Raising Women’s Voices in the Parliament

19 Jul 2017

The Parliament of Georgia. Photo: Vladimer Valishvili/UNDP The Parliament of Georgia. Photo: Vladimer Valishvili/UNDP

As I sit in the corner of the conference room, I glance at a number of women of all ages and of different backgrounds patiently listening to a man discussing his findings on women’s representation in politics. All share one goal in mind: To inspire the freedom for women and men to make decisions liberally and without constraint.

There is an enduring problem in Georgia’s mentality regarding women’s presence in the world of politics. In a country that flourishes on innovation and change, it is shocking, offensive even, to learn that women still deal with a level of prejudice hidden amongst both Georgian men and women regarding their will to strive in a political world.

According to a recent research done in 2017 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the findings showcase similar trains of thoughts from its male and female participants as a similar version of the UNDP study in 2013 – regarding public perception of women in politics – demonstrates politics as being a “dirty” and “rough” playing field that is too intense for women to handle. This proves that the mentality of the public has not developed nor changed, and even women do not have enough faith to believe that a female politician can create a difference.

“There is a lack of consensus of the existence of the problem,” says Maka Meshveliani, who leads the UNDP’s programme “For Gender Equality”.

“Georgia is still a patriarchal country, it is still very much defined by the traditional roles which leave women in the space of home and family, whereas politics is reserved for men”.

As local elections are fast approaching in October 2017, the discussion of women and the political world becomes clearer and more condensed. Allowing a greater participation of women in the elections is becoming a popular topic nowadays and everyone is asking themselves, are we ready for a woman to take command? In the past 20 years, no more than 16% of women have been elected members of parliament in Georgia. This shockingly low number is not bringing Georgia forward but instead is pulling the country back.

The situation is not completely desperate. There has been an optimistic 3% increase in the presence of women in the Parliament of Georgia since 2013. It is a slow and gradual promise that women will become an important figure in Georgian politics.

Sophie Katsarava, MP from Georgian Dream party and Chair of the Parliamentary Committee of Foreign Affairs, has witnessed a number of “cases when women had opportunities but not enough courage to grasp them, whatever the reason may be.” She suggests that women must put the differences and stereotypes aside if “they want to break that wall” and achieve the position they deserve. There is a growing conspiracy that women are scared to enter the political world because of how they may be treated. This fear should be the exact reason why women should fight through it and earn their spot once and for all.

“Everything [decisions and change I make] is an accomplishment, whether it is minor or major,” says Sophie Katsarava.

When I sat down with Tina Bokuchava, MP from United National Movement and member of the Gender Equality Council of the Parliament of Georgia, she made a good point that women “should make [their decisions] based on their conscience rather than on the pressures society exerts on them.”

With that in mind, it is clear to mention that despite these two women’s opposing political views, there is a new wave of politics that puts these differences aside and instead sheds light on the shared perspective that women can cast away the stigma and stereotypes and reach a fulfilling career.

Georgian society has expressed explicitly that there is a need for more women in politics. In fact, 54% of the Georgian citizens are ready to see more women politicians and acknowledge that they would benefit society. If we open our minds to this new collective, women have the possibility of opening doors to untouched issues, particularly social issues regarding education, health, poverty, families and much more. As Tina Bokuchava, MP, says:

"Women should be able to complement to the male dominating field of politics and to the possibility for “conversations to be more inclusive, therefore creating better results.”

Of course, the road is still long and the journey will not be short of obstacles — yet it only takes baby steps to achieve something great.

 

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