage. This is why we wish it would be easier to update it, because right now only one person in our team knows how to upload the updated html files to the server. If that person is away, we cannot publish any news.

It would also be good, if we can change the structure a bit – it was fine years ago when the site was created. But like many organizations, WFD changed and we want our website to reflect that change. Ideally, the design would be updated, too.

With this in mind, I came to HURIDOCS and thought that they could help me to build a more practical website for WFD. I also hope to learn other skills and gain exposure to projects HURIDOCS is working on around the globe, but the website is really what I want to be the main result of my internship.

It’s more than technology

I am glad that we almost immediately started when I arrived about two weeks ago. Before I left Armenia, I already started thinking about how the structure of the website should be like, but it was amazing to see how important it is to discuss this further.

Step by step we analyzed what WFD does, what information we produce and which messages are important to us. Based on this, we agreed to tweak the structure a bit and now I think it will really reflects WFD.

Originally I thought building a website was much more a technical undertaking – it is, but it is just as important to have all these discussions, to make sure it is a website that fits the need of your organization, the people you work with and everyone who comes to visit.

Even the technical side I can master myself

Following that I was introduced to the technical side. For WFD we intend to use  WordPress, a software which allows anyone to build a blog or a website. The good thing about WordPress is that it is free and simple to use, so in the future all my colleagues will be able to upload news or updates on their projects.

In the past two weeks, I started working with WordPress and already gained a good understanding of how to create different types of content while I was working on inserting and editing the References to Jurisprudence and Doctrine of the UN Human Rights Systems for the website of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ). By now I have the basic skills to start building our own website with WordPress.

I am already excited to see how the website of WFD will turn out.

I always used to believe that you have to be a professional or an IT specialist to create a website. But it was until I discovered the WordPress – now I can do it, with a little support from colleagues at HURIDOCS. Even when it comes to the design, I think I can use my creativity and come up with something cool.

Learning new tools

Another software I tried out at HURIDOCS is OpenEvsys, a tool for documenting human rights violations. For practice, I entered a few cases of human rights violations into the system. It allows to record every detail of the case, makes it easier to save, find and share this information. I think the system is especially practical for organizations which directly work in recording human rights violations. I am looking forward to work on the documentation of OpenEvsys that will help these organizations using it effectively.

While discovering and practicing new techniques, I think the most exciting is that in reality mastering these skills is easier than it seems at first.

In future posts I would like to reflect further on this and also keep you updated on how the WFD website is coming along. I appreciate any comments and advice and hope you’ll follow me on my journey to explore and experiment with WordPress and other tools while being at HURIDOCS.

Manushak is an intern at HURIDOCS from the NGO Women for Development, based in Armenia. She has joined  HURIDOCS for four months as a part of the Open Society Human Rights Internship program. Manushak holds a BA in Theology from Yerevan State University and an LLM in European Law from University of Saarland in Germany. 

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