Meeting in Tbilisi today at their sixth annual conference, more than 150 members of the Women Councillors’ Forum of Georgia sought a greater say in economic and political issues at the local level. Participants called for municipal public services to pay greater heed to the needs of women, for example in expanding childcare options, and advocated better vocational training opportunities to help women succeed in the labour market.
Organised by the Municipal Service Providers’ Association (MSPA) of Georgia with assistance from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland, the event brought together women members of local councils from all regions of Georgia, as well as representatives of the Georgian Government, Parliament, civil society and international organizations, to discuss the opportunities arising from ongoing local governance reforms.
Prominent national and international figures welcomed the conference as a vital forum for women’s voices; encouraged Georgian women to become more active in public life; and called for gender parity at all levels of governance.
“The voices of women are becoming louder at all levels of Georgia’s politics,” said Tamar Chugoshvili, First Deputy Speaker of Parliament and Chairperson of the Gender Equality Council. “The Women Councillors’ Forum is a powerful platform to help women play a more active role in local governance, ensuring meaningful gender equality in decision-making.”
“The political and economic empowerment of women is crucial for democracy and human rights and for ensuring equitable economic growth including all sectors of society, leaving no one behind,” noted Ulrik Tideström, Ambassador of Sweden to Georgia and Armenia.
„We are all aware of women’s untapped potential in many spheres in Georgia, as in many other countries, from the family home to the private sector as well as in local and national politics,“ said Danielle Meuwly, Regional Director of the Swiss Cooperation Office for the South Caucasus. “We thus remain strongly interested in further contributing to gender equality and strengthening women’s positions to achieve sustainable development for the society and economy at large.”
Other speakers included Arad Benkö, Ambassador of Austria and Elizabeth Rood, Acting US Chargé d’Affaires.
The low political representation of women has been a growing concern in Georgia in recent years. Only 14% of municipal council members are women. Only one of 64 elected mayors is a woman. The share of women in the national Parliament is just 15%. The Women Councillors’ Forum was established in 2013 with support from UNDP and Sweden as a vehicle to encourage Georgian women to become more active in public life and local decision-making.
“Heeding women’s voices is not just about fairness,” said Louisa Vinton, UNDP Head in Georgia. “It’s about designing public services that meet everyone’s needs and unleashing the energy and creativity of every member of the population. Georgia will only realize its full potential when it ensures equal economic and political opportunities for all of its citizens.”
Participants discussed economic and educational opportunities available for women in Georgia’s regions, including state-funded programmes. Priority needs include vocational training, preschool education and health care in rural areas.
Representatives of the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure outlined the ongoing decentralization reform, focusing on its impact on Georgia’s efforts to achieve meaningful gender equality at all levels of governance.