On October 1st parliamentary elections will be held in Georgia. Currently there are only 6.6 percent women representatives in the Georgian parliament, the lowest number in all of Europe.
− To achieve long-term stability in Georgia, it is crucial to include more women in the decision-making processes, says Alla Gamakharia from the women and peace organization Cultural-Humanitarian Fund Sukhumi, based in Kutaisi.
Between 2006 and 2011 Georgia fell from place 59 to place 120 in The Global Gender Gap Index concerning women’s political participation. To reverse this negative trend, the Georgian government in December 2011 adopted a law amendment stating that the stately support to political parties will be increased if they have at least 20 percent women candidates on their party lists.
But this seems to have had little impact on the biggest rivals in the upcoming election. President Saakashvili’s party, United National Movement has 10.9 percent women among its candidates and billionaire Bidzina Ivanisjvilis party, The Georgian Dream (Kartuli Otsneba), has 16.5 percent.
Patriarchal norms and nepotism
The Georgian society is characterized by both patriarchal norms and nepotism. This drastically reduces the possibility of getting into politics without having an influential family behind you, especially if you’re a women. Discrimination against women is widespread and embedded in social structures, which limits the opportunities for women to pursue careers and participate in politics. Issues of gender equality and women’s rights are not high on the political agenda.
For Alla Gamakharia there is a clear relationship between the low percentage of women in parliament and other problem’s in Georgian society.
− A low representation of women leads to marginalization of issues concerning women’s situation in the country, which leads to inequality, human rights violations and social imbalances, says Alla Gamakharia.
International discussions important
Within the framework of the EU’s Eastern Partnership – which includes the EU and its six Eastern neighbors Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus – Georgia has committed itself to respecting the EU’s common values, including democracy and human rights. A commitment that, according to Lika Naidaraia from the Georgian women and peace organization Women’s Political Resource Centre, WPRC, could be crucial for future development in Georgia. She underlines the importance of the EU and the international community highlighting gender equality in political decision-making, when meeting with representatives of the Georgian government.
27th of December 2011 the Parliament of Georgia approved a National Plan of Action for 2012-2015, for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325. The vote was preceded by a long and intense process, which involved governmental offices, international organizations and non governmental organizations (NGO:s). Now, six months later, is it possible to see any results?
Discussions on the possibility of adopting a National Action Plan, NAP, began in 2002, but at that time it didn’t reach beyond just talks. But when Georgia in 2010 adopted the Law on Gender Equality, and later established the Council for Equality, the issue surfaced again. A working group including government officials, civil society and international organizations was formed.
Miranda Gvantseladze works at the Cultural-Humanitarian Fund Sukhumi, one of the organizations represented in the working group:
- It was very important that non-governmental organizations were involved in developing the NAP. We are familiar with the situation at local level and we also have the experience and capacity to use in developing this kind of documents. And since the document was in our hands, we can say that our voice has been heard, she says.
The Georgian National Action Plan includes a number of priority areas:
- Increase the number of women in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and conflict management
- Protection of women’s rights and the guarantee of mental, economic, social and political security
- Elimination of all forms of violence against women
- Addressing the special needs of women in conflict and post-conflict situations
To be able to monitor the outcome, the NAP also includes a number of measurements. They focus on education, like seminars and workshops, as well as on the analysis of the situation, i e the accumulation of data, research and sharing of available statistics on the floor. And the first results are already here.
- There have been trainings held for the officials at the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior. The Ministry of Education haven’t had any trainings held yet but they have developed a plan of activities, says Eka Kemularia from the Georgian Parliament’s Committee on Human Rights and Civil Integration.
- The Minister of Defense plans to issue a special order for the implementation of the NAP at the ministerial level. That will include more women working at the ministry, more women involved in decision-making and training for the ministry’s staff in gender issues with regard to women and security, says George Amanatidze, Head of the International Law Division at the Ministry of Defence.
40 percent women delegates
And these are not just empty words – Georgian women have actually gotten more chances to make inputs in the area of conflict resolution. For example, in the 19th round of the Geneva talks on the stabilization work in South Caucasus, four out of ten of the participants in the Georgian delegation were women.
Hopes for international funding
Despite the obvious progress in implementing the NAP, there still remains, according to Eka Kemularia, the painful question of funding. And here the Georgian government’s hopes are to the international community.
- We hope that donors will not have the attitude that now, when the NAP has been adopted, they will stop or reduce their assistance. Yes, getting a plan through is not always easy, but it is easier than to execute it. If the international community won’t support us, first, the plan could unfortunately fail, and secondly, we have to some extent become an example for other countries, so if we are not successful, it would not be a very good example .
NGOs need support from the state
Miranda Gvantseladze agrees that the support from international organizations is important, but at the same time she finds it sad that the Georgian state doesn’t support the non-governmental sector.
- It’s a big problem for us. We have good ideas, good projects, but it’s difficult for us to get funding. Unfortunately, in our country the non-governmental organizations do not get state assistance yet, she says.