What does it take to be a woman farmer in Georgia?
On a bright sunny day of in October, the largest agriculture region of Georgia, Kakheti, had something to celebrate. It was the International Day of Rural Women.
- Women represent only 12% of the local governance in Georgia.
- Only 31% of households in rural areas are run by women.
- Women take prime responsibility for their families but do not have enough access to resources and decision-making.
More than a hundred women farmers from across the country got together to boast of their achievements in agriculture and showcase some of their delicious village produce. The day’s big event was the first assembly of the Association of Women Farmers of Kakheti, which brought together all the members.
The Association chose the Day of Rural Women to announce its ambitious new strategy to go beyond regional boundaries and transform into a national Association of Women Farmers.
For UNDP in Georgia, the success of the Association is a matter of particular pride: UNDP and the Government of Sweden facilitated its establishment back in 2013 and have been providing expert support and technical assistance ever since.
In February 2013, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark actually inaugurated the newly established Association during her short visit to Georgia, and encouraged its first members – seven women with great plans and little resources, to be brave and work together for achieving all they had in mind.
Association Chair, Irina Pkhovelishvili recalls those first steps as a time of challenge and hope:
“We were not scared to take responsibility. There were just seven of us but we knew that we could bring more. We have grown to 180 members in Kakheti. The strength and effectiveness of the Association is increasing as we gain new members.”
Shombi Sharp, Deputy Head of UNDP in Georgia:
- "The Association of Women Farmers, is busy showing how these barriers can be broken down to the benefit of all, women and men alike.”
Women in Georgian villages take prime responsibility for the well-being of their families and equally, if not more than men, participate in agriculture production. Nevertheless, they have less access to productive resources and decision-making. Women represent only 12 percent of the local governance in Georgia. In rural areas, only 31 percent of households are run by women.
Unions like this show what women can actually achieve if they stand together and get equal opportunities to make a change.
"Women still face unnecessary barriers to taking equal part in economic and political decision-making, depriving communities and the country as a whole of an enormous amount of human potential, skill and knowledge to develop,” noted UNDP in Georgia Deputy Head Shombi Sharp, in his address to the farmers.
"Our partner, the Association of Women Farmers, is busy showing how these barriers can be broken down to the benefit of all, women and men alike.”
Irina Pkhovelishvili, Chair of the Association of Women Farmers:
- "We are ready to speak on behalf of all women farmers in Georgia.”
The Association is working to strengthen its members, make them more knowledgeable and confident, as well as to protect their rights.
For the last two years, a series of trainings has been arranged for members in agriculture, financial management, and other issues. The Association has set up seven demonstration plots to pilot new agriculture products and innovative farming technologies. It also provided consulting to those who needed a qualified advice and assisted its members in writing business proposals, negotiating with the banks and getting easier access to finance.
Since robust growth requires sound policies, the Association is now seeking opportunities to talk to the government and have a say in the issues, such as land registration and ownership, and legal status of farmers and investors. As the Association of Women Farmers of Kakheti goes national, UNDP will continue assisting this process, creating new networks, promoting professional development and supporting these fantastic women in their efforts to build better future of their country.
“We understand what women farmers need because we are the ones,” says Pkhovelishvili. “We are ready to speak on behalf of all women farmers in Georgia.”