Georgian Women, Rural Women

This article is written by Marina Tabukashvili from the Taso Foundation, Georgia. Marina together with five other Georgian women participated in the Sharing for Empowerment project organized by the Lithuanian Center for Equality Enhancement, in which Retaj are also partners. Please scroll down for pictures from Georgia.

Georgian Women, Rural Women

I am the director of a women’s national fund. I have been in this line of work for fifteen years. Since 2004, we have been working in villages, with rural, conflict-affected, internally displaced, and ethnic minority women, and this entitles me to speak not only about but also on behalf of these women.

Special emphasis on urban development, which is common for low-income and lower-middle-income countries on a democratic path, put rural communities in a special position, with a detrimental effect on the lives of rural women. They found themselves obligated and responsible for their families and households in every way, yet without rights and an ability to have a say both in the family and in community life, that is, the social field.
Women’s Education, Employment, Labor, and Domestic Violence

After the 2008 war with Russia, thirty-eight women attended the first women’s meeting in a war-affected village where we were about to launch a twelve-month project to promote women’s social activism. Apparently, all of them were university graduates, yet none had any work experience—they never had a job. Women’s employment in rural areas worsened drastically when men (not all of them, of course) succumbed to angst, which fed off poverty, loss of social standing, and dropping self-esteem characteristic of losers in war. Consequently, as befits weak persons seeking distraction, they resorted to drinking and reaffirming their perceived dominance at home, which, in defiance of state legislation, is still perceived by him and society as a man’s own possession, along with movable/immovable property and even family members, and a man himself is seen as the ruler in this small state.

There are schools, and even kindergartens in some cases, in rural areas, where, for the most part, women are employed, while men serve as self-government representatives in the community. The state considers the rural population as self-employed since they own lands, though few have their parcels in the village formally registered as a property (among others problems, territories/arable lands lost to Russian borderization do not legally belong to the families that have lost these arable lands/homes).

Although people invest efforts in growing crops, due to lack of income, they consider themselves unemployed and seek revenues in the city or abroad, with mainly women traveling to foreign countries in search of low-paid jobs, which is quite risky, often involving illegal labor migration. Migrant women, similar to the wives of migrant men, give up sex life for many years, sometimes even for good, supporting their families from abroad over years.

Graduates and Rural Employment

Clearly, rural families spare no effort to provide their children with education, viewing it is a way of ensuring a different, better, urban life for future generations. I have heard from women that “having elderly people in the family means that you have money (age pension) to pay tutors and prepare your children for college, which is why we take special care of our seniors.” Notably, village schoolteachers actively provide their students with cheap tutoring services.

Immense is the desire to enroll in university. People send their children to the city, mostly boys, and try to obtain scholarships for them (students dropping out due to financial difficulties are a different story). However, whether or not young rural residents receive quality education, they stand nearly no chance of landing employment in their own or any other village. In other words, there is no excitement stemming from utilizing one’s knowledge, skills, and abilities, nor are there resources for rural development.

As an exception, especially dedicated and hardworking young rural people may have a lucky break, meaning a career in the city or marriage. For the most part, rural women land a cashier’s job in supermarkets in Tbilisi.

What is even worse is that young rural women in the city try outdo locals in their outward appearance, and since no one has explained to them what freedom is about, they end up ruining their lives in urban environment. Some divorced young mothers leave their children with their parents in the village and hit the streets of Tbilisi to make a living and bringing money to their village homes. This was regarding women’s employment.

Eighteen percent of marriages in Georgia are early, according to UNFPA study, meaning that they are still children when they get married, and most of them are from rural areas. They are driven by the absence of prospects and often a desire to run away from their violent families. Unfortunately, they often go out of the frying pain into the fire, running away to places where violence awaits them (according to our rurally based grantee partners working for combating domestic violence).

Dependence on Welfare (Public Aid)

Georgia issues social support for IDPs affected by bloody conflicts and socially vulnerable citizens (yet there is no unemployment benefits). People strive to make it on the list of socially vulnerable to receive public aid, which is triggered by the lasting economic, agricultural, and social policies of our government, and, of course, Russia’s aggression against Georgia.

There is a succinct saying: “When power is not shared, distribution is the only way.” I heard this quote from a women rapporteur in India in 2013. I couldn’t make a note of author’s name. I have been seeking that name as of dearest friend’.

Women’s Empowerment

To summarize, we are women living in Georgia’s villages. You are more or less aware of how we came to face our living conditions and context. You also know how we are dealing with the difficulties of our times, how we manage to save our families even when hail, drought, and climate changes raze to the ground our crops, our bread and butter, and we say, “If we survive April [the hungriest month], we will live on.”

Our experience tells us that women’s empowerment is defined as enhancing women’s responsibilities, but this is the topic of my next letter.

In a Georgian village.
In a Georgian village.
Ganmukhuri ABL village, Georgia.
Ganmukhuri ABL village, Georgia.
Grantee.Dvani ABL village
Grantee.Dvani ABL village
A Georgian village life.
A Georgian village life.
In Nikozi bordering village. April. 2009
In Nikozi bordering village. April. 2009
Meeting in bordering village Dvani. 25.03.09
Meeting in bordering village Dvani. 25.03.09
Meeting in Mereti bordering village. March 2009
Meeting in Mereti bordering village. March 2009
Tserovani IDP Camp
Tserovani IDP Camp
Poster against violence.
Poster against violence.