I am a Woman
Gender clichés still strong in Georgia where democratic transformation and economic growth merges with deep-rooted social traditions. The recent UNDP research shows that gender perceptions, which have not changed much over years, place men in a dominant position in many areas of social, economic and political life.
88 percent of Georgians think that men are supposed to be breadwinners of their families. Only 37 percent of men think that women and men should make decisions together. 45 percent prefers to have a boy as the only child and gives boys privileges in education and property rights. 57 percent agrees that men have a greater chance to get a high ranking position.
Women in different regions of Georgia work to make a difference in their communities. They inspire change and often achieve success in male dominated industries.
For Public Good
Poor transport connection was a persisting problem of the village Udabno, east Georgia. 180 families were cut off from the main road and nearest regional centre with no regular transport to cover a 45 km gap. The isolation grew deeper over years until a group of active women took the matter in their own hands.
Phikria Margiani, 32, is a local choir conductor. She works with children and their parents and knows everyone in the village. After attending the UNDP training in civic engagement, Phikria decided that her experience and communications skills could help improve daily life of her community. Phikria and an initiative group of eight women took a lead in negotiating with the local municipality. After several months of hard work they convinced the authorities to allocate small budget for a regular mini bus to the nearest city.
“We can go to the city, do business, visit relatives. It is a great relief! I am proud of what we have achieved. It only required confidence and determination,” Phikria says.
With this first success, the women’s group plans to do more for their home village. They are applying for a micro grant to build a sport square and mini stadium for youth.
Micro grants for small community initiatives are part of the UNDP’s gender programme in Georgia. With UNDP support, women groups in different regions of the country learn how to become active citizens, take part in decision-making, manage projects and promote a real change.
Women Farmers Take Over
Irina Pkhovelishvili chairs a first association of women farmers in Kakheti, a region in east Georgia. Women, who want to succeed within the traditional men’s club of Georgian agriculture, come here for consultation, training, business partnership, legal advice, and information on credit resources and insurance.
Established in 2013 with initial assistance from UNDP, the Association has grown up to 130 members in a year. It continues expanding all over the region.
“Women can bring real change if they set their mind on it. Agriculture was degrading in Georgia back in the 1990s and it was women who kept things going. I am convinced that strong agriculture and strong farmers are the future of Georgia and want to be part of this success,” Irina Pkhovelishvili says.
Irina herself is an agriculture professional and experienced farmer. Her farming business –land, live-stock and fisheries, employs up to 30 people by season. Irina has also spent nearly 10 years in local governance mainly leading agrarian issues. Her enthusiasm, motivation and networking skills inspire women to take matters into their hands and support their families out of poverty.
A Window to Equality
Irma Daushvili received the Gender Equality Award this year as the best woman entrepreneur. She runs a successful doors and windows treatment company which employees about 100 people.
After almost 20 years in business, Irma is convinced that gender equality at work place makes a team much stronger.
“Men and women are equally present in management and other operation. That’s our strengths. We make all decisions together and complement each other,” Irma Daushvili says.
Willpower and hard work is the success formula for Tika Vetriakova, 29, an entrepreneur from Georgia. Tika runs a cleaning company in Batumi, a port city on Georgia’s Black Sea coast. This rapidly growing enterprise ensures tidiness of hotels, restaurants and government offices in the city.
“When I first came in business nobody believed that I could succeed with no experience and limited resources. I did not have enough people and had to knock on every door to get a contract,” Tika says.
Struggling through a challenging start-up, Tika discovered that she could receive professional help in the Batumi Business Incubator. Established in 2009 by UNDP and the governments of Romania, Finland and the Ajara Autonomous Republic, the Incubator provides young businesses with affordable office spaces and assistance in business operations. Clean World – Ajara was among the first companies to enroll.
“The Incubator eased the burden of everyday problems and I could focus on my venture. I have attended training and consultations to learn about finance, marketing and human resources.”
Tika’s company has grown from five to 190 employees in five years. Now it is one of the most successful small businesses in the region. Blue uniforms of Tika’s cleaners can be spotted at almost all social and public events in Batumi.
“I chased an opportunity and did everything in my power to succeed. Hard work paid off. Now I have new goals to pursue. Clean World Ajara is just a beginning.”
I Can Fly
Irma Khetsuriani, 29, is the first Georgian wheelchair woman fencer. Last year she made it to the top five at the World Cup in Germany and now is getting ready for the championship in Canada this summer.
Irma became an athlete when she already was disabled after a spinal disease, difficult treatment and operation. She had to quit university and dramatically change her lifestyle. Fencing has become a way out, a window to the new life.
“I was surprised, even shocked when the Paralympic Committee of Georgia suggested I could do wheelchair fencing. But then I realized how exciting that was. I am the only girl in our team together with five boys. Fencing is for smart and passionate people. I only started eight months ago but I am already sold,” Irma says.
Georgia still has a long way to go to ensure that people with disabilities have equal opportunities and adequate living conditions. The research by the Public Defender of Georgia and UNDP reveals the urgent need for changes in the legislation as well as in educational, healthcare, municipal and other practices. It also stresses that women with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to discrimination.
“Of course our rights are not protected. We feel it every day, every minute,” Irma says.
She thinks that more information, open discussion, better laws and policies would help people with and without disability to see each other and understand that they are equal.
“Wheelchair makes you neither victim, nor hero. I can be strong, I can do good things. I can smile, dance. I can fly.”
30 Mar 2016:Revisiting the Past, Listening to the Future