Georgia is a small South Caucasian country with a history beginning back in antiquity. Most of us associate it with amazing wine, beautiful landscapes and unusual hospitality. Lately, it has also become a very popular touristic destination.
Unfortunately, Georgia has also a second face. Georgian society is still suffering from problems caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union and a socio-economic transformation. We also need to remember about a war in the early 90’s because of which Georgia lost two regions: Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The effects of those events might not be obvious for the outsiders but are still felt by the inhabitants.
One of the problems is domestic violence. Deeply traditional, patriarchal perception of family and the consequences of events and crises of the last 25 years resulted in a situation when domestic violence and lack of awareness of its existence became a major problem.
75% of women in Georgia are not aware that domestic violence is a crime. Only in 2015, domestic violence was a cause of 30 deaths. In 2012, domestic violence was included in the penal code and became a crime.
The most difficult social situation remains in Samegrelo, a region located near the Black Sea, sharing the border with Abkhazia. It is the place with the biggest number of reports and a very low number of successful police interventions at the same time. In 2016, in cooperation with Meruki Association, our foundation realised the project called “Strenghtening the security system of domestic violence victims in Zugdidi”. It was founded by Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and held around Samegrelo region.
The first witnesses of domestic violence are usually the police officers coming for the intervention. Thanks to the cooperation with Voivodship Headquarters of the Police in Opole, over one hundred police officers from Samegrelo received a training specified in domestic violence interventions. The training was also connected with legal workshops conducted by Georgian lawyers. For most participants, it was the very first time they had taken part in a training that would focus so much on the problem of violence.
Another group that participated in the project were school and kindergarten teachers. Unfortunately, this group also does not have the adequate knowledge of domestic violence. To change this situation, we organised 6 days long training sessions for fifty teachers. Then, the teachers were to organise classes and events at their schools with the aim to raise kids and teenagers awareness of domestic violence. Over 5 thousand students took part in those actions.
Women, victims of domestic violence were also included in the project. Those who want to leave their husbands and start living on their own very often expose themselves to social ostracism. Traditionally, leaving a husband, even if the reason is violence, is a disgrace to women and her family. A woman is always the guilty one. If they decide to leave, they very often end up with no livelihood nor support from the family.
Thanks to the project, twenty women (victims of domestic violence) had the opportunity to participate in vocational programs to get new qualifications and become more attractive on the labour market. Getting a job gave them the necessary independence to start a new life away from their husbands.
Twelve radio broadcasts were emitted to enhance social awareness of domestic violence. The speaker was a Georgian lawyer and activist for women rights who talked about reacting to violence, support from the state and NGO’s, etc.
The project was very comprehensive. It was the continuation and the development of previous actions held in Samegrelo. It was well received by the participants as well as local authorities and the police. It is going to be extended to other Georgian regions between 2017 and 2018.