Security is not just limited to military security. It also includes issues like financial security, education and personal safety. But with men dominating politics, this is often forgotten. Our Georgian partner organisation Cultural-Humanitarian Fund Sukhumi works to change this.
“Whenever I wanted to discuss politics in the past, I always felt something was stopping me. There was never a forum for me to speak my mind,” says one of the 16 women of different ages sitting around the table. Today, she has found such a forum here in Georgia – a country where women are extremely underrepresented in politics, holding just 11% of seats in parliament.
The number of women in power is equally low in the city of Kutaisi, where we attend a workshop on women and politics, arranged by Kvinna till Kvinna’s partner organisation Cultural-Humanitarian Fund Sukhumi (CHFS).
In a yellow brick house with a lush garden of lemon trees and roses, a discussion is in full swing on the need for more women in politics, especially in peace and security processes.
”I think women interpret ’security’ as being much broader than just military security. It also includes financial security, education and personal safety,” argues Emma Kamkia, the facilitator of today’s meeting.
”Women and men have different priorities,” adds one of the workshop’s participants.
“Men may be physically stronger, but we women have other strengths,” another muses.
”Which political issues do you think women are better at putting on the agenda than men?” we ask.
“Education, social issues, the economy, health care and peace,” the participants reply. The discussion turns to child care, a field many of the participants currently work in or have experience of. Hygiene, child safety, wages and privatisation are all discussed loudly and at length.
Some of the women here today are marginalised in more than one way: they are internally displaced people (IDPs), refugees within their own country. There are 18 000 IDPs living in Kutaisi and its surroundings, a majority of them women. Almost all come from the breakaway region of Abkhazia.
Today, Abkhazia is controlled by a de facto government supported by Russia. During the war in 1992-1993, tens of thousands died and Georgia lost control over an eighth of its territory. Over 250 000 Georgians fled to other parts of the country.
Internally displaces people are marginalised in many different ways. They are forced to live in designated settlements, for example, where housing is of very low standard. Despite the fact that they make up approximately 5% of the population, they are almost invisible in politics. Only in 2006 were they granted the right to vote in national elections.
The founder and head of CHFS, Alla Gamakharia, explains how many female IDPs continue to live very isolated lives, which makes them very vulnerable to abuse by men.
CHFS was founded in 1997 to unite and strengthen female IDPs. Today, the organisation works to increase awareness of the Abkhazia conflict among women on both sides of the administrative border, and to increase women’s participation in peace processes and politics.
Its activities include leadership trainings for young women, with clear results.
“Things are getting better. Many of the women we worked with are very active now, they’ve both gotten jobs and political assignments. But female IDPs and their plight remain invisible in politics. We need to get more female IDPs elected to decision-making positions to be able to change this,” muses Alla.
She believes having more women in politics and in the ongoing peace process will bring society closer to gender equality and freedom from violence.
“We already witness that in municipalities with a more equal proportion of men and women in power. In those places, it’s much easier for equality proposals to be passed.”