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”This is networking at its best!” says Salome Chagelishvili from Kvinna till Kvinna’s partner organisation Anti-Violence Network of Georgia. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Ida Svedlund.
”This is networking at its best!” says Salome Chagelishvili from Kvinna till Kvinna’s partner organisation Anti-Violence Network of Georgia. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Ida Svedlund.

Unique meeting for activists by the Black Sea

“An unforgettable experience! It is invaluable for me to know that there are more people fighting for the same things,” says Salome Chagelishvili. She was one of over eighty participants in a unique activist meeting in Georgia, co-organised by The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.

Challenges and despair were mixed with optimism and strategies for future work when activists from Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia, among others, met at Activist Convening in the seaside town of Batumi in Georgia last December. The women human rights movement has seldom seen so many activists of various ages from so many different parts of Central Asia gathered at the same place.

To be seen in social media is a security threat for many activists. ”As a safety precaution, the ones who did not want to be photographed wore orange badges, the rest wore green”, says Ekaterine Gejadze, Program Coordinator for Women’s Fund in Georgia. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Ida Svedlund.

To be seen in social media is a security threat for many activists. “As a safety precaution, the ones who did not want to be photographed wore orange badges, the rest wore green”, says Ekaterine Gejadze from Women’s Fund in Georgia. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Ida Svedlund.

“We wanted to create a safe place where activists for women’s rights and LGBTQI [Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans Queer Intersexual] groups from different countries could meet and talk about their challenges as well as strategies for the future. There is a lack of forums such as this one in our region,” says Ekaterine Gejadze, Program Coordinator at Kvinna till Kvinna’s partner organisation Women’s Fund in Georgia, which was the main organiser of the event.

Domestic violence huge problem

One of the participants was Salome Chagelishvili, PR and Fundraising Officer at Anti-Violence Network of Georgia, one of Kvinna till Kvinna’s largest partner organisations in Georgia.

“We primarily work with raising awareness and spreading knowledge about domestic violence, which is a huge problem in Georgia. We work on different levels in order to promote the establishment of a social, legal and institutional environment in Georgia, where the rights of victims of domestic violence, especially women and children, and other vulnerable groups are duly protected. Furthermore, we strive for all public institutions, like schools and the police, to have sufficient knowledge of the problem in order for them to act and help those who are vulnerable,” she explains.

Anti-Violence Network of Georgia also works to prevent violence and to raise awareness among the public.

“We co-authored the law against domestic violence that was adopted in 2006. It took time to convince the public and politicians, but by adopting this law, the government has recognized that domestic violence is a problem, which is a success for our work!”

Activist ConveningThe meeting was held in December 2015 in the seaside town of Batumi on the Black Sea. It was organised by Kvinna till Kvinna, Global Fund for Women and the Women’s Fund in Georgia.

It brought together 85 activists from Central Asia, Western Balkans, Eastern Europe and North and South Caucasus, including from 13 of Kvinna till Kvinna’s partner organisations.

Salome Chagelishvili attended Activist Convening to network and increase her own knowledge.

“Being part of the convening was an unforgettable experience and I really hope that we will all have further chances to meet other activists and get inspired by the amazing work they do. However, it is sad that we have to fight for these basic demands for equality and justice. Human rights should be respected everywhere!”

Forced sterilization in Uzbekistan

One of the situation’s that was addressed was that of women in Uzbekistan, a country where all types of organisation and manifestations for human rights are prohibited. The lives of Uzbek women are hard, including forced sterilization of those who have given birth to two children. This is an “unwritten law” that doctors execute by order of the health authorities. Those who do not follow the edict receive critique and their reputation is ruined.

Johanna Wassholm, Office Manager for Kvinna till Kvinna in Tbilisi, was struck by how difficult the situation is in several places, including Uzbekistan.

“This meeting was an opportunity to hear voices from countries and regions that are seldom heard. It is important that we spread the word about their experiences and continue to work for their rights,” she says.

Ida Svedlund

Updated in: 2016-02-12