The life of women in Georgia’s society is different to the life of women in former times. Circumstances change during many episodes the country has gone through. What does it mean to be a woman in this time? The wish to be selfdetermined and independent connects women in countries all over the world.
She is 28 years old, a hardworking woman living in Tblissi. She represents the generation of Georgian women who grew up in the 90’s — between war and indenpendence from former Soviet-Union. She is a self-determined person who learnt through out her family experiences to handle with the difficulties in society about being a woman in Georgia. Her art as a painter and writer reflects processes in gender issues and her own standing. Alexandra supports human’s right, helps her mother in daily-life in coming over the problems in relation to her father.
Toma Beburishvili Alexandra’s mother
“My Sashka (Alexandra) does not recognize authorities regarding to the age or education… She only recognizes people as authoritative if they are thinkers, talented or people who have deserved being respectful somehow. That is what I have learnt from her and saying „NO!“ when you have to say it. I didn’t know how to say „NO!“. It was really disturbing me. I lost a lot of time to the people that had not deserved my time and nerves. Now I just can say: “We are not friends, I can help you once, but do not take away my short life.“
I want to tell children which do not know what a war is: That is the worst thing that can happen with the country or people.
My personal life hasn’t developed, so what? There are a lot of wonderful people around me and I can live without personal life. That is not important. Of course, I wish it for my daughter but if she won’t manage it, it’s ok. You can be happy when you feel completed in your personalitity. I wish this to the whole young generation. If someone has no job he/she becomes even drag abuser or slacker and becomes more stupid. A lot of troubles happen to them. So I want them to realize!
Because of the fact that Sashka has a wide range, big spectrum of interests and demands I do not have any idea how she can achieve her success. I can only give an advice, but I don’t think she’ll listen. No — she’ll listen, but she will do it in her own way. She knows how to communicate with people and she needs to find a job that is connected to social issues. For example, she worked with an organization for protecting rights of women and children. I’d be very happy if she will try to protect someone’s rights and help to make their life better. Not changing it instead of them, but giving them a chance to do it on their own way.”
What do you think about the statue of Kartlis Deda?
“She was with the sword and wine and doing everything: beating guests with the sword or the wine — depends on a guest. But where is the man? I mean – that was doing the women. What is he doing?
Kartlis Deda is a tired woman. She is carrying a lot of stuff — like everybody, I guess. More or less the women situation is changing and I am happy about this. I guess, a woman should be happy. And it doesn’t matter she is Georgian or not.
First of all: she should be happy!”
“It’s the product of the USSR. There are a lot of aspects that make this popular image of Kartlis Deda stronger. We are trying to destroy this myth.”
“Kartlis Deda, she is not very feminin, I think, with her sword and cup she looks very strong. And she is a mother and she is a protector there. So she doesn’t remind us a lady, who finds her space only in a kitchen, so she is a quite strong woman. Probably, in modern times our Kartlis Deda doesn’t need a cup of wine and sword, but books, even car keys or any other accessoires or elements that show that Georgian women are strong, are free, are clever. So, every one of us can find our own staff to wear to show that we are the ones who have our opinions, our strength, our callings, our gifts and we are not invisible class citizens of the country.”
“It is the symbol of Georgian how they love their mothers and how they admire her and so on. I don´t think that I have a connection to her. But usually males have, because in Georgia the bonds between sons and their mother are too strong. They usually prefer to live with their mothers and not to go off with their wifes and live alone with them and start a new familiy.”
“The statue was erected on the top of Sololaki hill in 1958, the year Tbilisi celebrated its 1500th anniversary. Prominent Georgian sculptorElguja Amashukeli designed the twenty-metre aluminium figure of a woman in Georgian national dress. She symbolises the Georgian national character: in her left hand she holds a bowl of wine to greet those who come as friends, and in her right hand is a sword for those who come as enemies”1
Rusudan Gotsiridze First female baptist bishop in Georgia
About Rusudan Gotsiridze
She is a bishop of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia and a women’s rights activist. She was the first female Baptist bishop in Georgia. She has advocated against gender violence and for women’s equality, and created interfaith dialogues to support religious minorities. She was also one of the first members of the religious community in Georgia to publicly support the rights of the LGBT community. She also spoke at the 6th United Nations Forum on Minority Issues about religious minorities in Georgia.
She received a 2014 International Women of Courage award1
“My name is Rusudan Gotsiridze. I am a bishop of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia. I am 41, I have a family, two children. I am ministers of this church since 2006.”
How is it to be a woman priest in Georgia?
“Funny (laughs)… Well, it is not easy — challenging. But probably this is the most interesting time to be a female clergy in Georgia. Because of various reasons. First of all, when you are in the religious minority, to be open about your religion — it’s challenging. Second, when you are female clergy, female priest and even more, when you are a woman bishop it is a provocative, I must admit, and challenging and very interesting. I won’t start complaining about difficulties. It is not an easy life in Georgia for anybody. So if I start to complain about gender issues or about minority issues I wouldn’t be very interesting… So, I’d say it is challenging.”
What could you say about a typical Georgian woman? How can you characterize a typical Georgian woman in the real life in general in our days?
“We have experiences of the dark 90’s in our country. We have seen that when society has the most difficult times in the country, Georgian women can find resources in themselves, strength, skills they have never knew about, to survive and to help our society to survive. So, I think Georgian women are very strong, very dedicated and very smart and clever. And this is not the characteristics of only Georgian women. I think to be a woman, when you are brought up in a patriarchal culture, when you know what it means to be NOT in the mainstream, when you know what it means to be told that you are not the first citizen, you are not even the first class family member.”
What is the motivation of being strong woman here? What is the motivation for Georgian women to overcome all these problems and if you had the problems regarding your gender what was your motivation to overcome this?
“Well, I think it is difficult for me to speak about Georgian women in generell and about the strength of all of them. But I can speak about my own motivation.
I was brought up in a protestant family. Quite conservative protestant family, where a not very much egalitarian family, so this high patriarchal hierarchy was very present in my family. And I was brought up to be a very obedient, good Georgian woman. And probably, the only motivation I found to be stronger and more vocal was when I found out my children need protection. So, my strongest motivation were my children, when I found out that to be obedient, to be quiet was not the universal virtue and that was not good always and was not good at all. So, that was my motivation. I can say only about my own story, that’s true only about my case. Because I know a lot of wonderful, strong, vocal Georgian women who are single and they found their motivation somewhere else. So, every one of us have our own story — where we find out strength to say: “enough is enough”.”
Women’s Fund Ekaterine Gejadze & Nana Pantsulaia
About Women’s Fund
From 2005 Women’s Fund has been helping to finance a lot of very important projects related to women and their problems. From time to time, they have their own projects and workshops, also charity exhibitions. For example, radio programs with feminist activists and professional journalists.
As Nana says a new generation is very inspiring for the Women’s Fund and she and Ekaterine like their vision, perception of the present and the future. The Women’s Fund tries to introduce feminist philanthropy to the Georgian society.
What are the general problems regarding the situation in Georgia for women?
Nana: In our country people used to perceive patriarchal norms and culture as our heritage and not as our problem. Our organisation tries to destroy stereotypes. Nowadays, a woman in Georgia is able to realize that she is under pressure, or discrimination, and knows that she has a voice. It is very important to know that you have support somewhere, this makes you braver and enables you to share your opinion about any kind of oppression against you, as a woman.
Could you explain a typical Georgian woman in your own words? How do you see an “average Georgian woman”?
Nana: There is a difference between how we want that to be and how it is in real. Me and our fund want women to be free, happy, accomplished and whose rights are protected. But we know that it is only our desire right now. A Georgian woman is just a woman… She’s a woman with pain, centennial oppression and with a lot of work. She is overloaded and sometimes burnt out because she does not have any time for rest and she does not give herself a possibility to take a break. She takes a lot of responsibilities on herself. Even me, I do not know how to start caring about myself and how to take time for me. We have to study how not to get more than we can carry on.
Ekaterine: We provide space for meetings where feminist activists can gather and share their opinions. They help each other and try to stay away from the burn out condition.
Nana Pantsulaia — CEO of WOMEN’S FUND in Georgia
Ekaterine Gejadze — Programm coordinator of WOMEN’S FUND in Georgia
Irine Kvelidze Blogger about female issues in politics/religion
Q & A
“I am Irina Kvelidze. I am 21 years old and I study psychology at university. But I work as a journalist and as an translator, too.”
We heard about your blogging on the website of cafebabel.com. What is your blogging about and what is your motivation?
“First I started when one of the editors was coming here, just tweet it to me: “You know english, you are a blogger, can you start blogging for us? Because we want making a journal blog in Georgia and want to recruite more journalists. So I got him like this, by Twitter and then I start writing about church and women. Mostly my articles are about hot topics and I do like analytical articles. I just write what is going on and why it is not good or bad — something like that.”
Why do you choose these topics?
“Usually my editor choose it. I want to start continue writing about church and about thoughts, about their statements. I want to write about why they are wrong and why it is not good to say those things in the community. They all follow them without thinking.”
Can you tell us for an example in which point “they” (church) are wrong?
“My articles were about their statements that they said on christmas that artificially inseminated children don‘t have souls … I wrote about this and that everyone should not follow them.”
Did you grow up very religious? What is your connection between your personality and religion?
“Actually, my family is not too religious. But I have two uncles were in church, who are priests. And my mothers side believes in god — very much. But they don´t tell me how to think or go to church. The last time I was in church and talked to a priest was when I was 15. After that I thought I don‘t need priests to be a good person. And I don´t need anyone to go to heaven or hell. So I can go my way and I can choose my way.”
Can you please describe your lifestyle and what your parents/family think about your way of life?
“I study at university. I am a student, but not a good student, because I like working too much and don´t have time to go to lectures. So my grades are low. I like working. I work as a freelancer for various organisations and I have a lot of projects during a year. My family supports me because I do my work and haven’t high salary on my work. So the money is low and they have to help me during the months. Usually in the evenings I am at the bar because my boyfriend works there and we just hang out there. It doesen´t mean that I drink, they have juice. In the beginning my parents didn´t like that I’ve been there so often, but now they know my boyfriend and they know that I don’t do anything wrong.”
What are problematic situations for women in georgian society, according tradition, according family…?
“The first thing is the community tells you how to behave, how to live, when to get married and when to get children, how to raise them and so on.
Then there are families, most of Georgian have strict families and parents, they don‘t allow them to go out after 6 or 7 pm. I think it is a problem because persons should live their life how they want to. Because when they have problems they can overcome these by themselves.
Did you have any problems during your life and if, how did you overcome it and who supportes you or critizises you?
“When I was a teenager at the beginning I had a very bad mood like the worst mood. I was a really problematic child, I was very stubborn and it got me to deep problems. But I always want to overcome it by myself and usually I did not tell my parents. It was like the people were talking about me on my back. They were talking really hurtful things: they said I was pregnant when I was 12 or 11. I heard about that when I was 17 — after 5 years. I just told my father about it. I was laughing and I was just making fun of the people in my neighboorhood and my father was like: „Do you want a gun?“ Of course it was a toy gun. He was talking about a toy gun. I overcome by writing about it. And everyone in my neighboorhood was writing and was apologizing. But usually both of my grandmothers critizise me but my parents are always by my side are really supportive.
My great grand mother — She is the most understanding person, she is 88 years old. No one expect from her that she would be so supportive towards to me or towards to any one of the family. The backstory of her is so impressive, that I am thinking to make a project only about her and making a video how she overcame everything. Because she was about 40 years old, when her husband died, my great grand father. She had 2 sons and when she gave birth to twins, girls, who died instantly when they were born. She overcame that, too. She overcame the death of my great grand father, and she overcame the death of her mother. So her backstory is so impressive, that nobody can overcome these things and be so fun.. I am like always talking about her and writing about her.
Would you consider yourself as a feminist and if yes can you explain why?
“I think every woman should be a feminist, not a radical feminist. I don´t hate men and the radicals usually do. Usually the society thinks if you are a feminist you hate men. You want to be president of women or something like that. I usually defend women´s rights in my friends community, too and I write about it usually in my blogging in georgian in english, too. Ya, I am a feminist.”
What is your plans for future. Do you wish to be a mother one day?
“In the future, of course I want to be a mother. I don´t know when or how or with who – maybe I know. In the future I want to have my own business and have my own projects that I look forward, too. That is my first priority and then family and children.”
© 2016 Vanzuela / Blink / Tsnobiladze